Association Football (“Soccer”) is acknowledged as the World Game, a sport played by more people on this earth, than any other. A sport that in its’ purest form provides a free flowing feast of skill and athleticism, with continual changing of possession and an innumerable number of different ways to score goals.
It is also called the “Beautiful Game” for this very reason. However, the massive increase in money in the professional game over the last 50 years, increasing the “win at all costs” mentality has smeared the sport’s reputation. The behavior of players, with tacit approval from coaches / managers and the authorities has turned the beautiful game into one less so and certainly in this country, has alienated many potential football fans.
When a game comprises maybe 30 – 40 fouls, the sport is not entitled to be called “beautiful”. When sportsmanship is thrown out the window, as players consistently try to cheat their opponents or the referee, this is not a “beautiful” game. When a player skillfully dribbles past an opponent but is pulled back or worse still rugby tackled by the defender, this is not a “beautiful” game.
Dear Mr. Infantino, I can no longer stand by and watch the decline of Association Football and I have listed what I consider to be the major current ills of the game and how I would resolve them ;
Football’s biggest issue. It’s time for referees to take a stand and wave play on when they consider that contact was minimal, not deliberate and that the player should have been able to remain on his or her feet. Even more galling, when the cheating player is awarded a possible match winning free kick or penalty. Yellow cards must be issued for all instances of diving.
- FEIGNING INJURY
This overlaps into the diving category, as many players exaggerate the impact of a tackle to hopefully increase the chance of a free kick. If a player’s injury is such that treatment is required on the pitch, I would have that player remain on the sideline for a minimum of 5 minutes. If a player sits down on the pitch while the game is in progress, the game does not stop. Once the ball is out of play, if treatment is required on the pitch, again the minimum 5 minute “injury bin” will apply.
- SHIRT PULLING / HOLDING
Every occurrence of shirt pulling must receive a yellow card. Even if an advantage is played by the referee, when play stops he MUST issue a card to the offender. If a player goes so far as to rugby tackle an opponent, this must be a red card. If both players are pulling shirts simultaneously, they will both receive cards. Sadly, reverting to pulling back an opponent has become automatic reaction for defenders when they cannot legally tackle effectively.
- SET PIECES
If there is any holding by either attacker or defender at set pieces or players wrapping arms around opponents (even without contact) an immediate free kick (or penalty) is awarded – no warnings from the referee. Under my new rules, players will not be able to deliberately stand offside before a free kick is taken. They must at least be level with the last defender.
- COACH’S TECHNICAL AREA
Manchester United managers past & present – a tale of two eras
I will ban the technical area and insist that coaches remain in the dugout or are seated during the game. The technical area is only an excuse for many coaches and managers to express their egotism. The game is not about them. If a coach has to provide instructions to his or her players consistently during a match, I ask the question, “what happens at training during the week?”
- CHEATING AT THROW INS
A throw in must be taken where the ball goes out of play. If a player does not take the throw in from the correct spot, they forfeit the throw in. Simple to enforce.
- TIME WASTING
Generally, referees have this under control, however one instance of time wasting that must be eradicated from the game is when players take the ball to the corner flag to waste time. Sometimes this happens well before the final whistle and should be viewed as deliberate time wasting and a yellow card issued. The opponent is given no chance of accessing the ball and quite often player frustration leads to nasty incidents
- GOAL CELEBRATIONS
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – No thank you 2. George Best – Dignified
A player should not be allowed to leave the pitch in celebration of a goal. Climbing on to fences in front of supporters can be inflammatory and is not necessary. Similarly, other gesture to opposing fans, such as cupping an ear should be banned. For such offences, a yellow card would be issued. If a player removes their shirt in the act of a goal celebration (pure narcissism) a red, not yellow card should be issued. It’s against the rules and if a firm stand is taken, the practice would cease immediately
- DISCIPLINE – CUMULATIVE CARDS
As it stands in Australia’s A League, a player has to receive 5 yellow cards before a paltry 1 match suspension is handed out. Excessive fouls and the resultant stoppages have a major impact on the flow of the game and if the cumulative card threshold for a suspension was reduced to three, a substantial number of fouls and therefore stoppages in play will be wiped out. Granted there will be occasions where players will mistime a tackle but if a player “mistimes” his tackle on 4 or 5 occasions, questions must be asked of his footballing ability
- VIDEO ASSISTANT REVIEW (“VAR”)
These may be radical suggestions and applying these changes would have some drastic early consequences for offending players and the game. I believe however, that if these changes could be implemented, we would be on the road to putting the beauty back into the “beautiful”game
“There are those that look at things the way they are and say why? I dream of things that never were and say why not?” – Robert Francis Kennedy
David Jack ©2018