A guest blog by former Celtic & Scotland defender, Jim Craig
“What time is this to come back?”
Dolores McCann (her Mother had been a great fan of foreign films) stood in that classic pose of the wounded woman – up to her full height and chin forward – as she glared at her husband who had just come in the front door. Before he could say a word, she gave him another volley;
“you left the house at half-past-two for a three o’clock kick-off, it only takes you 20 minutes to get to the ground, a match lasts only one-and-a-half hours plus ten minutes for the break and you’ve just walked back in the door at half-past-seven! So where the hell were you?”.
Wayne McCann (his father liked Westerns) tried to calm her down.
“Dolores, you don’t know what it’s like at football matches nowadays ; it has changed out of all recognition; a match goes on for much longer”.
“In what way?” Dolores asked.
“Well, for a start, the players and even the managers can complain about any decision that is given against them. If that happens, the referee then goes and has a word with firstly, the two assistant referees, then the fourth official and gets their comments before he reflects on the situation. If he is still in any doubt that he made the wrong decision then he can ask the guy upstairs sitting in front of a television screen what he thinks. And, of course, all through this, the managers and players of both teams can chip in with their comments. That all adds a fair bit of time to the match”.
“Aye…but turning up at half-past-seven is still a bit over the top…is it no’?”
“Well, no’ really……you see, nowadays you are not allowed to have a drawn game, so if the match is level at the full-time whistle, there is extra time, which takes a minimum of half-an-hour”.
“The time is still no’ matching up!”
“Aye, mibbe so, if that was the end of the match. But if the match is still level at the end of extra-time, then it goes to a penalty shoot-out. I told you…you are not allowed a drawn game”.
“ A penalty shoot-out disnae take long”.
“That might have been the case at one time but because so many keepers were being accused of moving before the ball was kicked, nowadays they are strapped in to a harness which anchors them in the middle of the goal. They can only move when the foot of the guy who is taking the penalty actually touches the ball. So, after each kick, the keeper has to be put back into the harness and it all starts again. And, of course, you get the complaints from the managers and players that the harness wasnae working properly or that the officials who put the harness on didnae put it on right. That all adds up to the time factor”.
“Did you go to the pub?”
“As God is my judge, Dolores, after the match finished, I came straight here”.
“Who won anyway?”
“That’s a difficult question… there was so much noise and kerfuffle both on the pitch and in the stands, nobody was quite sure what the final score was. And the guy who usually does the announcing had gone home. Somebody said that he had a date. Anyway, if you let me turn on the radio, I’ll hear the score there. And Dolores?”
Wayne walked over to the drinks cabinet and took out a couple of glasses. “I don’t suppose you would fancy a wee drink”
We will leave the smooth-talking Wayne to his attempts to mollify Dolores and reflect on the situation. What you have just read is probably the ultimate scenario for those who wish to tamper with the current rules of football. Do I think that the game needs radical changes like that? No but I do think that some change is necessary and in one specific circumstance.
Now, I was a professional footballer for 9 years and in all that time, I can put my hand on my heart and state with complete conviction that I never pulled any other player’s jersey. Did I try to half him in two with a tackle, yes! But no jersey-pulling. And, of course, I was penalised for the challenge.
Today, though, I feel that there is a lot of body-checking and jersey-pulling going on in every match. Very often the referee lets it go and then you get the ridiculous scenario at a corner kick when all those waiting for the ball to come in are pulling and pushing, with the referee watching it and ignoring it. It is a foul, ref!
When the referee decides that an offence has been committed, then the player will be spoken to first. If he does it again, he will be given a yellow-card. The problem is, though, that the offence might possibly have affected the play in the match, whereas the yellow card does not affect the player’s participation.
If the player is daft enough to do it again, then of course he gets another yellow and will be off. Most, however, are sensible and keep the head, so they go unpunished as far as the current match is concerned. What we have to find is a punishment that affects the match in which the transgression occurred. Which means that we have to consider the sin bin.
This works very well in rugby and gives the referee a means to punish an offence a little more harshly – yet more efficiently – than a yellow card but without having to go for the ultimate, drastic – and for many unpalatable – option of the red card. I hope it comes in soon.