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The Antagonist - Petty FIFA must stop tweaking the rules

Published: 08 Jan 2010 - 10:20:36

The 'Laws of the Game', first laid down in an alcoholic haze in the The Freemasons Tavern in London in 1863 to standardise the varying forms of football played in English Public schools, largely provide the framework for the game we know today.

What has changed in the intervening 150 years or so, however, is the interpretation of many of those original laws.

This, more often than not, takes the form of directives given to referees and gentle 'tweaking' of the original wording of the laws. These directives sometimes appear to be completely unnecessary or the work of a jobsworth desperate to change for change's sake.

One such directive which seems to have achieved virtually nothing is the booking of a player who removes his shirt in celebration after scoring a goal.

On 28th December, Jermain Defoe was booked for removing his shirt after scoring Spurs' second goal against West Ham and, earlier in the month 'stripping off' led to sendings off for Younis Kaboul of Portsmouth and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid for the accumulation of two cards.

Portsmouth manager, Avram Grant, encapsulated the general feeling regarding shirt removal when he said: "I think someone one day woke up in the morning at FIFA and decided to change the rule."

Whilst I struggle to find the motive for forbidding this rather pointless but harmless practice, I would add that I can see even less sense in continuing to do it even though the offender knows it will result in a booking/sending off.

In the short or longer term their action could, of course, have serious repercussions for their team.

Torso exposure doesn't happen very much in my local park, but then again local leaguers have to pay their own fines for bookings and I suppose they would look a bit silly running up to the duck pond bare breasted seeking quacks of approval.

Was FIFA's thinking here that the 'semi-monty' could incite (or even excite!) the crowd or that it was a time wasting exercise?

If it was the former, how come players are still allowed to exchange shirts on the pitch after the game? If wasting time was the the raison d'etre why not simply say that, following a goal, the scoring side has 30 seconds to get back in their half for the kick off after which the other side can kick off anyway.

And the Adonis with the bare chest has to be fully clothed again before he can take part in the game.

In fact, when you start thinking about other bits of 'tweaking' you begin to wonder about the mental state of those doing the tweaking.

The new interpretation of offside and the 'active or non active' dilemma is another example. It took my Mum most of my teenage years and many hours of my Dad and I shuffling salt and pepper pots around the dinner table to even partially understand this law and then they change it.

How can a player who is hanging around in the penalty area, attracting defenders and goalkeepers attention not be interfering with play?

Players who, for all their careers, have been taught how to look along the line and time their runs to avoid being offside can now simply put their hands on their heads, feign complete disinterest in what's going on and escape being penalised.

Sometimes the status quo needs maintaining or something which is already complicated becomes unworkable.

Making players ,who have had treatment, walk off the pitch and then waving them straight back on again seems to serve little or no purpose to me. If it is an attempt to dissuade players from faking an injury, where is the disincentive here?

If anything it encourages time wasting as the player concerned can waddle off in apparent agony taking an age to reach the touchline before he sprints back on Lazarus-like as soon as he is beckoned back on.

Another 30 seconds wasted...thanks very much!

Similarly, an old chestnut of mine is the time it takes to make substitutions which is often used tactically by managers towards the end of a game to waste time and/or break up play.

Of course, in the good old days (remember 1966?) we had no subs and managers would push injured players back onto the pitch, often forcing them to soldier on with broken necks or limbs to maintain a full compliment.

OK, I concede that the use of substitutes has benefited the game as a whole, but why not have 'rolling subs' overseen by the fourth official allowing play to be continuous and only allowing the players to enter and exit the pitch at the half way line. Simple!

Or, perhaps, too simple. We seem to be moving away from 'simple' just as rugby union has become a game that is only truly understood by the true cognoscenti of the game.

How many rugby fans - and I count myself as an enthusiastic aficionado - can honestly say that they always understand why penalties are awarded at the breakdown?

It is only because rugby referees are now 'miked- up' and talk their way incessantly through matches that some semblance of comprehension is possible.

Let's hope that the 'beautiful game' doesn't follow suit. As the legendary Bill Shankly once said: "Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes and making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple"

Take note FIFA.

READ THE ANTAGONIST EXCLUSIVELY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK EVERY FRIDAY

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the antagonist
Love him or loathe him you cannot ignore the Antagonist. His Friday blog tackles the big issues in our game today in an abrasive, often controversial style. He goes where others fear to tread. From wages to wags, diving to drugs - no subject is "off limits", no individual beyond reproach. Miss him at your peril!

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