What FIFA can learn from the IRB

2010-07-14 12:38
It’s been a great World Cup, but as our voices come back and we return to our desks, a (somewhat) objective assessment of how we can improve “the beautiful game” is required.

That FIFA manages to make the IRB look progressive is a feat in itself and demonstrates the stubborn reluctance of football’s governing body to embrace change.

Preserving the charm of the game does not mean keeping it in the dark ages; on the contrary, to attract new supporters and maintain the old faithful it requires eliminating “pollutants” to keep the product desirable.

While desperately trying to differentiate myself from the rugby-pant-and-two-toned “soccer is for moffies” proletariat, I still feel that Sepp and his cronies could learn a thing or two from the folks running the oval-ball code.

In this light, I propose 5 basic improvements FIFA could learn from rugby:

1.    The use of a citing commission.
2.    Cards for anyone talking to the ref other than the captain.
3.    A ten minute sin-bin for yellow cards (with an introduction of a green card).
4.    Goal-line technology/ TV refs
5.    Pausing the clock for stoppages so that the final whistle goes at 45 minutes and 90 minutes exactly.

As its name suggests, handballing is not part of football. Nor is diving, deliberate attempts to get players sent off, swearing at referees during the game or swearing at referees after the final whistle. Many observers argue that these incidents are “just part of the game”, but this reinforces the point that blatant cheating and displays of bad sportsmanship are so prevalent they have become the norm.

Seeing players who have fairly lost a game running up to a ref after the final whistle has blown and remonstrating with him instead of shaking his hand is horrible to watch.  Grown men writhing around the pitch as if they’ve been shot, only for replays to suggest they’ve barely been touched is just embarrassing. A citing commission, where any displays of cheating or bad sportsmanship are punished with match bans, fines or both, would go a long way to eliminating these unpleasant incidents.

Further, carding anyone who so much as talks to the referee other than the man with the captain’s armband would rule this out in a matter of minutes. There is something wrong with the system when a player can run up to a ref and swear at him to his face and receive no punishment, but can be carded for celebrating excessively or gently tugging on an oppositions shirt. Perhaps an introduction of a green card could be used for these lesser offenses, which would allow for a ten minute sin-binning for more severe, but not red-cardable offences.

Make the call

The case for goal-line technology is clear. While I cannot condone the lengthy time rugby TV refs take to make their decisions for tries, one can still use technology as an aid to football officials. The simplest use would be the ice-hockey solution, with a light above the goal going on as soon as the ball crosses the goal line. The ref could see this clearly and make the call accordingly, eliminating the errors such as the one seen in Bloemfontein.

Finally, on a more cosmetic level, the fact that football continues for 45 minutes, where upon the 4th/5th(?) official holds up a board with a number randomly selected between 1 and 5 that appears to have no correlation to the on-field action is entirely ridiculous. Stop the clock as necessary and blow the whistle at 45 and 90 minutes respectively. That way everyone is on the same page.

These factors, though small, would go a long way to making football more pleasant to watch, preserve its existing support base and attract new supporters.

And maybe rugby could get hold of some of those luminous jerseys for referees.

Aren’t they swell?

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