23 June 2006

Football is like life...

...it is grossly unfair, it favours a privileged elite and is riddled with incompetency, corruption and cheating.

At the moment, Ukraine v Tunisia is on the telly. This has some fine examples of what is wrong with the game.

The referee has just inexplicably missed a deliberate hand-ball by a Ukrainian player from a Tunisian free-kick that should have resulted in a Tunisian penalty. Then at the other end he has given a penalty to Ukraine for Shevchenko's clever dive in the area. This coupled with the harsh sending off of a Tunisian player in the first half, has decided the game.

In a low scoring game like football these decisions are crucial. The accuracy (and honesty) of the match officials is vital (as demonstrated by Italian clubs manipulation of officials that is a current match rigging scandal in Italy) and accuracy has been severely lacking in this world cup.

Of course not all of this is easy to solve and like in politics, football generally works quite well (audiences are huge and the drama (highs and lows) of a good football game is far in excess of other sports) we should proceed with the utmost care in making changes and especially be suspicious of simple sounding solutions, but incremental change in the rules is needed.

We need to reward more attacking football, we need to reduce time wasting and most of all we need more accurate decision making.

I think Gianluca Vialli's article in the Times the other day addressed all of these points. He also talks about how cheats prosper in the game.

He suggested 30 mins each way with the clock stopped for every stoppage. This will give more active play than at present (around 55 mins) and remove the incentive of players to fake injuries to waste time.

Each team is allowed one video appeal in each half (to be requested within one minute of the incident by the team's coach to the fourth official) to challenge a controversial refereeing decision which would be adjudicated by the fourth official.

A 35 yard offside line needs to be introduced that would stretch the play across more of the field and reward attacking teams more.

These measures would (as far I could see) have a dramatic impact in improving the game without any undue problems.

As well as these changes, I would stop this nonsense of 'shielding' the ball out of play. This came in when the excellent back-pass rule was introduced. There are now far more goal kicks because the ball used to be passed back to the keeper before (to waste time). Now the ball is 'shielded' out of play. This, as far as I am concerned is just obstruction under a different name. Nobody has ever given me a satisfactory explanation of the difference between obstruction and shielding the ball. If you haven't touched the ball, how can you truly be in control of it? I don't agree with this 'within one metre zone' rubbish. This change would make it even more difficult for defenders to waste time, surely a good thing?

P.S Why are English refs such idiots? What for instance makes a ref blow for full time one second before a goal is scored. I have only ever seen English refs do this. My own theory on this, is that being a referee (in this country especially) is such a ridiculed job that only idiots (and charlatans) want to do it.


  1. Forget about the Tunisia game, you should have seen the Australia one!

    Anyway, joking aside I must say that I share some of your concerns. The standard of refereeing in this World Cup has not been that high and in some cases this has effected the outcome of matches.

    PS - Fifa outlawed the tackle from behind to encourage attacking play.

  2. I did see the Aussie game. Graham Poll was a disgrace.

    The worst ref so far ,has to be the Mexican who refereed the Paraguay-England game. Even John Motson said the ref is giving 'everything' to Paraguay.

  3. He had a bad game, it happens. Not really a bad referee but we all have our off-days sometimes.