It seems as though not a month goes by without someone in one division or another complaining that their team has been hard done by becayse of a poor referring decision and then advocates the introduction of goal line technology. This is a more than valid belief, and more and more people are failing to find any reasons why not to go ahead with this technology, even if UEFA want to keep adding to the amount of officials until there is more on the pitch than players. However, football is not and will not be perfect with the introduction of goal line technology. Changes need to happen to push football forward, both on and off the pitch. Here are five alternative changes that may (and may not) improve football: No injury time, salary structures, medical technology, the Athletic Bilbao rule and community ownership. These five all have their own merits and drawbacks depending on your perspective and these are not all necessarily changes but rather a more universal acceptance of success stories from other leagues.
Changing the rules of injury time seems the most common sense. In no other professional team sport is there “injury” or “additional time” added to the set time of the match to account for stoppages. There is no reason why football should be any different and no feasible explanation why the referee cannot stop the clock any time there is a stoppage in play. This would eliminate the opportunity for any manager to complain the referee gave too much injury and allowed the other team to score, and lets face it any non-Man Utd supporter will be glad to see an end to Fergie pointing to his watch when he decides the game should have ended. Anyone who has seen their team lose out on three points because of a goal late into injury time will certainly be pleased not to suffer such an unfortunate ending to a game in the future. Alternatively, you can look at this and say the excitement of an injury time goal will be lost and cite Man Utd’s Champions League victory over Bayern Munich as a classic example.
In terms of a change to the salary structures of football a standard salary cap may not be the best way forward for the top divisions in football. Rather, the introduction of an MLS style salary structure with Designated Players may be the best way forward, especially with regards to the Premier League and La Liga. Nicknamed the “Beckham rule” the system was designed to stop clubs from overpaying on salaries to superstar players in order to assert financial dominance on the league and to ensure American players still had the chance to make it at the biggest sides. This system also ensures the MLS sides have the opportunity to compete on a relatively even playing field. Each side can have a maximum of three designated players who are exempt from the salary cap. Integrating this system throughout football, especially in England, would enable clubs like Wigan to compete more fairly with Man City and Chelsea, and would force managers with bigger budgets to think through expensively signed players a little more carefully, knowing they will occupy one of three precious places in the side. I’m sure Arsenal would be the first to accept such a change and may finally end their wait for a trophy.
The third change suggested to football is more of an advancement than a change. With the emphasis of late been on pushing through goal line technology, with the latest from FIFA being that the World Cup in 2014 will use the technology, other forms of technological advancement are often overlooked. What happened to Fabrice Muamba was a tragedy but could save so many more in football from similar instances. Check ups and full body scans are without a doubt highly important but more can be done in game. The International Football Association Board (Ifab) will be considering a trial run of electronic chips within the players’ shirts to monitor their health. This is again where the MLS are already ahead of the Premier League, with Adidas providing Smart soccer to the league. Whilst it is still in it’s youth, the system will eventually prolong players careers, as it ensures managers can see when a player is running on empty or is at risk of serious injury, and may save lives. This is a stepping stone towards the future use of technology in football and should be embraced.
In terms of an “Athletic Bilbao” rule, what is suggested is that every major league needs to have a side comprised of players from only the home country. This would alter the ratio of domestic:foreign players to a slightly more favourable level, which in turn could improve the players available to the national side and prevent the inflation of prices for domestic players (Stewart Downing, need I say more?). More on this here.
Finally, community ownership is becoming increasingly important in the eyes of fans across the country. The most notable attempt of community ownership of late is Portsmouth FC, who recently reached the 1st anniversary of the second administration (Happy Birthday Administration!). The Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust are the most likely of the prospective suiters to obtain ownership of the fallen club and they will not be the last community trust to seek control of their respective club in the future. This rule is suggested to protect clubs from getting into the position that Pompey currently find themselves in. Their sugar daddy abandoned them and they continue to fall after becoming dependent on the money pumped into the club. This will happen again to another side (my money is on QPR) soon enough. In Spain, Malaga have suffered a similar plight and it is no small shock to see the team still playing so well and competing in the Champions League. What is suggested is the adoption of a Bundesliga rule, the so called “50+1” ownership rule. This ownership rule prevents an outside investor taking control of more than 49% of any club and keeps the fans in control. This does not prevent an outside investor coming in and ploughing money into the club. Instead it ensures that the fans have the final say on what can, and perhaps more importantly, cannot be done. The rule has worked well in Germany. It helps prevent teams from getting into huge debt, keeps the price of season tickets down, and still manages to keep the clubs and league competitive. The Bundesliga is second only to the Premier League in terms of revenue and is much more stable financially. Maybe it is about time to risk upsetting the money men of the Premier League and return the clubs to the fans for the good of football in this country.
Whether you agree with all of these suggestions or not, there is sure to be something for everyone. Football needs to move forward and whilst goal line technology is definitely one step towards a better game it is not the be all and end all, despite what managers will sometimes have us believe. Each of these alternative suggestions can help move football on to a brighter future.
Bad Football Joke of the Week 5:
Arsenal thought they were in luck when they saw the Bayern Munich team line up last night. Turned out to be Lahm dressed as Hutton.
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