What The Beautiful Game can Learn from The Game They Play in Heaven
Let’s start this piece by saying that I am a huge fan of both Football and Rugby and continue to watch both at every opportunity. However, I have long been a believer that Football can learn a great deal from Rugby, in so many areas. Fair play and integrity being at the forefront.
Football has a serious image problem. Its players are seen as petulant, cheating, cry babies inside and outside of the game and they are scorned by almost everyone, except their own team’s supporters.
Soccer, as Football is known in America and Australia, is widely ridiculed for the diving and injury feigning of the players, with total justification, I believe.
The fact that the game is so slack on this method of cheating, has a knock on effect on the character of the people that play and watch it and means that fans of full contact Football codes will never accept the one that launched them all.
Discipline and self discipline in particular, are very weak in Football and this is very much the fault of the people that run and referee the game. A few simple changes, strictly enforced, would change the attitude and behaviour of the players in less than one season.
Let’s take a look at some areas where Rugby stamps out cheating and poor behaviour and how Football could learn from them.
There is really no such thing as feigning injury in Rugby. It is said that Footballers use tape to keep their socks up, while Rugby players use tape to keep their ears on. It is also true that, for the most part, Footballers spend 90 minutes pretending they are injured, while Rugby players spend 80 minutes pretending that they are not.
So why is there this marked difference?
Because the rules of Football allow the ‘injured’ player to gain an advantage.
When a Football player pretends he is injured, or even if he really is slightly injured, the game stops and the ‘injured’ player usually gains a free kick. He often follows this by asking the referee to book or send off the player that fouled him.
In Rugby, if you get injured, they play around you. They stop for head or more serious injuries, but otherwise, unless you are interfering with play, the game goes on. So there is no advantage in pretending to be injured or staying down if you are able to get back up.
Bring that into Football and you reduce the number of ‘injuries’ and stoppages dramatically.
The latest news from Chelsea is that Jose Mourinho has shifted the blame from a diving, feigning footballer, onto the doctor that treated him for an incident that occurred at the weekend.
Arguing with the Referee
There is no real deterrent to Footballers arguing with the referee. They are allowed to get away with it repeatedly and this encourages the melees around the officials when any important decision is made. Very occasionally a player is booked for arguing, but it rarely goes beyond that.
If Rugby players argue over a penalty or free kick with the referee, he moves the kick forward by 10 metres (yards). Argue again and he will move it another 10.
When this rule was first brought in, you regularly saw it applied, but these days you rarely do. Why? Because no one agues with the ref, as they know the consequences.
Scrambles in the Box
In Rugby you are allowed to grab an opposing player by the shirt, arm, body etc. In Football you are not!
So why do they allow this at almost every corner and free kick?
Often the kick is held up, while the referee tries to put a lid on the wrestling and very occasionally a player is sent off for grabbing a shirt. But that should happen every time and pretty soon there would be no more wrestling.
The commentators on Football also encourage the negative aspects of the game. In the Premier League season opener between Chelsea and Swansea, the Chelsea goalkeeper kicked and brought down an attacker who was bearing down on the goal, with no other line of defence nearby. The referee awarded a penalty and sent off the goalkeeper, a good decision all around.
But the commentators spent the rest of the match discussing whether or not it was a penalty offence and if the player should have been sent off.
Their line of argument was that the offence may have taken place inches outside of the penalty box and there may have been another player who could possibly have stopped a certain goal.
What happened to the spirit of the game?
It was a blatant foul on the edge of the box. So why argue about the minuscule details and encourage players, supporters or anyone else to do the same?
Apply the discipline and get on with it. This would discourage anyone from doing the same thing in the future and believing that they may get away with it.
So come on Football, be brave. Apply the rules with force, bring in the new ones we have suggested and maybe Footballers would be more widely respected outside of the game and maybe even by fans of opposing teams.
In case you are in any doubt about the actual rules of Football, or the laws of Rugby, there are a number of links below where you can pick up more information.
By Max Power