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Derek Lawrenson: Football's far too big to screw it up so often

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19 Apr 2010 09:05:51

Derek Lawrenson: Football's far too big to screw it up so often

Why did we not hear from John Terry last week? Not so long ago hewas complaining bitterly about the standard of refereeing in theChampions League, adding that it was 'hard to take'. Yet therewas not a peep out of the Chelsea skipper when the balance of power inthe Premier League title race tilted dramatically on the back of a goalat Old Trafford that was clearly offside and two blatant penalties thatwere ludicrously not given at Stamford Bridge last Tuesday. Thereason Terry found those decisions all too easy to take, of course, isthey all went in Chelsea's favour. That makes it all right, then. Thisis how it is with football. As far as refereeing is concerned, it isall about vested interest. If you're the manager of a small club likeBolton you complain that you never get decisions against the big clubs.And if you're a big club you take the Terry approach: the referee's aplonker if the decision goes against you and you snigger behind yourhand if the howler goes in your favour. Silence is golden: John Terry (right) has been quiet after Chelsea's win over Bolton Is this name-calling really all football can offer in the seconddecade of the 21st century? Is it not possible to have a mature debateregarding a regulatory system of one referee and two linesmen thatplainly does not work any more? Even Wisdengave a cautious welcome last week to the help given umpires byinnovation. If an old-fashioned game like cricket and an austerepublication like Wisden can move with the times, why not the glitzy,showbusiness world of football? In 13 of the 20 matches I've paidto attend this season a decision has been wrongly given which hasmaterially affected the outcome. In any other sport or professiona margin of error of more than 60 per cent would be consideredcompletely unacceptable. In football, the same argument gets recycled,that it evens itself out in the end, evidenced by Chelsea's misfortunein the Champions League being balanced out by their apparent good luckin the Premier League. Only in football would two wrongs add up to a right. Terrywas dismissed as a sour-grapes whinger after his team's Europeancampaign, which is much easier for the game to deal with than the factthat he was correct. Chelsea have gone out of the Champions League for two years in a row because the referees on both counts got it wrong.   More from Derek Lawrenson... WORLD OF GOLF COLUMN: Phil's tears of triumph teach Tiger a lesson12/04/10 Derek Lawrenson: Even practice is perfect at the new-look Augusta05/04/10 World of Golf: Don't give Tiger the green jacket before he's won anything29/03/10 Derek Lawrenson: Look into those eyes and you'll see Tiger is spinning22/03/10 DEREK LAWRENSON: Shift of power leaves America on its knees as Ernie Els the latest to eclipse US stars15/03/10 DEREK LAWRENSON: England's forgotten man just Rose up the rankings08/03/10 DEREK LAWRENSON: Jose Maria Olazabal's Ryder Cup destiny under threat from injury01/03/10 DEREK LAWRENSON: Faldo reignites the feud with TV snap at Monty22/02/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE But there's no grown-up discussion as to why referees are getting itwrong so often, or how they can be helped to get it right in thefuture. All we hear is abuse, like they are unfit or useless or'homers'. How many times in recent years have we been watching agame on Sky where a winger times his run to perfection to beat theoffside trap, only to be hauled back by an errant linesman's flag? Suchis the speed of the game these days, we've clearly reached the pointwhere it is impossible for the human eye to call this decisioncorrectly on a consistent basis. So we all know the problem.What's been done to solve it? Is there really no laser gadgetry outthere that would instantly tell the referee whether the attacker hadgone beyond the last man? The Hand of Clod: Was that really Thierry Henry I saw in an advert for a fizzy drink the other night, promoting the fact he will be in South Africa this summer for the World Cup? Some people really do have no shame And if not, why are some of themillions sloshing round football not being invested in the sort oftechnology that would bring about a fairer game? This season,UEFA have tried an experiment in the Europa League involving a coupleof extra officials behind the goal-line. In Sportsmail recently, formerreferee Graham Poll highlighted how another pair of eyes allowedLiverpool to score a goal against Benfica that would not otherwise havebeen allowed. At last then a dash of foresight and an inch of progress. But there needs to be more. In the television booth the wondrous gadgetry employed only serves to illustrate how outdated the system of three officials has become. Yes, the game thrives on its talking points and controversies, the sight of managers blowing gaskets when another decision goes against them. But at Old Trafford two weeks ago, it is not a debate that the winning goal in the biggest match of the Premier League season should not have stood, but a fact. Against Bolton last Tuesday, Terry could hardly have handled the ball more clearly if he had picked up the ball on the playing fields of Rugby and run with it. For the major sport in this country in this high-tech age, these should not be talking points. They should be an embarrassment.   