If I hear another ‘pundit’ or manager complain how the new handball rule is ruining the game, I’ll tear out the remaining hair I have on my head. The twaddle that has erupted because some players, with the aid of technology, have been adjudged to have broken a rule, is amazing. The two managers, after Newcastle got a last minute penalty and earned a 1-1 draw with Tottenham, took different stances (funnily, the beneficiary was highly critical of his fortune):
Not everyone is buying this lamentation:
Ken Early thinks there’s a wider problem:
‘Except the problem is not the rule. The rule is only a second-order effect of the real problem, which is VAR. VAR has shown us that football is, to a surprising extent, a game of micro-handballs. In the past referees dealt with them equitably, by failing to notice them. If it happened too fast to be perceptible to the naked eye, nobody worried about it. No body, no crime. Now VAR spots everything that could possibly be a handball and demands to know what the referee is going to do about it.’
However, my feelings go wider than the vein-bursting screams of Jamie Carragher that it’s “an embarrassment!”
Not one of the commentators thought to mention things that are a basic part of the modern game that have ‘ruined it’ for fans. Well, let me put a few to you.
1. Handling the ball instead of letting a goal score: that’s a rule being applied to its letter, but none of the moaners are arguing that a player should let the goal score and not handle, get a red card, and then help his team because a penalty kick is awarded instead of a clear goal. The injustice of that is beyond dispute! The selection below includes some handballs efforts to try to cheat and score a goal. They also include some odd handball decisions that had nothing to do with (and pre-date) VAR. The game was already ruined!
The game was not ruined by Maradona’s ‘hand of God’? Give me a break!
The gleeful celebration of a cheat, afterwards!
2. The ‘professional’ or ‘tactical’ foul denying a clear goal scoring chance. These so-called ‘dark’ arts of the game cannot be called for what they are; or are they? ‘Professional’ and ‘tactical’ speak to how they are taught and used as part of the ‘beautiful’ game at its highest level. Commentators are often ready to praise how a player ‘takes one for the team’, with such actions, committing the foul and getting maybe no worse than a yellow card.
3. Price of replica kits: ‘Dr. Peter Rohlmann, a sports merchandising expert carried out a study of the breakdown of the income and expenditure involved the market of replica shirts. He found that the manufacturers’ costs of material, labour and shipping were less than £5 per shirt, so a top selling for £50 is a 1000% mark up on costs. Perhaps the one surprising finding from Dr. Rohlmann’s report is that the clubs themselves merely receive around 6% of the price of the shirt, that is £3 on a top retailing for £50.’ The game isn’t ruined? I guess not, given the kit sponsorship money that clubs get.
4. Transfer fees and player salaries. I watched Spurs-Newcastle at the weekend and the cameras were trained on Gareth Bale, who’s just returned to his former club, after several years at Real Madrid, which seemed to end unhappily with him clearly not wanted by the club. But, poor (sorry, not poor) Gareth had to live with that and little playing time. How could he cope? Just so: ‘his wages are reported to tot up to an eye-watering sum of £350,000 a week after tax. Bale joined Real Madrid from Tottenham in September 2013 for a then world-record transfer fee of £85m (100m euros), and then signed a contract extension in 2016 worth a reported £150million, according to the Guardian. Contracted to the club until June 30, 2022, he is said to earn £600,000 a week before tax.’ Game not ruined for us all? I figured (no pun intended) not. Any wonder that ‘This year saw the Cardiff-born star top the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List in May, when he was named the wealthiest active sports star aged 30 or below.’ A player who cannot command a regular full-time spot on a team! Give me some of that! Game definitely not ruined for us.
But, let’s not heap blame on young Gareth, alone. Look at the top 10 young list; everyone’s a footballer, bar Anthony Joshua!
Oh, yea! The game is healthy and doing us all good. 😦
5. Entrance fees. The Premier League’s own research shows that ticket prices are about £30 pounds a game. About 3/4 of fans are season ticket holders: a £400 season ticket for 19 Premier League matches is £21.05 per match ticket. But such tickets for match-going adults last season ranged from £458 (Sheffield United) to £1395 (Tottenham). Top-end tickets were about £90 per match.
Though a bit out of date, the Bleacher Report indicated that paying to go to matches was out of the reach of ordinary punters: ‘going to the football has become an unaffordable activity for the majority of the traditional supporter base’. ‘The cost of attending football has risen at more than twice the rate of the already extortionate cost of living in Britain today.’
For a little comparison, tickets for Bayern Munich’s games were lower than in any of the four top tieof the football LEague.
But, fans in the Football League still love the game, according to the EFL Supporters Survey 2019, and about 2/3 of them wanted goal-line technology and VAR to help with officials make decisions; that view might have shifted with experience, but it’s acknowledged to be a work in progress.