As a lifelong Nottingham Forest fan I am more than used to having my Saturday afternoons filled with despair, heartache and frustration.
However, I can accept the team is not good enough, and the manager doesn’t know what he’s doing as part of the job of being a football fan, what I can’t accept is the feeling I am being robbed of my hard earned money by the rules of the game which seem to be built around crushing any excitement from the fans.
I have a list of current rules in football that need to be scrapped immediately to give the game back its soul and acknowledge and respect the fans that turn out every week to watch a painfully dull game in the freezing cold – all in the hope that they might see something special.
Stoppage time – what a waste of time
We’ve all seen it, goalies taking an age to take a goal kick, throw ins being passed from one player to another then back to the first to run down the clock by the team that is winning. Most of us laugh when our own team are doing it, but when it’s the opponents and your side is desperate for a goal it can be painful.
So why is it allowed to happen? There’s 20,000 people sit in the City Ground, all of whom paid about £20 for the privilege – to watch this farce? And of course this is happening in every other ground in the country every single week.
The ref might eventually blow his whistle to hurry the play up, or even book the goalkeeper in the dying seconds, but almost always by then the damage has been done. I would love to know how much of the average 90 minutes game the ball is actually in play. I’d be surprised if it was anywhere as high as 70 minutes.
So why should I pay the full price for my ticket? Why should the other 20,000 people in the ground? We buy our tickets to watch the game. Instead we spend much of that time watching the ref stopping play to tell players not to foul each other (as if its news to them), goalies being allowed to take the mick by switching from one side of their six yard box to the other to take their goal kicks.
No fans = no money
More to the point – why am I the only one that’s annoyed by this? Fans make the game. Lionel Messi could score the greatest goal of all time but if it’s in an empty stadium with no TV cameras then who cares?
No sponsors would pay him millions of pounds to promote their goods if no-one cared about him.
The global market of people wanting to watch football attracts the billions of pounds from companies wanting to promote their products.
No fans = no money. It is time to show us some respect. It is time to tweak the game’s rules back in our favour.
So as for the wasting of time being so blatantly tolerated by referees? Take the decision out of their hands, they have enough on their plates anyway. Give the fourth official a stopclock, and everytime the ball is out of play it stops. Any arguments about it wouldn’t work in practice are wiped by watching a game of rugby. So simple yet so effective. All timewasting tactics immediately become obsolete, and fans get to watch the full game that they paid full price to see.
Taking one for the team
This is one of the worst offences – and insults to the fans – that is regularly tolerated in the modern game. All fans know what I mean, one side is breaking at speed and has the chance to get into their opponents half quickly and create a goalscoring opportunity, when an opposing player cynically trips one of the breaking attackers on the half way line.
I remember it from the Champions League final last year. A great contest between Atletico and Real Madrid with a showcase of all the world’s best players. However, my lasting memory from the game was Sergio Ramos committing one of these professional fouls in the last minute of extra time.
Instead of the fans possibly seeing a dramatic last gasp winner, they were robbed and Atletico were awarded a free kick on halfway. By the time they were allowed to take it Real Madrid had now got their entire side behind the ball in their defensive positions.
Ramos’ punishment? A yellow card. The moral of the story? Atletico didn’t score a dramatic last gasp winner and Real Madrid won the Champions League on penalties. Well done Sergio!
I don’t condemn Ramos for committing this foul, nor any other players that do the same. It is well worth it. The problem is the rules surrounding it. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
Bin the sinners and let us watch the game
Bring in a sinbin, again just like rugby or ice hockey. Accepted it would make little difference to Ramos in this case, given the game had just seconds left, but it would work at any other time.
It’s almost feels like an annual event when Barcelona knock Arsenal out of the Champions League, and more often than not, the victory is built on the back of an Arsenal player being sent off in the early part of the first leg for taking down a player who is through on goal.
In the blink of an eye, Arsenal (or whoever else) are a goal down and a man down and the game as a spectacle is practically over. These desperate fouls are not as cynical as the professional fouls mentioned above, but are usually punished more severely. What about all those fans who have paid God knows what for their Champions League tickets? What about the foreign supporters who have travelled across Europe to see the game, probably taking a couple of days off work to do so? What about me and the millions of others who pay Sky and BT an overpriced subscription each month?
Fans deserve to see a sporting contest. They deserve to get what they paid for.
Introduce the sinbin system, and the game is not spoilt by a goal. The penalty can be given, and the offending team loses one of their players for a period of time that fits their crime; 10, 20, 30 minutes whatever. This would also put a question in the mind of any player tempted to cut off a counter attack by committing a professional foul.
Leaving his team a man light for 20 minutes is a much more severe punishment than a meaningless yellow card. He might decide to let the attack continue and hope his team can stop it before it results in a goal.
The same with the goalie or last defender when an attacker is bearing down on goal. If they foul him they’re off the pitch for 20 minutes. It might be worth letting him through and hoping he misses – he might!
The point is the fans get to see that exciting attack run its course without any cynical foul play robbing them of that moment of excitement.
What other stupid rules need updating?
Other minor changes that could impove the overall spectacle of the game? The moving ball free-kick. The side that has the free-kick has been wronged by their opponents so the advantage should lie with them. If they want to take it quickly before the defence has got back into position, that is their right and a moving ball is no reason to stop them taking the free kick.
Goalies not playing their goal kicks outside of the penalty area get to re-take it. Are you kidding? If they can’t play it out properly it is almost certainly because the defence is being pressed by the attackers and there’s a chance at goal possibility. Make them play on and let us watch the awkward defenders try and boot it away before some hungry forward takes it off them and gets a strike at goal.
Foul throws – what does it matter? The ball is out of play and we want it back in play as soon as possible. For all I care, players can throw it, lob it, launch it, kick it or volley it across the pitch. There is nothing special about the technique insisted on in the rules, it’s just limiting. Let players get the ball back in however they wish. A cross field volley would open up the game no end and what would be lost? Nothing.
The rules of football were written more than a hundred years ago and it is time they were reviewed. The money now is incredible and I can understand the authorities taking a ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude to the game, but I’m telling them it is ‘broke’. Make some changes to give the fans a fairer deal for the money they pay, or you will find them getting bored of watching Mourinho and Pulis teams choking the life out of games and realise that there is plenty of other entertainment out there where you do get your moneys’ worth.