Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Stutterers Beware

It's rare that you will find me writing anything positive about the International Football Association Board, that misguided, anachronistic body that has helped Sepp Blatter to keep football officiating twenty years behind the times. But they have made a good call with their decision to punish the "feinting" so common at penalty kicks (especially in penalty shootouts).

This is an unsporting and annoying habit, and certainly goes against the spirit, if not the letter, of the laws of football. I should reiterate that goalkeepers are frequently guilty of skullduggery at penalties as well; the sly dash off the line before the ball is kicked remains a blight on the game. But the IFAB is right to institute sanctions against the penalty stutterers.

A good recent example of a penalty stutter achieving its object occurred in the recent Asian Champions League, when Al Gharafa's Brazilian Araujo scored an outrageous penalty to eliminate Uzbek side Pakhtakor from the competition. The incident can be viewed at the end of this wrap, where Scott McIntyre punningly refers to "a match dominated by the Cheetahs".

As so often with the IFAB, however, the left hand giveth and the right hand taketh away. Later in the above-linked article, there is a bizarrely vague edict giving the fourth official the power to "assist the referee to control the match". How exactly would that work, why is it necessary, and has the august body paused to consider the confusion (not to mention the delay) that tends to result when two officials with two sets of eyes try to reach a consensus?

And then there's the matter of the farcical experiment involving two extra goal-line officials, which was played out to general derision during this season's Europa League. Even the most sober and tight-lipped of pundits expressed qualified disapproval, and those less inclined to mince their words stated the bald truth that the innovation was confusing and utterly pointless. As a strategy to ward off the continuing pressure on FIFA to introduce video technology, as they should have done a generation ago, it was transparent and frivolous.

Yet the IFAB has seen fit to allow the silliness to spread.

I've come around to your way of thinking about this Mike.

I'm a bit sad about abandoning the argument I was holding out with, which is the argument that the rules should be equivelent for a inter high school matc up and a World Cup - that the unity of the experience from bottom to top was part of the beauty of football. But so be it.

One difference between the highest and lowest levels of the game, regardless of the Laws of the Game, is that the highest levels are now watched overwhelmingly on a screen by a distant audience. The actual crowd, even if it's 100,000, is a very small part of the live audience.

But that just sets off my madness Mike, and I'm immediately thinking, well what's the future of this? Maybe our anxieties about authenticity are getting in the way of football reaching its full spectacle in ways we haven't yet imagined.

So this though exercise is just for entertainment: The refereee, running and sputtering about with his whistle and pencil and little coloured cards, blatantly and transparently not up to the task, and less so the faster and more technical the game gets. Is he not himself looking anachronistic?

Can we abandon him and actually make the game less interrupted, more flowing, and fairer?

The technology of a location chip in the game balls exists already. Covering the lines for goals and touch decisions could be completely automated. The machine blows the whistle and stops the game. No human being can interfere with the infallible judgement (let's asume it is actually very good, tested tech) of the machine. For touch decisions all that is left is to decide who touched the ball last, and that could be done very quickly by trained observers of the game with access to replay. They could relay the decision by pressing a button.

Quick, efficient, as infallible as you can get.

Which would beg the question further, do we need this silly bastard on the field at all?

Note that I'm not advocating this, I'm just being futuristic. In 100 years?
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?