I write this blog with my tin hat on and head firmly down in the trench. There are some people who positively revel in being unpopular. I’m not one of them. I’m no masochist! Seriously, I stand by what I wrote in my blog this past Monday. I believe- having watched the recordings umpteen times – that Eduardo dived against Celtic for our penalty.
Whether the punishment fits the crime is another issue. I thought the referee last week was generally too quick to award free kicks when players went down under challenge. He also pulled us back for a free kick in our half in the first period for offside when we were off to the races with a man free with the ball arriving at his feet deep in the Celtic. Whatever happened to the advantage law? Generally referees from elsewhere in Europe are much better at applying the new advantage law than British referees. This allows referees to not whistle to see if an advantage comes to the non-offending side then go back and award the free-kick if none accrues to the non-offending team.
It’s difficult to see how an offence that merits a caution and a yellow card if detected and dealt with by the referee during play can become an offence punishable by suspension when detected and dealt with after the event using television evidence. I start from the position that I hate diving and any other form of cheating. I always have. Unlike some commentators I don’t think that this is a disease brought to these shores by foreign players. There have always been divers as long as I’ve been watching the game, long before the ban on foreign players was lifted in England & Wales in 1978/9. Francis Lee in the 1970s with Manchester City & England is one who instantly springs to mind.
If this whole incident does nothing else I hope it concentrates the minds of the International Football Association Board, the game’s law-making body, on how to stamp out cheating. To do that they’re going to have to have a root and branch review from first principles of officiating and the use of television replays in the game. FIFA’s stance is that the laws of the game should be uniform at all levels and in all locations. This principle has already been breached however. Many lower level amateur games have no assistant referees, never mind fourth officials. IFAB has authorised experiments with goal-line assistant referees. This experiment continues this season in the Europa League. Nobody is suggesting that if this experiment is adopted it will apply to all competitions at all levels.
I’m one of those who are sceptical but prepared to be open-minded on the use of television replays during play. That said I think FIFA and IFAB need to accept that in the big tournaments (major national leagues, continental club competitions such as the UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores in South America, European Championships, World Cup, etc) television exists and could be used to benefit the game.
The “problem” with football is that unlike other sports that use television replays or other technology) to assist officials (cricket, tennis, ice hockey, rugby union, rugby league, American and Canadian football at professional and college levels) play is not necessarily stopped when an incident in which television replay may help determine the correct decision occurs.
In the interim UEFA needs to quickly re-think its “tariff” on players found guilty of deliberately deceiving the referee. The punishment can’t be greater for players found guilty after the game than if the referee had detected and punished the offence on the field. Aside from anything else it opens up another possible avenue for corruption. A referee may be “incentivised” to not spot an offence on the field on the basis that the player will be suspended rather than cautioned if the offence of deception is only dealt with subsequently after the game. The only circumstances in which a player should be suspended after the event is if he had received a previous caution and would therefore have been sent off and suspended if he had received a second caution during play and/or the offence subsequently detected would have merited a straight red card during play.
I also expect UEFA to deal with similar severity in any future cases. Any changes introduced should apply from the 2010/11 season. It would be a gross injustice if the system were to be changed mid-season and other players escape suspension whilst Eduardo must sit out two matches (assuming the current decision stands). What I won’t walk away from is my opinion that cheating shouldn’t go unpunished just because the officials fail to spot such infractions during play. As long as I’ve been watching football the game has been blighted by an undercurrent of anarchy and lack of respect for officials that simply wouldn’t be tolerated in other sports. Let’s be clear, other sports have their cheats too. Just look at “bloodgate” in rugby union where a Harlequins player deliberately faked a blood injury to permit a “blood-bin” substitution which was for purely tactical reasons (in addition to normal substitutions, players with blood injuries are required to leave the field and can be replaced for up to fifteen minutes, the blood substitute may be a player who started the game but has been substituted).
Football seems unique though in the level of conning and pressuring the officials. It’s got nothing to with class. Some say that rugby union players, many of whom are middle class, just know how to behave better. That’s a) nonsense and b) completely disproved by rugby league. Most rugby league players come from the same social classes as footballers. Rugby league simply won’t tolerate the level of dissent and cheating that we do in football. That’s not to say that rugby league players are angels, they aren’t. The whole culture of rugby league simply doesn’t accept the level of dissent and cheating that football does. I think we could do with a healthy dose of that in our game. That was where I was coming from when I blogged as I did on Monday. ‘Nuff said.
The transfer window closed last evening with no new arrivals or departures, apart from reserve forward Jay Simpson going on loan to Queen’s Park Rangers for the rest of the season, a move which happened a few days ago. Good luck Jay. I’m a firm believer in trying to do all transfer business early doors in the summer window to allow players time to settle in. Sometimes a player becomes available in the New Year window whose too good not to sign but the summer should always be the main time for recruiting new players I think. For better or worse, we’ll play until at least the New Year with the players we have. Despite the heart-breaker at Old Trafford I think the current squad can kick on from last season. I don’t think we’re the finished article yet but we’re getting closer to it, or so it appears in the early going this season. Thomas Vermaelen looks like a real find. We look so much more solid with him in the centre of our defence. William Gallas has also been in excellent form.
Keep the faith!

LOGIN to Comment
LOGIN to Comment