Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sat 18 August 2007

Saturday Shout: Play the game, not the Ref...

Let's face it - as much as we love the game of Football, there are some things we'd happily remove from it given half a chance. They're the things that annoy us, frustrate us and often make us downright angry.

It's these things that we at Some People Are On The Pitch feel we can do something about through good old-fashioned dialogue and maybe even heated conversation. To that end, we give you what we hope will be a regular series called Saturday Shout where all opinions are encouraged on a given Football subject, and we begin today by hearing the opinions of guest writer Paddy who has an urgent need to rid the game of diving and play-acting.

He begins by dealing with the relatively new custom of dealing with an injured player on the field:

"Firstly, we need to get rid of this 'kicking the ball out of play' crap and the sham sportsmanship of returning the ball to the opposition at the restart. This started to creep into our game in the Eighties as a sporting gesture to enable genuinely injured players to receive attention. In reality, all this practice has done is to encourage cheating and simulation of injury usually when a side is under pressure and needing to regroup and take a breather.

In other words, just when a game is getting exciting and the crowd are getting what they paid for, someone decides to break up the attack by falling down and gurning. These b******s are paid a fortune to play football, tackle, play the offside trap, read the game, etc., but no. The best way to keep the opposition from scoring is to fake your own death about thirty-five yards out."

Sounds all well and good, but what if the player really IS injured? Paddy has an idea...

"The ref can't take the chance.This is where Part Two comes in. Physios can come on and give treatment during play. It works in both codes of Rugby and they have more players on the pitch. It's simple: a player goes down, the physio gets permission from the fourth official and goes on. On the rare occasion that the injury is deemed serious enough to stop play, the ref can stop the game if needs be.

The main advantage to the fans is more play, less time-wasting and cheating. This brings in the coup de grace. Employ an official timekeeper - someone up in the stands who can add on time at his discretion and inform the ref when time is up, either by phone link or a hooter.

This would take pressure off the ref and reduce deliberate time wasting. Players would realise that they can't run the clock down and would stop their antics. Also, fewer players would be cautioned for time wasting as it would cease to be a useful tactic. This in turn would reduce suspensions and subsequent weakening of teams - our teams.

To those who persist in denying that players don't feign injury, I can only tell them that when I was involved in coaching under-14 football at a professional football club in north-west England, the senior coach ordered kids to fake injury at every opportunity, either to get the opposing player booked and therefore presumably make him more cautious or to give our side a breather.

Often kids were given a talking to because they failed to make the most of a diving opportunity. This was labelled LACK OF AWARENESS. These kids were 13 and 14 and were training to fall over. The coaches were all ex-pros and knew their stuff. Kids looked up to them and were desperate to please them and make the big time so they did as they were told. 'Don't play the rules - play the ref' was the standard.

Feigning injury is a disease and it is not naive or impractical to want to stamp it out. I'm not all nostalgic for a mythical golden age. There are the most amazing players all over the place now. I just want to see more football and less cheating. None of the suggestions I have made involve any actual rule changes to the game itself. Is anyone going to tell me that they like seeing grown men rolling round pretending to cry?"

Fair point, Paddy, but what do you think? Are such changes to the game practical, easy to implement or even needed? Give us your opinions or suggestions by leaving us a comment or if you have a topic you'd like to discuss, do what Paddy did and drop us a line. The address to email us at is saturdayshout [at] spaotp [dot] com.

Our thanks go to Paddy for today's topic of debate and don't forget to check back next weekend when we'll have another Saturday Shout.

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