Friday, 2 November 2007

Rugby is a game for hooligans… Retort 2

… and should be used as a tool to combat gang culture.

It seems we agree on all the original suggestions, and that essentially the citing commission is the only one that could be effectively transferred to football. I’m not sure I completely agree with your idea of the referee reviewing incidents during half time, but how about the following combination of the two ideas: referee the whole game as it happens using television. Keep the on-pitch officials, obviously, but have a second referee watching the game on TV and in continuous communication with the other officials.

This idea may be a little controversial. I’m sure the “purists” wouldn’t like it, but the technology it requires is no more than what is already being used, and just about every top level match is televised anyway. It may have the same disadvantages of the video referee, in that it might not be absolutely conclusive 100% of the time, but the referee always having a close-up view would drastically reduce the amount of wrong decisions made, which is surely what we all want. Anyone who says that mistakes add to the drama and excitement is just wrong.

Now for your suggestions:

1. Blood Substitute and Treatment
Treating injured players on the pitch is a very good idea. At the moment, an advantage can be gained by feigning injury as either play will be stopped or the opposition will be pressurised into kicking the ball out of play, causing them to lose momentum and allowing your team to reorganise. This way, if a foul was not given then there would be no point staying on the ground. On the other hand, I am not so keen on blood substitutions. Imagine the controversy if a player came on, scored, then left the pitch. I know this is the same as in rugby, but it doesn’t seem to be as big a deal in rugby. Maybe this is because a blood injury is far more common in rugby, and because it is harder for a single player to make such a significant difference. Whatever it is, I don’t agree with this being introduced to football.

2. Line-outs (Throw-ins)
Yes. This is very, very annoying. The throw-in should be taken from where the ball goes out of play. Of course it is in the nature of players to try to gain as much advantage as possible, even an honest soul like myself does it, and they cannot be blamed if the officials do not enforce the law. The idea of the linesman (sorry, referee’s assistant) standing to mark the point from which the throw is to be taken (obviously without impeding the thrower) could cut this out. We must consider the possible knock-on effects, as in the current system – for reasons which I have never fully understood – each assistant is responsible for one half of the pitch, presumably to look for offside players if the play changes ends quickly. Surely they could just swap ends. Or, we could even use four linesmen, which would make it easier to spot incidents of any sort. Maybe that would be excessive, especially if we’re going to referee the game by television as well.

3. Referee
I cannot agree with the captain being the only player who is allowed to speak with the referee. In my experience (shinty), the worst referees are those who will not talk to you, not explain their decisions, and give you a bollocking if you ask them to do so. Of course, I agree that shouting and bawling at the ref is unacceptable, and players who do so should be booked immediately. If the players can’t learn to converse properly with the referee then they can get sent off and it will be their own fault. This is already in the rules, but is not always completely enforced. If a zero-tolerance approach is taken and, crucially, common sense applied then the problem should be controllable. Talking only to the captain does work well in rugby, but perhaps this is due to the phase-based nature of the game, meaning that most of the players are in roughly the same area of the pitch. With football, the players can be at opposite ends at any time. What if a striker wants to ask the referee something in the opponent’s penalty box and his team’s captain is the goalkeeper?

So I say yes to on-pitch treatment and sorting out throw-ins, but no to blood subs and communication between referees and players only through the captains. If you think I’m wrong then shout at me. Also say what you think of the TV referee for all the time.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Rugby is a game for hooligans... Retort 1

...and should be played at grassroots level by neds in Easterhouse.

I have had a few people talk to me about the proposed benefits that such additions to football from rugby, and a few have made sense. I would note, that your selection misses out three rather important features of simple rugby refereeing, but before I draw you into that particular task, I sahll discuss the effects that you so adequately prescribed.

