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The End

22 Feb

It’s two years since I started writing this blog.  During that time I’ve written some stuff that I’m fairly proud of – looking back there’s also one or two posts I’m less enthralled about, not because of what I’ve said, rather the standard of writing.

Regardless, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed FootballFutbolFitba.  I do think though, that the blog has run it’s course.  I will probably come back with a new site in the future, possibly something more specific, rather than a general site where I simply wrote about whatever I liked.

Thanks to everyone who has visited FFF, and an extra thank you to anyone who took the time to post a comment.  I received some excellent replies to the articles posted.

I will continue to write for other sites when I have the chance and I will continue to tweet nonsense.

Bye for now.


Financial Penalties Are No Longer Fine

19 Jan

In any walk of life, effective disciplinary measures should not only punish the guilty party, they must also act as a deterrent against future misdemeanours.  There can, therefore, be few practices more pointless in modern football than the use of financial penalties to penalise football players, clubs and governing bodies.  Fines have long been used to deal with breaches of discipline, but their impact has lessened dramatically over the last 10-20 years.

The game is now awash with money, thanks to TV deals, billionaire owners and other revenue streams: as a result, managers and players who operate in the upper echelons of club football earn salaries which, to some, could be considered obscene.  Yet those who step out of line continue to be ‘punished’ by being asked to hand over sums of money which are the millionaire’s equivalent of loose change.

In March last year, Sir Alex Ferguson was fined £30,000 (along with a five-game touchline ban) following comments he made about referee Martin Atkinson.  For many people, such a figure is equivalent to a couple of years wages.  However, it’s not likely to make much of a dent in the finances of a man who, according to FourFourTwo, has a personal wealth of £27million.

Then there’s El Hadji Diuof.  He received a penalty of £5,000 for his conduct during Rangers’ Scottish Cup replay loss to Celtic last season, where he was sent off after the final whistle.  The broad smile on Diouf’s face as he left a hearing at Hampden Park told it’s own story – when you can afford to pay a reported £300k for a car, money tends not to be an issue.

Clubs and national associations are no different.  In October, Chelsea were fined £20,000 for failing to control their players during the controversial loss at QPR.  That’s the same Chelsea who are owned by Roman Abramovich and benefit from a TV deal with Sky, the amount of which could feed a small country.

In November, the Bulgarian FA were asked to shell out £34,250 following racist chants from their fans during a Euro 2012 qualifier against England.  This pitiful amount was consistent with other fines handed out previously to the governing bodies of Croatia and Spain for similar offences.

There has to be change.  If fines were to have an impact, players and clubs would have to be deducted huge amounts – at their present levels the games decision makers are doing little more than urinating into a very strong breeze.

The guilty parties have to be hit where it hurts.  For players, that means extended match bans.  All the money in the world will provide little consolation should they miss out on a league decider or a cup final as a result of a previous misdemeanour.

UEFA recently had the chance to lead by example, but they missed the opportunity to basically deny Wayne Rooney his place at Euro 2012 when they reduced his ban for lashing out at a Macedonian opponent.  At least the FA provided Luis Suarez with a significant suspension – eight games – after the incident with Patrice Evra, but again, what difference does the £40,000 fine make?

For clubs points deductions and stadium closures are the real fear.  Using the Chelsea example, perhaps Andre Villas-Boas and his players would give more thought to their conduct if it were to have a genuinely negative impact on their title challenge.

Any punishment should also include a social aspect, almost like football’s version of community service.  Due to the obscene salary levels now prevalent in the game, the gap between players and ordinary fans is the widest it has been since the creation of the game.  Anything that helps to bridge that divide can only be positive.

Rather than asking for an offender to hand over a sum of cash that means very little to them, involve them in something that benefits them as individuals and the local community.  Imagine the goodwill that would be generated from players and managers coaching kids, helping out with amateur clubs or even attending training sessions with referees.  Such a system may be difficult to administer and enforce, but it has to be preferable to the current process.

In years gone by, the fining of top-flight footballers worked because their earnings were such that a deduction was noticeable and significant.  The huge hike in salaries over the last 20 years however, means that alternative penalties must be sought.

A Defence Of The Old-Fashioned Goalscorer

1 Feb

Darren Bent has been on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism following his recent move from Sunderland to Aston Villa. 

