Watching Accrington Stanley against Derby, I need something to distract me from the fact that it should have been us – Southampton – apart from the tiny point that we let a 2-0 lead slip against the Rams. Twice.
The FA Cup is when everyone falls in love with football. Or should be. I can remember great games I’ve seen live, and great occasions with friends and family around the TV or in the pub. 1968 was the first FA Cup Final televised in colour and the excitement was palpable.
But today, the love is lukewarm. Football attracts the supporters of individual clubs and some general fans of the game, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Of course, the clubs and the national associations can do more to make the whole experience more attractive, but what else can be done to make the game (where top players can be earning as much in a week as their supporters earn in 4 or 5 years) more entertaining. Seeing a highly paid professional athlete fall over pretending that he (this hasn’t infected women’s football to the same degree) has been fouled to win advantage can’t be the pinnacle of entertainment.
VAR is being slowly introduced to ensure more of the important decisions are given correctly. Today I’m looking at just four other things that irritate me which could be changed to make the game more attractive – but without any major alteration to the rules or structure of the game.
This was brought to a head in a recent game featuring the mighty SaintsFC when a player was injured with just 20 seconds of the added time already being played remaining. The injury stopped play for some three minutes, and the referee promptly added an extra three minutes to the game. This may be within the letter of the law but is clearly not the intention.
Football should adopt external timekeeping as do many other sports. The referee would indicate when the clock should be stopped – injuries, substitutions, goals, and other stoppages which should not be counted as playing time identified by the rules – and started.
The clock would be visible to the crowd, players and coaching staff. And once the allotted time had been reached play would continue until the ball went dead, eliminating any disputes about whether a goal was scored or a penalty conceded before the referee blew the final whistle.
Another of my pet hates is when a goal kick is taken to a team member on the edge of penalty area who is closed down by the opposition and steps in to play the ball before it has left the area as the rules require. This results in the goal kick being retaken, wasting time and irritating me.
The simple solution would be to make this, playing tha ball before it leaves the penalty area after a free kick, an offence punishable by an indirect free-kick to the other team.
There are rules about how to take a throw-in. They are simple. But in every game, literally every game, the ball will be put back in to play by a throw-in which is not within the rules of the game. And very rarely is that offence punished.
No-one cares. Except me.
I’m almost as irritated by unpunished foul throws as I am by the inability of a player to find a team-mate with a legitimate throw-in. And the solution is straightforward.
Referees need to be instructed that the rules relating to throw-ins must be enforced. After a couple of games, people will learn the rules and follow them.
Stopping play for injuries
This one may be a bit more controversial.
Currently, if a player is injured and play is stopped so they may receive treatment, the game resumes when the player has been treated and leaves the pitch to re-enter it from the sideline (with the referee’s permission). There are some variations according to the nature and seriousness of the injury.
But it is evident to anyone watching the game that injuries are often used stop play and gain an advantage (or respite) for one of the teams.
Again football could learn from other sports and allow an injured player to receive treatment on the pitch without stopping play – providing the referee is satisfied this would not be a further danger to the player in question or others.
What would you do?
If I had to pick just one of these it would be timekeeping. But what about you? Do any of these make sense to you?
And what else would you like to see to make the game more entertaining? You can have safe-standing areas, for example – providing old fogies like me can still have safe seating areas.