FTK Blog: Should the law protect the players against bad tackles?

Yesterday’s blog by George Peace highlighted the meteoric rise of young Jack Wilshere, with cautionary warnings for Gooners not to place the lad under pressure. Yet the biggest danger to Jack Wilshere is not the hype from the media who see him as the future salvation of the England national team, neither is it the over expectation from his own fans, it is in fact the referees. Olympique Marseille’s President Jean-Claude Dassier is said to be planning legal action against Nigel de Jong for breaking Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg, and this act may set an awful precedent for football. Yet to his credit, Jack is philosophical about the aggression he has faced since playing regularly for the first team. Jack himself is a feisty individual who can not only take it but also dish it out. he will never be put off his game by cowardly uncalled for aggression by his opponents. But we cannot have him go the way of Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey.
People really need to realise that football has become a mixture of high technical skills and athleticism. We see that week in, week out at the Emirates. Many ex pros and managers of teams like Stoke and Wolves may not like the comments of Danny Murphy and Arsene Wenger, but if we are to protect future jewels for Arsenal and England like Jack Wilshere who is already at his young age coming in for serious physical challenges, which could cause him bad injuries, then the only way that players and clubs can counter the neanderthal views of those who want to see players “putting their foot in”  is to bring in the lawyers. Increasingly clubs and players are seeking redress to the tactics of those who can only compete by licensed thuggery.
We could have avoided this had the football authorities represented by referees sent powerful messages back to the coaches on the practice ground who need to accept that improving technical skills like tackling and keeping the ball needs to evolve which would also allow teams of less quality to compete with the big money spenders. It is the failure to use their red cards consistently which means that conduct on the field of play has deteriorated and led to skillful players not being protected. I do not want to see Policemen striding onto the field to arrest players for assault, and to be honest this is unlikely to happen for fear of crowd unrest. But sadly the lawyers will soon be poring over slo mo replays of tackles that have caused their clients to seek compensation. We all know that once lawyers come in then football will be worse for it.
Tackling is an art, and unless defenders learn how to develop modern tackling skills, then they must expect the legal consequences. There is nothing more delightful than to see a well timed sliding tackle dispossess a player in the penalty box with minimal contact on the player. Tony Adams used to do it, so it can be done. It just requires the skill-set of defenders and midfielders to be coached to the new required levels of proficiency. This is not the only solution, Referees need to more consistent and protect players, and the FA disciplinary video panel should retrospectively punish offenders severely. Managers of lower placed teams must act quickly to improve their players’ conduct. Remember that the career of a football player is short, and unless they are protected by referees and ex pros by outlawing bad tackling, then they can only look to the courts.

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