Game needs an injection of new ideas
10:06 30 March 2012
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I have never been musically minded, but I do like banging a drum. In times past I have made loud noises to no one in particular about red cards, and why they can be scrapped in favour of orange ones.
No need to go into any great depth on that one because I have since discovered that I didn’t get enough listeners to warrant a stern letter to the FA.
But I think there is scope for time to be spent over the summer by someone, or some people, with nothing better to do than come up with some decent new rules that will benefit the game of football.
They won’t have to sit there chewing the ends of their pencils searching for that Eureka moment when they have a brilliant idea – because there is plenty for them to be working on. All they need are the clues. All they have to do for inspiration is watch a game of football, which throws up, week after week, areas which can be improved.
I refer Mr New Ideas man, for example, to Saturday’s game at Carrow Road. Grant Holt, you will recall, scored two goals against Wolves before getting sent off for accumulating a brace of a different kind, the yellow card variety.
Many people weren’t actually aware Holt had already been booked before he launched himself into the back of Michael Kightly and earned himself a second yellow card and, therefore, the infamous early bath. That he was shown the second card wasn’t disputed. But his manager, Paul Lambert, admitted afterwards that he was initially unaware Holt had been booked for the first offence.
“I wasn’t sure at first. Someone in the dug out area said, ‘I think he has booked Grant,’ but I don’t know why he has done it,” he said.
What if no one had whispered in Lambert’s ear? What if the manager was unaware of the first booking as the game went on? In that case, what if Holt had been involved in, say, a little altercation with someone and things had got heated. In those situations, it isn’t unknown for a manager to substitute the player to prevent a second yellow...but only if he knows it is a second one he has to be wary of.
There, Mr New Ideas Man, is a chance to make a name for yourself. Why not suggest that we take a leaf out of rugby union’s book and make everyone aware of bookings? A quick flash of yellow that we may or may not see isn’t good enough. All the ref has to do is ensure the fourth official informs both managers of any bookings. And while he’s at it, what about telling the PA man as well, so 27,000 people in the crowd are pretty sure of what’s gone on?
To me there is nothing wrong in announcing to supporters: “Norwich City number 9, Grant Holt, yellow card, Foul.” Is it really going to cause that much controversy? Or are we scared it sounds too much like something from an American Football match?
And while I mention fourth officials, why is it that some of the country’s top refs are given the job of holding up the time added on clock and placating managers who are incensed over some minor misdemeanour or other? Shouldn’t the game’s best officials be in charge of games, not doing the part-time job on the touchline between dug-outs?
Last weekend Kevin Friend was doing the job, before that we had Martin Atkinson at Newcastle, Neil Swarbrick against Wigan, Chris Foy at Stoke, ...need I go on?
It seems that managers in the lower divisions are being denied top quality referees because they’re standing between rival managers. If someone can come up with a good reason why top refs are used as fourth officials I’d be happy to hear from them. Obviously they can fill in if an official gets injured – but how many times does that happen?
I’ve given Mr New Ideas Man a head start – I just hope he finds time to consider solutions to: “shepherding the ball out of play without obstructing an opponent every single time”, or “treating fouls inside the area the same as fouls outside the area” or “preventing goalkeepers coming out for a ball with one studded boot five feet up in the air and in danger of garroting an opponent” or “fouled players having to leave the field after treatment while the fouler stays on”.
The sun’s out – summer’s on the way.