10 Changes To Improve Football
10. Bring back proper Drop Balls
We have all had enough of this uncontested drop ball nonsense, whereby the team concedes possession to their opponent. What we really yearn for is the full-blooded combat where as soon as the ball touches the ground the two protagonists unleash ferocious hacks at each other’s shins. That’s entertainment.
9. Stop the non-celebration of goals
There has been a growing movement where former players who score against their old clubs go all bashful ‘out of respect’ to their erstwhile employers and do not celebrate their goal. This has become an epidemic and we now have to witness endless displays of this faux behaviour. Such a practice has now become a major irritant, especially when the player in question has only spent a couple of months on loan over five years ago.
8. Get rid of Blatter
If FIFA was not such a tragedy it would make for an hilarious comedy. Quite how an organisation as corrupt and rotten still manages to exert its putrid power over football is a mystery. Regardless of the swathe of justified complaints about how it conducts itself, Sepp Blatter remains unassailable at the top like some sort of grotesque Dickensian caricature blithely ignoring everything around him. Surely all decent human beings should unite and remove the man from his perch.
7. Introduce safe standing
The legendary atmosphere of English football grounds has been on the wane recently and many blame the anaesthetic effects of all-seater stadia. The argument goes that you cannot possibly chant, sing or even clap with any great gusto if you are forced to sit down. As with most football matters, the Germans have discovered how to tackle this problem by introducing safe standing areas and hey presto the noise has ratcheted up a notch or two. The Football Supporters Federation are backing the campaign in the UK and the added benefit is that if adopted, these designated areas will provide cheaper access to the games for all involved.
6 .Mike up the refs
I have never liked rugby union but there are one or two ideas that they have adopted that could work in football. One of the best is the fact that you can hear the ref in conversation with the players, whether he is discussing the finer points of the rules or just exchanging pleasantries. If we could listen in to the conversations on the football field that would be illuminating/ entertaining/ hilarious. We might even begin to understand some of the more mystifying decisions. Just imagine being able to hear Mark Clattenburg explaining how he could not add on any more time because he had to rush off to an Ed Sheeran gig.
5. Burn half-and-half scarves
There is no more annoying sight than the ludicrous tat that is the half-and-half scarf. Originally intended as a memento for an amazing European cup tie, these things have become de rigueur for any old pedestrian match. The whole point of supporting a club is the partisanship, the taking up of sides and the rivalries that stretch back through generations. We do not want to be coupled with our opponents as if this was some sort of bizarre twinning experiment. When there are such items produced for Stoke vs. Burnley the tipping point has been reached and the mass incineration of all such items is required.
4. A winter break
The idea of a winter break, as practised throughout Europe, has been mooted for many years but there seems to be a mental block over the notion. Nearly everyone complains about the ridiculous Christmas/ New Year schedule when games come thick and fast but nobody actually grasps the nettle and takes up the initiative. So we continue to plough on with too many games in terrible conditions and it gets to the point when even the most avid fan asks for some respite. So let’s please just try it and see how we get on, it’s got to be worth a try.
3. Get rid of ‘Bantz’
What do Richard Keys, Malky Mackay and Andy Gray have in common? No, apart from that. They have all, at some stage, fallen foul of engaging in so-called ‘banter’ that has damaged their careers. The very nature of the excessively matey conversations that come to be grouped under the banner of banter, or even worse ‘bantz’, is as valid a reason to have this stopped forthwith. However this sort of inane drivel is dressed up it does not cover up the generic idiocy of the exchanges whether they be by text, email, private conversations etc. There is literally no excuse for this even if they are behind closed doors. There is no justification for such imbecility.
2. Invest in grassroots football
It is a national disgrace that despite the ridiculous sums of money that are sloshing through football that the level of investment in basic facilities and coaching is minimal. Any fool can see that without the fundamental building blocks and the necessary infrastructure it is nigh on impossible to develop a sport. It makes the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the national team fail at a major championship all the more pointless. England will never succeed unless a much higher proportion of the revenues generated are geared towards the bottom end of the football spectrum. The impact will not be felt immediately, but the impact of not doing so will be with us forever.
1. Stop diving
When researching for my book, The A-Z of Football Hates by far the most common hate raised was diving. It is considered to be the worst singular trait in which a player can indulge. It is the element of cheating that marks it out as the lowest of the low and yet in nearly every match there is some form of simulation, or an attempt to gain advantage from pretending to be fouled. The referees are put in an invidious position as they have to try to decide if there is a genuine reason why somebody goes to ground. More often than not players are hardly touched but still end up writhing in feigned agony with the sole intention of getting a free-kick and/or a player booked. The refs seem to be reluctant to book players even when they know it is a dive so there needs to be either retrospective action or the managers need to take a stand. Many managers talk about how they will punish their own players if they are guilty of diving but such brave words rarely lead to action. We need a concerted effort from everyone involved in football to stop this rot as it is undermining the game.
Richard’s book The A-Z of Football Hates is the perfect stocking filler and is available in bookshops and online