Cheats never

prosper ...


What do players expect to gain from cheating in the modern game ? They invariably get found out by the myriad TV cameras around the game these days and only go to further humiliate the poor referees, who have a hard enough time of it anyway. Well, actually, what they are seeking to achieve is a match-winning decision. A penalty, a sending off, a free-kick in a dangerous position. Although, it has now come to the state where even corners and throw-ins are hotly disputed. And how can you seriously respect a referee who canít even see which way a throw should go ? He receives no assistance from his assistants, who wait to see which way he goes, then they go with the flow. Same with goal-kicks and corners. Unless it is right under their noses, they will wait until the refereeís finger points, then rush along the line with their flag showing the same way.

It was a surprise to me that the penalty Tottenham were awarded against Northampton was their first since the League Cup tie at Carlisle the previous year. The men in black have certainly viewed misdemeanours in the opposition box as rare sightings of UFOís (unidentified foul offences). As it happened, Ginola missed it anyway - probably wasnít sure what to do as it was so long ago since he last had the ball on the spot. Then, two weeks later another one comes along against Aston Villa. This time Shaggy, who has had his problems with penalties before now, hammered home. However, it looked for a long time that this pen. wouldnít be given. In reality, Ginola was on his way down when Ehiogu made contact and how many times before now have we seen Le Beau David denied because of his reputation going before him ? And I donít mean his lovely hair !!

It all came to the worldís notice in this yearís World Cup when the shirt-pulling and professional amateur dramatics started to come to the fore. Slaven Bilicís dying swan act was rightly denounced as a calculating piece of football theatre that we donít want to see. The players were obviously so keen to get the shirts of their idols that they were willing to try and rip them from their backs while play went on. With little allowed in the way of tackling, footballers have found other ways of making contact with opponents and they will not be appreciated. For all the Fair Play flags and fanfares, FIFA have brought a new cynical edge to the cutting out of the tackle from behind. It has just moved the possible threat of serious injury to a way of playing which will incite players to retaliate to the niggly tactics employed to annoy the other team. The officials now have to be more aware of the underhand ways of the game, when most of them were unable to detect a foul if it came up and kicked them in the face.

It is a constant source of wonder as to what referees say to their linesmen (and women) before the game. If they say that they only want them to flag for throws, corners, goal-kicks and offsides, that leaves huge chunks of the decisions to the referee, who will need four pairs of eyes (rather than the extra set in the form of spectacles). The view of the flagman in the Forest match was enough to get Stone red-carded, whereas the ref may have thought that Ginola was guilty of putting it on had he not had the linesmanís input. However, there are lots of things they could do better, but they are only human. Thatís where the technology comes in to enhance their powers to get things right. It wonít be a panacea for all what ails football, but it will help. Next season will see six full-time referees appointed to the Premier League. What will they be doing all the time ? Are there really that many games that need to be officiated ? Will they be reffing training matches (not a bad thing at West Ham you may reckon) ? Will they be running seminars or talking to players about their view of the game ? Whatever they do, their assistants will still be part-time, as such. And although refs may become fitter and more in tune with the players and the game itself, they may not have the rapport with the other members of their team that they need to control the game effectively.

With so much money floating around the game these days, it had to happen that some of it found itís way into the refís back pocket (legally, I mean). It will take an investment in the hi-tech side of the game and a reliance on the honesty of players to give the game back some of the credibility it has lost.


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