1. The Video Referee
I agree that using the video referee is not entirely fair, and by no means an easy one to take to task in football, but does have some benefits. I think that at halftime, the referee should be able to review some challenges, and then be able to either book, or send off a player who has blatantly dived/fouled/killed another player without initially noticing it. A good example of when this should be used is during the Scotland game - it was a stone wall penalty. But, I am not saying that after the referee sees it, a penalty should be taken after half time, but the player who committed the foul should be given some sort of reprimand, to let him know that he has a foul noted against his name, equivalent to a ticking off during normal play. In other decisions, Hawk Eye will be essential, especially on the goal line, and Carroll for Manchester United can easily be shown to be a total bellend.

2. The Citing Commission
This idea sounds a bit like what UEFA are already doing, with respect to retroactively punishing Dida for acting like a tube, and Mikalunas diving against Scotland. In the League, they have to review every game via a Referees report, so why not instead of a written report, just watch the blinking game? And if a decision is made against the true, real and right decision, the referee must rationalise his mistakes. I agree with this one.

3. The Ten-Yard Rule
You saw it last year, and it was a joke - it normally caused more dissent that normal. I would suggest one my options (below) to tackle (titter) this problem.

4. The Sin-Bin
This only works when a player is essential to a phase in Rugby, or the person is normally active inside the scrum. In football, due to the less phase like territorial play, a missing player would be like having a player sent off, and can be totally crippling. Agree that this is a little bit of a joke.

5. Timekeeping
I have no problem with the existing system, so no need change. Agree.

Now, my suggestions:

1. Blood Substitute and Treatment
In rugby if a player is injured the play continues, unless there is a stoppage in play. the phsyios run on, treat the player, and then when he is treated, he can rejoin the play as he technically never left it. If this rule was brought into to football, diving would be removed, as if you are actually injured a physio would come on whilst the play is taking place. No point in rolling about trying to get a foul if you are missing out on the action. For real fouls a stumble and a get up should be sufficient to allow the ref to notice your illegal tackle (titter) without hampering his judgement.

Blood substitutes are a really good idea. If a player does need to go off for even the smallest amount of time, a player should be able to take his place until the treatment is over. I wonder why this is not in place already?

2. Line-outs (Throw-ins)
When the ball goes out for a Line-out, the touch ref signals the direction of the team that the advantage to to, and then stands in the place where the ball went out, and this is where it must be taken from. This should be directly transferred over, without translation - it is a joke seeing throw-ins being taken 10-15 and even 20 yards from where the ball left the field. Simply, the ref and linesman must be more vigilant, as this rule is already in the game, it is just not policed at all.

3. Referee
"Sir, may I talk to you!" is something that you hear occasionally on the telly. Why? Because the referee is connected directly to the commentary, and you can hear every decision being made. The reason this is not present in football is that the players can swear,and I am assuming the refs swear too. But the idea behind this is that we hear the decisions being made. This might not transfer well to football, as it is much more fluid, and normally we don't need an explanation - it is either a foul or it isn't, or a goal or not.

However, the only player that is formally allowed to talk to the referee in rugby is the captain, and this should be transferred over. This would stop the Chelsea running at the referee and shouting at every challenge that does not go their way. The respect the referee gets from rugby players is amazing, and should be the same in football, but the problem lies in that the fans shout "You're a cunt!" week in week out, and the players are beginning to believe it. I suggest this should be brought in, and John Terry should be kicked in the bollocks, the little twat. I hate Chelsea for the simple reason that the treat the Referee like shit, but they are not the only team and he is not the only player to do so, and that should be able to sort it out quite quickly.

I think my points are fair, and I wonder what you think about the suggestions I have made? Comment and argue!

PS. Good luck, South Africa, I know you can do the Scots proud.

Rugby is a game for hooligans...

... played by gentlemen. Football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans.

