By Bill Thomas
We are living in a period where things that have stood the test of time are, for reasons unclear, suddenly being tampered with on either side of the Atlantic….
It’s of less pressing importance of course, but there’s plenty of meddling going on in footballing circles too. Not content with the absurd idea of a 48 nation World Cup – try getting entrance visas for all of them – now the authorities are tinkering with the idea of drafting in sin bins to go alongside bookings.
It’s almost as if the people in authority have never read the laws of the game, or have no real understanding of their application. While everybody is happy to sign up to eradicating foul play from the game, it so happens that we’ve already got measures for that. They’re called free-kicks and penalties. And if the perpetrator of a foul deserves further sanction, we give him a yellow card or even a red one.
If you look at the rules and understand the game as it stands, then it will be readily apparent to you that the yellow card already is a sin bin of sorts. It puts you on notice that for the rest of the game, if you step out of line once more, you’ll be off and your involvement in the game over. How does a sin bin improve on that?
Simply, it doesn’t. It’s the kind of weasel worded half measure with which the well intentioned allow those with fewer scruples to get one over on them. Because be sure of this, once a referee has an opportunity to dismiss a player for 10 minutes rather than 80, he is going to grab that opportunity with both hands. It’s the escape clause from having to make the big decision that could be game defining.
And you don’t think that professional footballers, renowned experts in taking a mile when an inch is on offer, would exploit that to the full? It’s an invitation for tactical foul play to play a bigger and bigger part in games knowing that the extreme sanction of a red card is less likely to be employed than it is now.
The motive force behind the move, which could be with us in the pro game inside two or three years, is the pernicious idea that football would be better if only there were more goals scored. Wrong. Do that and you have basketball, a sport in which scoring is so regularly and so boring that crowds chant “defence, defence!” Imagine a football crowd doing that?
The thinking behind this is if the game is constantly a battle of unequal numbers, the advantage fluctuating from one side to the other, then more goals will be scored. Again, experience says not – most observers will argue that a sending off spoils a game, so how would three or four short sendings off enhance a fixture? All you get for the ten minutes or whatever it is that a player is off will be extravagant time wasting and the shutting up of the shop by his team to try and get through the game until he returns. More negativity, just what we want.
Also on the agenda is the abolition of the offside law for the same reason, the game supposedly needs more goals. No. The game doesn’t need more goals. Football fans don’t need more goals. Television, the armchair fan and the terminally stupid – which, in fairness, seems to be making up a bigger and bigger slice of the world’s population every day – need more goals and, given that football is just a crack addict for that folding money that TV brings, you can see the game rolling over and turning whatever trick it needs to keep taking that fix.
We’re going to have to start running protests at television offices soon…