It’s guest blog time again, and Alex Bain is back with his thoughts on refs, gamesmanship and VAR…
Firstly, I still can’t make up my mind whether to compliment the Aussies on retaining the Ashes or not – the simple reason being that one batsman has won it for them, no one else.
To me, and many others, three Aussie shouldn’t be playing. The ACB were so fast to react to their sandpaper/ball-tampering scandal they took the ICB by surprise. In recent years, Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan players have all received bans of between three and five years, and these were total bans from all forms of cricket.
The ACB gave their three ball-tamperers an international-only ban so they still played domestic and IPL cricket on full pay from the ACB. It was a paid holiday for them.
Now let’s look at the so-called Harry Kane incidents with ‘diving’ claims coming in from both Newcastle and Arsenal. If a defender lets a forward get in front of him then he is a fault, Kane was clever enough to get between the player and the ball on both occasions.
- Newcastle’s centre-back lost his footing and as he was going down and took Kane with him.
- Arsenal’s defender was in a similar position; Kane again got between him and the ball and he fouled Kane.
Anywhere else on the pitch, the referee would have given a free-kick for both incidents.
Many years ago Manchester City had two very good players: Rodney Marsh and Franny Lee. Marsh was the ultimate entertainer and Franny the goal scorer and never missed a penalty, unlike a lot of modern players.
Marsh was being interviewed by Jimmy Hill in the early days of Sky and was asked about the number of penalties that Man City were awarded. His answer was, firstly, you get into a position where the defenders need to block or tackle you and you go down and, secondly, if the defender doesn’t put in a tackle then you get close and trip yourself up. The big no-no was don’t go down looking at the ref or doing swan dive.
But is it cheating or gamesmanship to try and get an advantage over the opposition? Modern players are accused of going down too easily but there have always been the exponents of the dark art of conning the ref.
Many of these have been very skilful players – Marsh, Stan Bowles, Frank Worthington, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona – and when they do it for their national side it is fair game, yet do it for their club side and the media are all over it. That’s how it feels anyway.
Having grown up pre 24/7 sports channels and not having every move, pass, foul and on-pitch tantrum viewed 100s of times from every angle, I can only presume that similar things did go on but were not reported in the papers.
Or, maybe they were they blamed on the condition of the pitches. Unlike today’s bowling greens, back then they played on mud patches that cut up at the slightest sliding tackle. Rain and snow never cancelled or stopped a game being played, even in schoolboy football the game went on.
And on the subject of pitches, that leads us to another element of gamesmanship that has crept into the game in recent years. It was reported that Liverpool moaned about Man City over-watering their pitch last season, to make it to greasy for them to control their passing game and gave the ball away, and Spurs were also accused of having the grass too long – again by Liverpool – for the same reason, to hinder their passing game.
Now, of course, both teams have to adapt to the pitch conditions and, yes, the home side does have an advantage if the conditions are the same for every home game, but if the club does minor alterations for each home game that advantage no longer exists.
Another age-old question relating to home advantage is do referees, subconsciously probably, give leeway to home teams? Some call it the rub of the green, but fouls do seem to go to the home side more often. It has been said at Liverpool, an away team will only get a penalty when chicken get teeth, and a similar thing can be said of most of the big teams: that decisions seem to go in their favour more often than not.
Are referees biased, or do they gang up on clubs? In the recent Arsenal v Spurs match, Xhaka committed ten bookable offences, reported by both Sky and BT, and only got booked for the eleventh. They also reported that a Spurs player got booked for a second foul, with one pundit having the nerve to say that since Pochettino’s outburst against a ref after a recent game, many decisions have gone against them.
City will undoubtedly have, over the course of the season, some good, bad and really ugly decision go for and against, and we supporters already have a list of referees that induce a groan when appointed to our games.
We also now have VAR to contend with and the referral judges sitting in London watching every move but have been told not to overrule the ref, only to assist by telling him to look at the monitor. It is then up to him if he does or else he tells them he is happy with his decision.
