I have read countless commentaries, posts, even complete blogs dedicated to finding a way to ¨fix¨ what is ¨wrong¨ with modern Football. Apparently many of the proposed solutions all have one thing in common and that is their requirement to either change or adapt the Laws of the Game in order to ¨improve¨ the likelihood of fairness and ¨eliminate¨ the hazards of referee incompetence,bias or poor form and to promote a more ¨level¨playing field.
While this paradigm may have some merit, the focus of my post is to suggest that, before changing anything, we need to enforce one simple solution that would create the groundwork needed to make a big difference in how the game is played. That solution is to apply the Laws as they were meant to be applied and to enforce them within the powers accorded to the officials. Doing this will ensure that players begin to respect the spirit of the Laws and not just the letter, recognize the authority and primacy of the referee in applying those Laws and begin to realize that diving, cheating, harassing and play-acting are NOT acceptable grey areas and loopholes in today’s Game.
Let me provide some basic examples of how the officials fail to enforce the basic Laws and permit a certain laissez-faire attitude to infiltrate the Game:
1) Free kicks – as most Football lovers know, a direct or indirect free kick requires that the offending team must keep a minimum of 10 metres from the ball unless the team awarded the kick chooses to take it quickly and without the referee’s signal (or it is in the goal area) and the ball cannot be moved away from the original spot where the foul occurred, yet this happens ALL the time. When I hear the idiots at EUFA and FIFA whine about video replays taking too much time, yet they tolerate the referees being forced to spend up to 2 minutes or more to setup the 10 metre distance like a parking attendant aligning cars, then I ask where the problem is! Most referees try and enforce the Law and punish encroachment but many just let the kick be taken to get play on. We do need to see officials enforce the 10 metre rule as they do for a penalty.
2) Corner kicks – How many times does the kicker place the ball over the corner circle,despite the linesman being right there? Out of 18 corner kicks I have seen taken during the Euros only 2 were properly placed. It isn’t the 2 inches they gain that makes a difference, it is the flaunting of the Law with the officials turning a blind eye that makes the difference.
3) The kick-off at the start of each half or after a goal often sees the team with the ball having a player half way over the centre-line, yet that is not permitted. The referee is right there and just turns a blind eye.
4) The referee calls a foul and suddenly he is surrounded by half a dozen players, usually from the offending team , harassing him (her) and trying to get their 2 cents worth in. Barcelona are famous for this and have made it a new art form called the Catalan cacophony!
5) Players taking throw-ins are another embarrassment. I watched 8 players in the Euros take illegal throw-ins and the linesmen and referee NEVER signalled an infringement!
6) My all-time favourite infringement, that is rarely called, is the dual foul of shirt-pulling and holding. Players in their penalty area, particularly on free kicks and corners, seem to want to exchange jerseys or get up close and personal with their opponents, whether the referee is watching or not, as the case may be. I have, as yet, to see a foul consistently awarded by any official for this clear infringement yet it is a serious foul at any time and anywhere on the field.
7) The goalkeepers seem not to have heard that they have a time limit to get rid of the ball once it is in their hands! I counted 4 different keepers in the Euros taking more than 15 seconds to release the ball into play! If they want to waste time, they can put the ball down and play it like any other teammate but they know the referee won’t hassle them if they saunter around holding the ball so they take forever to get in back into play.
8) I am getting tired of watching grown adult ¨professional¨ Footballers becoming drama queens when they get a tap on the ankle or the shin. They roll around and thump the ground like they were recently run over by a steamroller yet less than a minute later they are up and running like demons. This play acting should be restricted to the stage and punished for bringing the game into disrepute when it is clearly exaggerated.
I could go on but I think you all get the point? Officials and FIFA have the power to reduce or eliminate these breaches of the Law yet they permit such gamesmanship, all in the name of getting on with play or avoiding nitpicking. I remember when I spoke to Sir Stanley Rous at a dinner in honour of my country’s 100th anniversary in Football and what he said has remained with me to this day: ¨A good referee is firm but fair and applies the Laws of the Game with equal care to the letter AND the spirit of such Laws¨. We need more ¨good¨ referees don’t you think?
Written by weedonald
Thanks to weedonald for today’s post. The internet is populated by self appointed experts, but today’s author is eminently qualified to talk about the art of refereeing. Here is a brief résumé of his history relating to football:
With 50 years of involvement in Football at all levels, international, national and local as a referee, coach and organizer/administrator, I am a total addict. My profession as a school psychologist and later as a consultant in Human Resources, afforded me the time to get involved and stay active until my retirement in 2010. When my wife permits it, I still love to volunteer coaching little kids and to officiate the occasional match as well. I was involved a great deal in women’s soccer and was one of two in my country to create the first adult women’s league in my province. I am certified as a Class C Coach and a national referee as was also an NASL official for 5 years. I adore the Arsenal and consider Wenger, under the circumstances , to be the penultimate manager of any professional team in Europe. I also like the game Barcelona play on the field but less so off it. My nickname comes from my mother who was born in Scotland and always called me weedonald while calling my twin brother an unprintable acronym.