I’m not convinced how true that is, but since the rugby world cup is on at the moment, I thought we could get the ball rolling (if you’ll excuse what barely qualifies as a pun) by looking at what features of rugby could or could not be introduced to benefit other sports. And by “other sports” I, of course, mean “football”. I’m not claiming any of the ideas as my own, merely suggesting my take on the possibilities. The issues are on the whole concerned with the rules of the game and their application. Here they are:

1. The Video Referee

More correctly known as the television match official (TMO), this idea has been mooted many a time. While it still has its critics in rugby, it is generally accepted that getting the correct decision is worth the wait and, usually slight, disruption to play. The prospect of this being introduced to football is far from popular, and in any case it would not work. The interpretation of whether something is a foul or not can change drastically when the incident is viewed in slow motion; for example, what looks like only minimal contact between two players can easily lead the recipient of the challenge to fall if he is running at pace, and only in the most clear-cut cases can it easily be decided whether a tackle was foul or fair. This week, UEFA president, Michel Platini has been outspoken against the use of a video referee in football matches.

In rugby, the TMO is generally only used to decide if a try should be awarded or not. This will be a more clear-cut decision. A parallel in football would be incidents where it is unclear whether the ball has crossed the goal line or not. This can be better dealt with by Hawk-Eye technology, as used effectively in cricket and tennis. A trial is being conducted this season at Reading FC’s academy matches. I would be willing to bet that this will be inconclusive, as it is more than possible that there will not be a single incident of the type in question all season.

For outfield incidents, a better solution could be an equivalent to the Citing Commission.

2. The Citing Commission

This involves a panel of officials who watch each game and can retrospectively punish (or acquit) players for acts missed by the match officials or that they feel have been dealt with inappropriately. In the world cup there have been several high-profile cases, including the suspension of England’s captain, Phil Vickery, for a trip which the referee did not see, and the USA’s Paul Emerick receiving a five week ban for a “spear” tackle, for which he was initially given just a yellow card.

I can see no reason not to use this system, unless it becomes a question of resources, in terms of money and manpower, which it should not at the top level. Its one weakness is that the team which is wronged during the match does not gain any advantage from the later punishment. In football, retrospective action only seems to be taken in exceptional incidents or where a specific complaint is made. If every match was being observed and proper punishments handed out, players might be less likely to cheat.

3. The Ten-Yard Rule

In rugby, if a penalty or free-kick is awarded and the punished team shows any dissent to the referee, the position from which the kick is to be taken can be moved forward by ten metres. This has already been experimented with, unsuccessfully, in football. It is an effective rule in rugby, but in rugby territorial advantage is more important than it is in football. Moreover, with free kicks around the penalty area, it can actually be a disadvantage to have the ball too close to the goals. A better solution could come from hockey, where if players show dissent to the referee the captain of their team can be shown a yellow card. This would undoubtedly be unpopular, but if it was used for a while, players would stop arguing pretty quickly.

4. The Sin-Bin

I don’t particularly like this rule in rugby. It has been used to replace penalty tries in many cases where they would previously been awarded, and can also lead to a single player being punished for the cumulative offences of his team. In fact, this could be useful in instances in football where so-called “smart” teams effectively take it in turns to commit fouls, knowing that they will not be booked for persistent fouling. However, I think the current system of yellow and red cards works fairly well.

5. Timekeeping

In rugby, the clock is stopped any time there is a reasonably sized interruption to play, such as an injury, a try, or a mass brawl involving all 30 players, but not stopped every time the ball goes out of play, as in American football or basketball. This means that at the end of each half there is no stoppage time, but as soon as the clock reaches 40 or 80 minutes, play stops the next time the ball goes dead (unless a penalty is awarded). Football’s current system is for the fourth official to indicate the number of minutes of stoppage time to be played. I can see no reasons to prefer one method to the other, so there’s no need to change. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and all that.

So, to sum up: video referee, no; sightings commission, yes; ten yard rule, no; sin-bin, no; clock stopping, no. It seems there is little for football to gain here. The fact is that there is nothing wrong with the rules of football; it is just that they are at times poorly applied by the officials and that players will do anything they can to bend them as much as possible.

So there you have it. Agree, disagree, and add your own suggestions.