The Patch

March 19, 2007

Monday 19th March-How to improve football….

Filed under: Sport,UK News — triffid @ 6:22 pm

It seems to have been a major topic over the last couple of years, and particularly over the last few days when the Football League Chairman, Brian Mawhinney, put forward the proposal that there should no longer be any draws in English football. If teams were drawing after 90 minutes then they should decide the outcome via a penalty shootout. This idea appears to have been largely (and thankfully in this fan’s opinion) laughed off. However it has raised the debate about other ways in which the game could be improved. Here are some of the best and worst ideas that I have come across…

Essentially, football is a form of entertainment. To get entertainment we need to see attacking football and we need to see goals. So, attacking play, and perhaps the ability to score goals should be encouraged and possibly made easier. One long running debate has been over the size of the goal itself. This hasn’t changed since football was invented, but I doubt there were too many 6 ft 7” Peter Cech’s around in the 19th century. It would certainly have been easier to score past a smaller goalkeeper, so this does not seem like such a bad idea. After all, the world’s tallest man is 7ft 7″, and if a club could find someone like this with any sort of athletic ability, well, you certainly wouldn’t be trying any lobs.

Can you imagine? The world’s tallest man as a goalkeeper…

Another good idea was one put forward recently by Plymouth’s eccentric manager, and the only man I’ve ever heard who can sound fierce with a Cornish accent, Ian Holloway. He suggested a rugby and cricket like scoring system whereby teams get a bonus point for scoring a lot of goals, even if they lose the game. For example they may get a point in a 4-3 defeat for scoring 3 goals. This could favour the bigger teams who often have the most potent attacks, but it’s an idea that is certainly worth a trial.

A common 5-a-side football rule is that the goalkeeper cannot leave the penalty area. This law was made for the small pitch, but it would certainly improve the chances of strikers latching onto through balls if the idea of a sweeper keeper was eradicated. Such an idea being introduced to mainstream football would certainly yield more goals and would make the offside trap, already harder to understand than a David Lynch film, even more crucial. It could certainly add some more excitement to the game.

Video Replays are used, successfully, in many sports. Ok, so they are largely an American invention and for many that rules them out instantly in a game that we consider to be our own. But they have already invaded and improved cricket and rugby, and they could certainly have some uses in football. The most important camera would be one on the goaline to determine if a ball has crossed the whitewash or not. But perhaps an American football type system whereby manager’s could challenge a referee’s ruling on key penalty decisions would add some more spice, and fairness to the game. Video analysis could also be used to retrospectively punish cheats and divers. I for one would like to see Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben given a few match bans for some of their ludicrous antics. Another idea would be, instead of giving yellow cards to divers, give them a pink one instead, that sort of potential embarrassment might make them think twice before going down.

The final, really good idea would be sin bins for particularly bad tackles or examples of cheating. The thought of leaving the pitch for 10 or 15 minutes would be much more of a deterrent to players than simply receiving a yellow card which, at least initially, does them little harm.

However for all of these good ideas, there are bad ones. And unfortunately for the world of football, the architect of many of them happens to be the games most powerful, and most stupid man, FIFA President Sepp Blatter. He confused everyone with the Golden and Silver goal rule, which thankfully was quickly withdrawn. But he’s come up with some other shockers too. Surely the worst is yellow carding a player for taking off their shirt after scoring. In that intense adrenalin rush, who can blame a guy for wanting to get his kit off? And really, what harm does it do. It hardly incites or distresses fans (with the exception of Ryan Giggs’ mane of chest hair which he revealed after scoring his famous goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi final). In fact, it would probably attract more women to games. Even I was getting a bit of a man crush when David Ginola showed the world his six pack back in 2000. Blatter has also ensured that players who require medical attention must leave the field after treatment before being called back on, even if they are fine to continue. He also suggested that the profile of the women’s game might rise if they reduced the length of their shorts by 2 inches. Enough said I think.

Sepp Blatter- Thinking up his next disastrous idea perhaps?

A very popular idea that I don’t believe in is to offer more points for a victory. This was done a few years previously when gaining a victory changed from giving a team 2 points to 3 points. It was a good idea at the time and revolutionised some leagues, particularly the Italian one, which was very defensive in the 80’s. Before then a draw had too much value. But making a win worth 4 points would make a draw almost worthless. And so, whilst it may mean that both sides go for the win rather more, the excitement of watching a team battle for a draw knowing that it actually meant something would be largely lost, and that would be a shame.

Finally, an idea gaining in popularity is to have two referees, one for each half of the pitch. I can’t see how this would greatly improve the game though. It may have its benefits when a team breaks quickly from one end of the pitch to the other, but two officials on the pitch would mean 24 men on the field at one time which is surely too many. Referees often get in the way as it is so having two would intensify the problem. It could also lead to problems when fouls occur around the halfway line as who’s decision would it be to make? And anyhow, some referees need to run a bit more and lose a few pounds. Uriah Rennie looks like he’s swallowed a football this season.

There certainly seems to be plenty of ways in which football could be improved. But at the moment there are too many men in suits who have no idea what they are doing. Sepp Blatter is the head idiot but there are plenty more who don’t seem to be advancing the game in any way and making any changes, or at least constructive ones. But whatever happens, we are blessed with a game that will always be exciting. Maybe the game should really just be left as Jules Rimet wanted it.

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