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Football rules: Too many shades of grey

BY MARK MOORE

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Here who likes the sport of cricket?…………No one? Well if I’m being really honest I am not a huge fan of the sport. It seems extremely slow, nothing happens for ages, it can last days and with all due respect, if to be considered an athlete you only have to stand in the back of a field with sun lotion on, then consider me David Beckham.

With that said there is one thing I truly admire about cricket and that is the simplicity of the rules. Now before I get bombarded with people asking me to explain what LBW is I am not referring to the intricacies of specific rules but more to the clarification of them. See in cricket either the rules have been broken or adhered to, it’s that simple. There are no judgement calls, room for human error and definitely no shades of grey. The rules cannot be broken or even slightly bent.

Now let’s look at football, here is an extract from the official FA website regarding Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct: A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

  • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  • trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  • jumps at an opponent
  • charges an opponent
  • strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  • pushes an opponent
  • tackles an opponent

I have highlighted my personal 2 favourites from this list of offences and would like to draw attention to the opening sentence regarding careless, reckless or using excessive force. Now first

of all exactly how do you push someone carefully? Is that even possible? No it’s not, so that rounds to the rule that the only upper body contact between players is a “legal” shoulder barge.

Yet how often do we here pundits use the phrase “A good show of strength” when a player has held off an opposing player? Technically by the letter of the law that is a foul……..remember no upper body contact apart from shoulders. Another phrase that gets coined all too often is “Its part of the game” referred to a little shoving, normally during corner kicks. Errrrrrrr bad news Gary Neville, it’s not part of the game, take a look at the rule book mate.

Just to confirm I am not a professional fighter or indeed a particularly violent person. My boxing record stands at 0 wins 1 loss………..though I still think the wet paper bag was on steroids!! But to anyone who is a professional fighter could they please let the FA know how you strike someone in a careful, controlled manner without using excessive force………failing that just tweet it to Joey Barton. Surely I am not alone in thinking that striking an opponent in anyway should be outright banned? Yet according to the letter of the law you can do it………..just very sensibly. My suggestion would be behind the referee’s back and to someone much weaker!!

No doubt some of you will think I am being over the top but my point is what’s the point in having a rule if it isn’t enforced? The rule becomes redundant.

This is the definition of a rule: “one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct or procedure within a particular area of activity”.

Notice how it didn’t state the word discretion? That’s because a rule has no discretion, it states its boundaries and that should be the subject closed.

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Just to confirm I have no issue with the game of football and have been watching the beautiful sport all my life, I just think if something is widely considered to be part of the game then incorporate it into the rules. It’s hardly rocket science, look at how society and its laws adapt, well so to should football.

The game is inherently different from the gentlemen’s days of the 1920’s and that is fine, butthen update the rules to fit in with it. Every other aspect of the game has improved greatly, from coverage, to marketing, to the stadiums, so why are the rules still trying to adhere to an outdated playing style and player?

The most controversial talking points of any football match are generally based around a referee’s mistake, which has simply occurred because he is allowed to make judgements based on split second look at an incident. This can and does lead to ill tempers on the field and in the crowds which results in players being sent off or a fan being arrested. Imagine how easy it would be to avoid this if there was no shade of grey or room for the referee to make a judgement call?

To me the FA needs to spend more time on its archaic rules and less time worrying if a player removes his shirt or not. If the FA feel it’s acceptable for a player to stand with his back to the ball and block an opposing player, during a corner kick, then make it part of the rules. However if not then actually enforce the rules and penalties that go with such an offence.

Do not just leave things down to human error as it creates too many of them……ERRORS. Just state what the rules are and have them enforced. Make the rules simple and clear and everyone will be a lot happier. Continue to have these shades of grey and all that will ensue is more frustration!!