I love watching football as much as always. TV coverage is infinitely better than it used to be, before sponsorship, Sky, oil barons, sheiks and royalty injected billions into the game. It’s still 22 men kicking a ball around a field, but all this extra cash means footballers are being scrutinized for far more than their ability to kick that ball. Football has changed massively, some things for the better (and I could/will/maybe write a top five of top things about the modern game), but all this extra cash (excuse the pun) comes at a price. Money ruins some people. If anyone’s primary reason for doing anything is financial, or if cash is the driving force in any business, then fair play may not always be top of a list of priorities. So it is in modern football.
My top five problems with modern football…
Taken from FIFA, the International governing body of football:
Fair play is a fundamental part of the game of football. It represents the positive benefits of playing by the rules, using common sense and respecting fellow players, referees, opponents and fans.
Cheating – play-acting, diving, feigning injury, shirt-pulling, falsely claiming for corners/throw ins/anything, taking free-kicks nearer the goal to where the foul took place, time-wasting, intentionally stopping quick free-kicks, plus the million and one other ways that professional footballers intentionally break the rules to gain an advantage – all the opposite of fair play. Cheating takes place all the time, in every game, and it almost always goes unpunished. Why? Two reasons. One, because it’s so widespread it is simply impossible for the referee to see, or deal with any of it. So much of it is almost impossible to referee because they obviously don’t always know if a player is or isn’t badly injured, and so much of the ‘acting’ involves the slightest touch, or non-touch, the deftest dive or simulation. Players have become professional cheats. Second reason, because those who cheat are hardly ever punished, and if they are it’s at most a booking. Whilst the punishment is minimal at most, and the reward for successfully cheating is so high, this downward spiral in fair play will continue to grow. Kids look up to footballers as heroes, as role models. Cheating. Just say no. Rule changes please.
Fixed matches, agent’s fees, corruption, bungs, bonuses and teenage multi-millionaires. Whilst the recent deluge of cash into football has improved some things (cars, clobber, haircuts, tattoos and half-time pies…) it brings with it a dirtier, darker side. Whilst fan devotion remains constant, player loyalty is on its last legs. Yes, there are those who will stay with a club for the love not the money, but now with the super-rich owners of the world’s top clubs bring with them ridiculous riches for mediocre footballers, cash is king. We hear more and more about fixed games and bungs at the highest level, we are fully aware of the joke that is football’s governing body, but behind almost every serious flaw in football is one thing – money.
- Referees & Rules
Post match banter is one of football’s traditions. Match of the Day spends longer showing blokes talking about football than it does showing the matches themselves? Why? Because we all love a bit of banter. We all have an opinion, and we all think ours is right. The trouble is there are so many decisions every week that the referees are getting wrong, they are being discussed more than the football itself. I do not blame referees for this; I believe technology should be used far more due to the speed of the current game. How a referee is expected to see everything is ridiculous, but then how a referee or linesman doesn’t see intentional pulling or holding in the box at more or less every corner is equally unbelievable.
Just two of the countless rules that are broken and go unpunished every game…
“Once the goalkeeper has taken possession of the ball with his hands they have six seconds to release the ball back into play.” This rule alone must be broken over a dozen times every game.
“A player should be shown a yellow card for “dissent by word or action – a player should be sent off for using offensive, insulting or abusive gestures” – see above
Until referees are given more assistance and greater powers to deal with cheats, banter and post-match criticism of the officials will continue to be as big a focus as the football itself.
- Governing Body
FIFA is football’s international governing body and like any organisation where money rules; corruption is rife. This corruption is not immediately evident when watching Premier League football, or listening to managers complaining about referees, but from well into the last century evidence of corruption at the highest level of FIFA has been as constant as Sepp Blatter’s 15 year reign as president. Major changes are needed to the rules of football to make life easier for referees, and most importantly new regulations are required to combat fair play and racism that are still massive issues throughout world football. These changes are not going to happen whilst Blatter is in charge and unlawful, backward-thinking bureaucrats are running the game.
Aloof, arrogant liars and cheats. Not all of them, obviously. Of course I understand why they defend their players who have cheated, why they continually unfairly criticise match officials, why they fail to honestly answer the simplest of pre and post-match questions, why they constantly berate the fourth official and why they are beacons of deceit and dishonesty, but, these people more than any other in modern day football are role models, who players respect and look up to, whose example they follow. Brian Clough may have been a bit of a loose cannon away from football, but if more managers followed his example and said it how they saw it, laying blame and giving praise fairly and honestly, there would be far less of the non-stop lying and cheating that exists in today’s game.