It’s been said he’s not worth the £24million transfer fee – absolutely, but the player doesn’t set the price, the clubs involved do.  Bent has also been accused of moving to earn a higher salary – more than likely, but it’s hardly news that someone in the money obsessed Sky TV 3D/HD Super League (or English Premier League) makes a decision based on finances rather than football.

The player has also received stick for being disloyal and letting Sunderland down – fair comment, but it’s a bit rich when some of those comments are coming from Steve Bruce, a man who’s never been shy when it comes to leaving a club when there’s a better offer on the table.  It should also be remembered that Sunderland could simply have rejected the bid from Villa.

All of the above are par for the course when a player moves from one club to another.  However, perhaps more interesting are the views of some observers who describe Bent as “just a goalscorer”.  It’s an indication of how much the game has changed when being able to put the ball in the back of the net is viewed almost as some kind of weakness.

It’s fair to say Bent doesn’t contribute much to his team outside the opposition penalty area, which is in contrast with many modern strikers.  In the era of 4-2-3-1, a front man is expected to be much more than a finisher – making space, and retaining possession are essential, while creation of opportunities is every bit as important as conversion.

However, for all his deficiencies, the fact remains that Bent is still a very capable striker in one the best leagues in the world.  He has to time his runs and make sure he is in the right place at the right time (hardly an in-depth tactical analysis but it’s what he does), which is not easy, and is down to intelligence and anticipation, rather than luck as some would suggest.  He’s not a Drogba or a Torres, but he can provide goals, one of many things the current Aston Villa side requires.  Bent has already made his mark, scoring twice in three games, and he will add to that tally before the end of the season.

While Gary Lineker and Ian Rush made careers out of being ‘poachers’, current equivalents such as Bent or Kris Boyd are not valued in the same way.  However, as long as the aim of the game is to score more one more than the opposition, there will always be a place for the penalty-box predator.

Goal-line Technology Must Not Create Divisions

15 Dec

The introduction of goal-line technology took a step closer in October, with the International Football Association Board’s (IFBA) decision to allow companies to submit systems which would be able to confirm, within one second, whether or not a goal had been scored. 

Any new technology would deal only with the goal-line, meaning it would not cover Thierry Henry-style handballs within the penalty box or elsewhere on the field of play.  However, it seems that there is now support from most sections of the game for some kind of system to be introduced in an attempt to eliminate mistakes from officials where goal claims have been rightly or wrongly confirmed or denied.

The campaign for change gathered momentum in England during the World Cup following Frank Lampard’s strike against Germany, which was incorrectly ruled to have landed in the 6-yard box, after hitting the underside of the bar.  Had the goal been awarded, the outcome of the match would have been very different – instead of being on the wrong end of a 4-1 hammering, England would have…been on the end of a 4-2 hammering. 

Stoke City’s Jonathan Walters helped to ensure the issue remained in the public eye after he had a perfectly good goal ruled out against Spurs earlier this season.

The benefits of goal-line technology are obvious and it’s understandable that the clamour for its use has grown in recent years.  Nobody wants to see a team denied victory, or even a trophy, because of human error and if a system can be introduced that provides a definitive answer within a single second, then all the better.

However, questions arise when considering the implementation of any new technology.  Obviously, it will be used at the highest levels of the game e.g Champions League, World Cup and European club competitions, but how far will it filter down? In England for instance, will all four divisions be covered?  What about the Blue Square Premier?

Individual associations or federations could be expected to foot the bill.  This could lead to Spain, Italy and Germany having all the angles covered, while smaller nations in other parts of the world struggle.  FIFA, UEFA and the other confederations would have to provide some form of assistance.

While finances, stadiums and the standard of player may differ greatly, on the field football has largely remained the same at all levels of the sport: two teams, two goals and one ball.  Goal-line technology could change that with differences in how the game is officiated, depending on the location and competition of the match in question. 

When the IFAB meet in March, they will examine how accurate each of the systems put forward has been.  However, it is of equal importance that they decide how they will ensure that any new technology covers as many nations, teams and competitions as possible.  A team playing in a mid-table Scottish Third Division game have as much right to expect accurate decision making as a side taking part in a Champions League final.  There is already enough of a gap between the haves and the have not’s without anything else adding to it.