Surely they should tell him that he has made a real screw up, not just agree with him. No one wants the game stopped every 20 seconds but for fouls, penalties, off-the-ball incidents he should be made aware of so that he can make the correct decision. Does it undermine his authority only if he is constantly asking for advice or going to the monitor? Should, like cricket, the team captain have two appeals for each half?
Appeals could, and would, possibly be used under the guise of gamesmanship. Being cynical, just maybe one team loses the ball in a dangerous area – how many captains would ask for an appeal over a minor incident just to stop the flow of the game?
Maybe it is just me, seeing things that are not there, and reading into comments made during games. Commentators talk of games being re-refereed, but they do it all the time.
Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Glenn Hoddle and other ex-players should know better, and the professional commentators watch the game through rose-tinted glasses and can give their opinions without any repercussions. The pressure they put on referees is intolerable and the rest of the paid media are the same. They have no recourse of reply.
Onwards and upwards and let’s hope for a good start to the restart of the season.
VAR will settle down. More needs to be done about “simulation” and diving, and i think that is the intention. It is cheating. I would red card ’em. Writhing about, an almost certain leg break, lo and behold, up they leap and start sprinting! Turns out it was only eyelash cramp…Gamesmanship. Norwich will need to learn to use it themselves PL style. Chelsea showed them how.
martin penney says
Unfortunately that’s pretty much an accurate take on things!
Who’d be a ref, hey? I know they’re relatively well paid these days but even so some decisions they have to make are sometimes impossibly difficult.
Alex B says
Thanks for the comment.
Blatant play acting should be a Red Card I agree.
The Question is dies the FA and Ref’s have the balls to see it thro, it is like the rule that players will be booked if they crowd only the Captain is allowed to approach him, when was the last time this was enforced.
It is also like the excuse from managers that his player wasn’t diving “He was moving so fast the slightest touch and he lost his balance” where was the touch and if he was that fast he should have slowed down in the penalty area.
Gamesmanship I agree city needs to get up to speed with, or is it game management.
Herr Cutz says
We expect refs, like doctors, to be perfect. But like doctors and the rest of us they’re just human, a few very good, most average and a few not up to it. The same thing applies to the honesty of players. VAR when it gets bedded in will help refs to make the right decisions and after match public discussion helps to keep refs and players on the straight and narrow. But there will always be contradiction and dispute, and that’s no bad thing it keeps the games alive long after they’ve been played, all part of the beautiful and flawed game.
Alex B says
Hi H C
Thanks for your comment.
To me FIFA have possibly missed the chance to look at other sports that use a VAR system like Rugby, Ref’s should be miked up to explain whst is going on and like cricket show on the big screen the incident it would add to the game.
I would also like to see Ref’s allowed to speak after games only if they feel comfortable doing so, at the moment all Ref’s have a Monday meeting to discuss what went on but these are tighter than MI5 for security we never hear what happens, or said.
Colin B says
VAR will improve over time. The equivalent technology in other sports such as rugby union and league and cricket has got better. They have quite a few years start over football.
Given the quality of some of the umpiring in the Ashes the third umpire has been needed a lot to get to the correct decisions.
The biggest frustration with VAR is lack of communication with the fans. That needs to be resolved and it will help with VAR being universally accepted.
Changing the subject it was great to see three City youngsters in the England Under 21s. Godfrey and Aarons would not have looked out of place in the senior side, particularly in the second half.
Sterling was on fire in the first half against Kosovo. Let’s hope he has burnt out for Saturday and that Krul can keep a clean sheet.
Seen today’s EDP where it says City’s squad cost over 1 BILLION euros and ours cost 32 million euros. Next two lowest were Sheff Utd at 64 million and Burnley at 132 million.
It would be interesting to value the squads on current valuations. It would bump our squad’s value up a lot.
Alex B says
Thanks for the comments
It was reported in the nationals that Man C squad was 32 x more valuable than NCFC’s thats is a big gulf.
Over the last 2 U21 internationals cities 3 youngsters haven’t looked out of place and the Express is starting Spurs will confirm their interest in Godfrey/Arrons come January with a move in the summer.
Yes Rugby and Cricket gave used VAR longer and have hammered out their own problems but FIFA seems to have ignored all that and went their own way surely they could have used some of what is in use to their advantage???