Wenger is a victim of delusionsNarcissistic: Wenger According to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, Robin van Persie would be up there with Lionel Messi if he had not spent half the season injured. The same Wenger who rated the outcome of the Arsenal-Barcelona two-legged tie at '50-50'. Now maybe this is how it has to be with managers, that you have to build your players up far beyond their capabilities in order to squeeze out the maximum performance. But to me it just smacks of narcissism. Any fool knew that if Arsenal tried to take Barcelona on in a Miss World contest, they would end up looking like Miss Hartlepool. Don't you have to sometimes do what Jose Mourinho always does and show the opposition respect by taking into account their strengths and play accordingly? The alternative is what happened every time Arsenal came up against a decent team this season think two games against Barcelona, two against Chelsea and the Man U game at the Emirates which is that you get completely outplayed. Here's two predictions. This week in the semi-finals of the Champions League, Inter Milan will run Barcelona a damn sight closer than Arsenal did because they won't allow Messi the freedom of the San Siro. And Barcelona won't be ringing Arsenal up this summer to offer Messi in a swap deal for Van Persie.   You can always fool some of the people some of the time. Take the excitable soul on the BBC website, passing verdict on a Premier League title race made exciting only by the fact none of the teams are actually very good. 'It's like an unputdownable novel,' he declared. One written by Jeffrey Archer, maybe.   Time to visit the noisy neighbours, then, and let's hope Sir Alex Ferguson's team give them an ASBO. For far better an empire built on the style of their football and the size of the club than one built on sand and limitless dirhams.   Murray must stop playing the prince of wailsListen, I have no problem with Andy Murray turning his back on the Davis Cup. What worries me is when he turns up in Miami and Monte Carlo and plays like a Briton in the Davis Cup. After his tremendous performance in reaching the final of the Australian Open at the beginning of the year, he gave a quote that at the time appeared notable mostly for its humour: 'I can cry like Roger Federer. I just wish I could play like him.' Given his performances since, it appears more like a wail of despair that has become embedded in his psyche. For the first time since he was a youngster taking his first steps in professional waters he has lost three consecutive matches. What was so alarming about his defeat to someone called Philipp Kohlschreiber last week was the mental lethargy that marked his movement around the court. Alarming: Andy Murray's slump in form has culminated in three consecutive defeats One of the reasons put forward as to why Scottish golf was in the doldrums for a while was the fact its citizens were too easily inflicted with a glass half-empty mentality. It would be a terrible thing for British sport if Murray starts heading down that route. 'I have to make sure I don't panic,' he said last week, and we in the media have to make sure we don't panic either, and start knocking down the man we've so painstakingly built up. If Murray would lift his head a little, he would see that he stands alongside the fine collection of English golfers in the race to see who claims their first Grand Slam, and that's an exciting place to be. Two months to the French Open and three to Wimbledon, the last thing he needs now is to indulge in an age-old Scottish bout of prolonged self-recrimination.   What's the appropriate response when you hear a disturbingly large number of Tottenham fans singing THAT horrible chant to the opposition manager? Sky commentator Alan Parry decided to close his ears and pretend he had not heard. 'There's a buoyant atmosphere inside White Hart Lane tonight,' he roared, fatuously. No wonder they say all that evil needs to prevail is for good men to do nothing.   So the Six Nations is moving the Wales-England match next year to a Friday night. Given how exciting it is watching England play rugby, might I suggest an 11.59pm kick-off time with the lights off? DES KELLY IS AWAY


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