What Can Premier League Referees Learn From Other Sports
Last time out I wrote about refereeing and I don’t think there would be many people defending them and saying that the officials are great at any point but especially now. But what I want to look at this time are the rules of the game and what football could learn from other sports, or even the technology used at real money casinos. For many years football has resisted significant changes to the rules citing if it’s not broken why fix it, but I would argue that the modern game is a lot more cynical than the game of yesteryear (this could be that I am wearing rose-tinted glasses here) and it is this cynicism that the majority of the changes I will propose below address. The other thing I will touch upon briefly is VAR. Other sports have used technology to their advantage for many years now and I think football should look at how this has been used in other sports and has not led to the hair pulling it has in football, and it is here that we shall start.
I believe that if VAR was used to punish leg breaking challenges and violent conduct more then everyone would be happy. Instead leg breaking challenges go unpunished while goals are ruled out for millimetres. The powers that be would like you to think that offsides are factual but frame rates and thickness of the lines mean there will always be a built in error. To counter this there should be a margin of error like cricket has with umpire’s call. In cricket there is a margin of error with the ball tracking so unless the ball is definitively hitting or missing the stumps then you stay with the on field decision. I think this should be the same for offsides, where unless it is definitively off or on side you stick with the linesman’s call. This would still mean poor decisions like Aubameyang’s goal being ruled offside at Old Trafford last season gets overturned but the close decisions the power is back with the on field official, as it would have been before.
I watch a lot of rugby and the thing that I find rugby is really good at is stopping cynical play and one of the main ways they do this is with the use of the sin bin. A player going off to the sin bin is a much larger deterrent than a yellow card, especially later in a game. I remember watching a Tottenham game against Manchester United game one time and there were two identical situations at two different points in the game with different outcomes. The situation was a ball down the channel with the attacker on the wrong side of the defender. The one early on in the game was a Manchester United attacker the wrong side of a Tottenham defender, the defender let him go as he didn’t want to take a yellow card, and Manchester United had a chance on goal as a result. The second one was the other way round and was around the 80th minute. As there was only ten minutes left the defender pulled the attacker down and took the yellow card. If both players faced the threat of a sin bin then it would have changed the thinking of the second player. Leaving your team a man down for the last ten minutes is different to taking a yellow card. It also shows that a yellow card is not a completely, equal punishment, it depends on when in the game it happens.
The other benefit of a sin bin is that the team sinned against gets the benefit and not another team somewhere along the way. I don’t think sin bins should be used for all fouls or breaking of the rules. But cynical fouls like the one Xhaka was sent off against Swansea a few years back or pulling a player back or down to stop a chance in my opinion should be punished in a way that hurts the offender more and gives a benefit to the team offended against.
You could also make the argument that diving should be included in this. A yellow card is not enough of a deterrent when the benefits are you can get a penalty, an opponent in trouble and in most likelihood a goal. The diving panel that was set up to try and stop diving punished one player and then disappeared. So if you are serious about stopping simulation then it is clear the punishment needs to be on a par with the possible benefits.
The other thing I like in rugby and I think it helps stamp out cynical play, is that a team can be responsible for infringements. If a team is under pressure and they keep committing the same offence, it doesn’t matter if it’s the same player, the next player to commit that offence is sent to the sin bin. The way I would like this to work in football is for rotational fouling. This would help stop a team that is under pressure being able to commit little offences that break up the play and interrupt the attacking team’s momentum. Currently teams can do this and sometimes escape without even one caution if a player doesn’t commit enough offences under the totting up process or if the fouls aren’t quite enough for a yellow card on their own.
The other offence I would like to see under this is time wasting. I have watched many games where a smaller team has taken a lead and then wasted time from very early on in the game. Again if the team is clever and has different players do this for just long enough they can escape any punishment until a lot later in the game. If at some point the referee called the captain over and said the next player to waste time will be sent to the sin bin, then this would probably end the tactic. Yes teams should be able to do all they can to win but the amount of time the ball is in play is pretty low in football, and with the high prices fans pay to watch they should see a game and not players waiting to take a throw in or a free kick for an age.
There are probably a few more lessons that football can learn from sports that I haven’t watched as much and if you do have any examples then please do let me know. I do feel it’s beyond time that football adapted to the modern game, and started to punish the leg breakers and the cynical players rather than those who dare to have their shirt sleeve the wrong side of a defender.