We all have a sour memory or two of controversial umpire calls in the Australian Football League (AFL), but plans for new microchip technology could clear up future close calls by enhancing the accuracy of score reviews.

Eddie McGuire, former Collingwood president and renowned AFL commentator, is leading a push to embed microchips into Sherrin game footballs.

The reason? To answer the age-old question of whether or not the ball touched the post.

In partnership with UK tech firm Sportable, McGuire and the AFL are aiming to introduce 'smart ball' technology that utilises micro-tracking modules built directly into the ball.

Such enhancements have already been utilised by rugby companies, enabling "instant 3D tracking and trajectories at centimetre level accuracy."

With the assistance of these advanced tracking technologies, Australians would no longer be at the mercy of a pixelated slow-motion recap or contentious umpire decision, and could concretely pinpoint whether or not contact was made with a goal post.

It may seem trivial to the casual viewer, but the challenge of discerning a 'goal' from a 'behind' has been the crux of some of the sports' most infamous moments – including the infamous scoring decision of Tom Hawkins' game-deciding shot in the 2009 grand final.

In fact, recurrent controversies surrounding hair-splitting umpire decisions are one of the driving factors behind technological advancements in the AFL.

Following multiple grand final controversies within three years, 2012 saw the induction of a contentious video review system by the AFL.

In 2019, the AFL introduced 'AFL Edge' - a system that integrated microphone technology into goalposts in order to accurately deduce whether there had been a touch when declaring close goals.

Neither of these two approaches have successfully placated concerns among scrupulous fans however, as umpire calls are still met with ample flack on a weekly basis.

In a game where every centimetre counts, high accuracy tech such as 'smart ball' may be the solution AFL fans have been waiting for.

Crackdown on umpire abuse

The announcements come soon after a recent AFL decision to crack down on umpire abuse from players.

Free kicks and 50-metre penalties are now applied for the most minute demonstrative behaviours towards umpires, ranging from players displaying verbal abuse to the act of simply throwing arms up in frustration.

It is decidedly difficult to leverage respect towards umpires against a passion for the sport, and harder yet to effectively implement behavioural solutions.

This is where new tech comes in - by relying on sound technology to appropriately inform a calling, the AFL can hopefully settle much of the negative reactions currently geared towards umpires from players and fans alike.

As for the rollout of this new technology, journalist Mitch Cleary said it would "start with analysis and stats of matches, with a long term focus to have chips determining score reviews."

While AFL viewers may see 'smart ball' utilised initially for analytics, the long run could see the chip defining score reviews, and affirming whether a ball crossed a goal line or brushed a post.