I’m a big sports fan.
Not playing any! Oh God, no, not activity! Watching sports. Watching sports.
I like many sports. Diverse sports. Not basketball, of course, as I have standards, but I can watch almost anything else from cricket to athletics to rugby league to kayaking to weightlifting to well, as I said, almost anything really. And I love football. American football or worldsoccerballfootball; it doesn’t matter which because they’re both awesome.
Okay, it does matter which as far as this post is concerned. Watching the English Premier League matches this past weekend highlighted just what a state the game of global football is in. There’s no one particular thing that’s the problem but there is one person who could sort it all out: Sepp Blatter, FIFA President.
An open letter to everyone’s favourite honest, upright, caring, football-loving, not-at-all connected with corruption within the game of football, occasionally sexist Swissman.
My darling Sepp,
Please allow me a moment to recover from the laughing fit over your ridiculous name.
That’s better. Okay, football’s in a right old mess and I just know you want to sort it out but where do you start? Luckily for you I’m around.
Referees have a hard job to do. We appreciate that. It’s not easy being the centre of abuse for two hours while the game is on, pressured by fans, managers, players, coaching staff, ball-boys, stewards, and living under the constant fear of a swallowed-whistle emergency situation arising. Then again, they chose to do the job so screw them.
The important thing is not whether they’re good or bad, though. It’s whether they’re consistently good or bad. If everyone realises that a referee is always going to fall for a theatrical dive in the penalty area then it provides a fair playing field for both teams and nobody will get upset. It’s when the referee makes a howler giving advantage to the opposition and then promptly fails to make the same howler for you that tensions rise.
Suggested Solution: It’s not too late to get Pierluigi Collina‘s stem cells. And by that I mean: Clone Collina. Clone. Collina.
Problem: Bad Decisions
People make mistakes. They’re not perfect. Referees – even assuming they could be consistently bad or good – are as far from perfect as you can possibly get and will make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes annoy people. Football mistakes annoy spectators and players and they can cost a lot of money to the commercial interests behind football and to people betting on outcomes in dimly-lit cellars while Fat Jimmy and his "Associates" wile away the time sharpening their finger-slicing knives recently purchased from Price-Drop.TV.
I know you’ve toyed with the idea of having additional referees and looked into "goal line technology". But – if I may be so bold – more referees on the field sends shivers down my spine and the thought-processes behind considering redesigning balls to include tracking chips in them and mounting expensive computerised detection systems on the goal posts in order to clarify the three or four times a year that there’s a dodgy was-it-or-wasn’t-it-a-goal? event is, frankly, bizarre. Especially when there’s an easy and ready-to-use solution at hand.
You do know they film games, right? On cameras? And there are monitors everywhere? And the fourth official gets bored easily, yes? You know he’d like more to do than hold back managers and hold up boards every now and then, yeah? Just ask them. Oh, and you know that they use TV replays in, ooh, just about every other sport on the planet, huh? You do know that, yeah?
Suggested Solution: If you haven’t guessed already: use replays to see if:
- penalties are penalties,
- goals are goals,
- whether theoretical physicists need to be called into immediate postulating action because a player just got brushed on the shoulder and promptly flew back and upwards three yards then rolled for twenty more apparently in clear violation of the conservation of energy law.
Problem: Bad Language
No, I’m not talking about footballers swearing here. I believe that swearing is a perfectly justified form of expression. Arse-monkeys! See. Perfectly justified.
I’m referring to the dreadful use of grammar and the language itself from commentators and players or managerial staff interviewed after the game.
"Jimmy’s took the ball from Davey and then he’s give it to Bobbo down the wing."
"The boys done good, Brian."
"They was up for it today but we was just as determined."
"Jamo’s done some brilliant saves between the sticks."
NO! NO! NO! NO!
Suggested Solution: Please ban Frank Lampard from TV. Also, a requirement that anyone who appears before the media has a top grade pass in the national language would help. Think of the children.
Problem: Celebration Bookings
When a player antagonises the opposition fans, goading them, gesturing at them, encouraging them to come and have a go if they think they’re hard enough for a change, or launches a two-footed lunge at a three-chinned woman in the front row then I agree that a booking should follow.
When a player has just scored a goal and removes his shirt as a sign of ecstacy in front of his own fans who are all jumping around wildly and crying happy tears of happy glee because now they’re only three happy goals behind with five happy minutes to go then I think that shouldn’t be a booking.
Unless the player is Ryan Giggs, of course. Nobody wants to see that chest again. The exception that proves the rule, and all that rot.
Suggested Solution: You want the fans to enjoy the game, so why not let the players enjoy it too?
As I understand it – at least in the EPL – a player can have his punishment reduced or rescinded after the match by appealing the decision directly or making a few phonecalls to some people who know some people who know some people who kidnap some people who happen to be relatives of match officials and then phone those officials with suggested courses of actions needed to be taken in order to return those relatives safely.
But, if the referee doesn’t see something occur or if a referee takes the action of "nothing" or takes the action of "a bit of a talking to" or some other such lightweight recourse then there are no grounds to increase the punishment or simply inflict a new one on the basis that "it’s been dealt with, sorry."
Subsequently, feigning eye-socket injuries, diving over invisble legs in the penalty area, flicking the testicles of an opponent and grinning, gesticulating wildly while not being Italian, and scoring with the hand and pretending God did it are all prevalent in the game.
Suggested Solution: Allow punishments to be increased after the match and allow and encourage punishments to be initiated after the match. If a player knows he can dive and win a free kick then he’ll dive. If a player knows he can dive and win a free kick but he may then face a two match ban and be forced to wear a pink tutu for his return match in order to shame him then he might think twice about it. With one or two exceptions who shan’t be named. One’s a Chelsea player though. Yeah, you know which one.
Problem: International Duty
Players should play for their national team when asked or they should make it known that they do not wish to represent their country. Phantom and fleeting illnesses and injuries fool nobody. They may please the player’s team’s manager and owner and they may please that team’s fans but playing for the national team should be an honour, not a duty, and if the player doesn’t want to play in an international game then he should never play again.
Suggested Solution: If a player is picked to play in an international game but is ill or injured then that player must either a) play, b) declare he never wants to represent his country at football ever again because he hates everyone, especially kids and handicapped people, or c) miss a game for his proper team either immediately prior to or just after the scheduled international game. You know, so that he can fully recover. Because the player’s health is important. Bless him.
Yours really quite sincerely,