Ken Gambles*, a stalwart of the North Yorkshire branch of the Sunderland AFC Supporters’ Association, casts a whimsical eye over footballers’ habits he’d go to unusual lengths to stamp out …
Despite being a traditionalist. I amazed myself at how quickly I came to adapt to the back-pass law, penalty shoot-outs and even Sky’s razzmatazz.
There remain, however, some aspects of the game which consistently annoy and spoil enjoyment of the match – and I don’t just mean a Sunderland defeat.
I’d like to suggest therefore a number of minor changes to the laws which would serve to improve the situation. I’ve ignored major talking points such as goal-line technology and amendments to the currently bizarre offside law to focus on what I feel to be relatively uncontroversial and easily introduced alterations.
* Long throws
It’s a very minor change and probably anti-Stoke (Britannia waives the rules) but towels should not be allowed for drying the ball prior to a throw. Sorry, Rory but if you want a dry ball use your shirt.
Deliberately taking the ball to the corner flag to waste time
It would be easy for referees to decide when this was deliberate and award a free-kick to the defending team.Very quickly this would cease to be a ‘legitimate’ tactic and we could get on with the game.
* Time-wasting generally
It’s one of the most infuriating features and we see it at the SOL fairly regularly where a team takes an inordinate amount of time to take goal-kicks and throws-in and to make substitutions. Referees should indicate one minute to be added on for every instance of abuse. Although in the long run it might not make much difference at least the crowd would have the satisfaction of seeing the gamesmanship punished.
* Goal celebrations
Rather than book players for taking off shirts and jumping in the crowd,why not give 50 seconds say for cartwheels, choreographed dancing, shirt-waving and communal love-ins, but then the game restarts. Any player not in his own half would not be allowed to enter play until the ball goes dead. The sight of the opposition lined up on the half-way line ready to kick off should concentrate minds wonderfully.
* Shirt pulling.
My personal bête noire: I know we are all prone to looking at the past through rose-coloured spectacles but I’m convinced that in the 50s and 60s shirt-pulling was non-existent in the Football league, it was considered unmanly. Now it is rife and my solution is fairly simple.
If judged guilty of shirt-pulling the offending player has to wear knitted mittens for the rest of the game. These would preferably be bright pink. Footballers generally being thin-skinned souls would hate the hilarity of the crowd and be embarrassed by the kiddieswear. For deliberate diving perhaps the offender should wear goggles and Speedos. Oops,sorry,getting carried away there.
Image: Holly Rowland
But to end on a serious note, if there were to be a concerted effort I’m positive that these persistent abuses in the game could be eradicated and we all could enjoy watching the game and not the play-acting – ah, and that’s yet another thing that annoys me.
* Ken Gambles on Ken Gambles:: I live in Knaresborough and am retired after 35 years of secondary school-teaching. I’ve supported Sunderland whenever and wherever I’ve been able since 1965 and plead guilty to spoiling my daughter Claire’s life by getting her addicted to SAFC about 23 years ago. My other daughter Ruth has had more sense. By now I ought to be inured to the pain of relegation struggles, but it must be deep in the blood that I generally expect the worst.
I edited a Sunderland fans’ anthology Black Catalogue, which was published in 2005, unfortunately coinciding with Nightmare 2, the 15-point season, yet nevertheless sold fairly well. George Forster at SAFCSA, bless him, is still selling copies for £2 or £3. I’ve also written a children’s story, Monty sees the Light, illustrated by my Claire, about a black cat at the Stadium of Light. Monty himself (my all-time hero ) rang up to order a copy which made my day.
Claire was secretary of the North Yorkshire Sunderland Supporters’ branch until marriage and pressure of work precluded her involvement. I now act as secretary and newsletter editor, ably supported by our chairman, Barry Robson, late of the parish of Sunderland. Through supporting Sunderland I’ve made valued lifelong friends and acquaintances and, despite the inevitable heartaches along the way, it continues to be a worthwhile journey.
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