|Happens too rarely - yellow for time-wasting|
"Before taking a throw-in, free kick or goal kick, adjust your sock. And then adjust your other sock," a professional coach I used to work with in the US once told my edlest daughter's team. It was advice on defending a narrow lead in a recreational league. The players were 14 years old.
Like the perpetual sore of dissent, tedious time-wasting has become deeply embedded in football at all levels. There are sanctions to punish both, but they are not strictly applied because referees do not want to look overly officious for handing out serial yellow and red cards. The more that dissent and time-wasting have become an accepted staple of football, the harder they've become to punish.
Right after this summer's World Cup, the editor of Germany's kicker magazine, Rainer Holzschuh, wrote a series of proposals to counter time-wasting and unsporting conduct. Here's what he wrote in the July 16th. edition:
1. After a free-kick is awarded, no player on the team that has committed the offence is permitted to touch the ball. Punishment: yellow card. (Holzschuh doesn't mention the standard practice of standing in front of the ball to prevent a quickly taken free-kick. In refereeing clinics, we are taught this shouldn't be seen as an offence in itself - only if the encroaching player moves towards the ball and touches it after a quick free-kick is executed. Maybe it's time to re-think and clarify/strengthen this Law too.)
2. After a penalty is awarded, all players must immediately leave the penalty area bar the keeper and the kick-taker. Goalkeepers may not leave the six-yard box - to prevent them trying to put the kick-taker off. (Holzschuh stipulated no punishment here, but a yellow to a player on both teams would seem like a good way to send the necessary signal. Same for the goalkeeper.)
3. Any player whose injury causes an interruption in play must leave the field of play for at least two minutes.
4. When players are protesting, the referee can give a clear signal, after which all players must immediately back off. Punishment: yellow card.
5. Coaches who - after an initial warning - continue to protest a referee's decisions, must be sent to the stands. Likewise when they try to rile the crowd up.
|"The match officials cordially invite you to|
enjoy an improved view of the game."
Whatever you think of the above suggestions, there's no denying that, from a coach's point of view, both dissent and time-wasting are often effective. The former to intimidate and influence a weak referee, the latter because it is never properly punished (how many times does a goalkeeper have to faff about at a goal kick before he sees a yellow card? Usually at least three), and the requisite amount of time is rarely added on.
Such antics used to be considered 'professional' behaviour only seen at the higher levels of football. The financial incentives were used to justify all unsportsmanlike conduct. Now that this conduct has spread all the way down to the most junior amateur leagues, it is time to take urgent action and enforce new Laws from the very top of the game all the way down to the shitty leagues where underpaid idiots like myself are roundly abused week after week.
Although he was an excellent teacher of technique, the professional coach and I parted ways not long after he began to explain the use of deliberate fouls to the teenage girls. My eldest daughter is now 22, and still loves to play recreational football.
You can order Referee Tales author Ian Plenderleith's new book 'The Quiet Fan' here for £9.99.