How to end gamesmanship and cheating: pink mittens and goggles

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.

Pink Harvest MittensImage: 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.

** Contact me if you want to write for Salut! Sunderland.There’s an e-mail link below the Paris Hotels ad near the top right of this page

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12 thoughts on “How to end gamesmanship and cheating: pink mittens and goggles”

  1. atheadley: Agreed. However I’d suggest one modification worth considering. In rugby the scoring rate is much greater than in football and, quite frequently, a sin-binning leads to a points concession by the offending team. In football therefore I think the sin-bin time, if introduced, could be extended to 15 or even 20 minutes.

  2. the shirt-pulling is my pet hate. You can handle the ball by accident, you can knock an opponent over by accident, you can even foul an opponent by accident, but you can not pull a shirt by accident. It’s a deliberate foul, so it should be a card every time, no exceptions.

  3. In (ice hockey) the sin bin works very well indeed. The time penalty and the clock ticking down is part and parcel of the game. It also adds excitement in the powerplay knowing exactly how long you have the advantage of an extra player or players. As a 7 team game the effect is considerable and I rather doubt whether it would have the same impact on a larger field with teams of 11. There’s no reason why the reasons for a dismissal can’t be broadcast to the crowd. I don’t think that this adds a complexity unless you see the time for the bin being decided by the referee. Where there’s a sin bin offence it would be interesting if a two player penalty was introduced so that you would have 11 versus 9 for 5 minutes. It would give the managers something to think about in terms of who the other sacrificed player would have to be. I think that it something like this could add a lot to the game in so many ways.

  4. The problem with introducing sin bins etc. is that it makes an easy game difficult. The beauty of football above rugby (both codes), hockey etc. is that it has simple laws that all can follow. Start to tinker with them and you might end up with a situation like Rugby Union, where the spectators have no idea why a penalty is being given.
    There are many things that we dislike, but many are in response to cultural changes that we oldies have difficulty understanding. The game will always move on in response to its audience; 80 years ago, I am sure there were supporters grumbling about those new fangled numbers on the back of the jerseys.
    Great post though!!

  5. A great refreshing post which I completely agree with!

    There are a couple of possible additions though that I’d like to nominate to add to Ken’s list. This is a little bit like a football version of Room 101.

    Those stupid “Under Armour” lycra shirts. These things really get my goat especially when they are being working to maintain warmth is the short sleeved team shirt over the long sleeved lycra.

    We’ve come a long way (regrettably) since Keith Weller took to the field wearing white tights under his shorts in the late 70s.

    Taking their shirts off when a goal’s scored. Bobby Charlton never did this did he? Stop it.

  6. I strongly favour the use of a sin bin. Red cards should not be an accumulation of yellows where other teams benefit instead of just the team offended against. A sin bin could result in say five players mobbing a ref being of the pitch for ten minutes. The impact of that punishment could quickly reinforce the respect shown by rugby players to refs instead of the abusive dissent we see day in day out in football.

    The other great advantage is that punishment is instant and in the game to which the offence relates. Pulling shirts is cheating and so is holding in the penalty area neither of which is dealt with by referees under the present system. Like the British justice system it will continue to deteriorate if the laws are not enforced

  7. Right Chris, a forward can ask the ref. if he can take a ‘quickie’ but what does the ref. base his decision on? If the attacking team is sometimes allowed to take a quick one, why not always?

  8. the old rule is you used to be able to ask the referee if you could take it straight away… afterall it is your advantage if you wll.. Thierry Henry didn a similar thing twice i believe, and you can cleary see him asking the ref.

    Why shouldnt tackles be punished retrospectively… if its truely a hideous tackle, especilaly if there is intent, would that not be GBH or ABH at least in a court of law? The same way that you could break somebodies leg with a completely fair tackle, you would probably just get booked or sent of becasue it had happened if the ref wasnt sure, you get the card recinded. I dont think refs should look at if as thogh they are being made to look stupid, they do not have the luxury of camera angles etc. Referees also have the option not to send cards into the FA i believe. So if they watched the games straight after, they could have the opportunity to do this.

  9. Yes to pink mitts.
    If I could add a point or two on F.A. off-field rules, and in particular to the rule which states that a sending off for two yellows can’t be rescinded; a couple of years ago, a Wigan player wrongly received a second yellow. How unfair and frustrating that despite TV replays clearly showing his innocence, he had to serve a ban.
    Likewise, because the F.A. don’t want to be seen to be re-referreeing a game, a blind eye is turned to some awful fouls, supposedly because the ref. might look a little foolish.
    There are several sports in which umpires/referees’ rulings can be overturned without any embarrassment or bitterness on their part but the only time I can recall an incorrect decision being revoked in football, (i.e. one which the ref. ‘saw’) was in the case of Thatcher/Mendes.

    Remaining on F.A. rules, can anyone tell me which conditions must prevail in order for a referee to allow a quick free kick to be taken, not giving defenders time to form a wall. (happened famously in the Man. U vs Porto not so long ago).

  10. HA, like the pink mittens rule, i also have some additions to this..

    1. Surrounding the referee – this is a joke in the current game, and can, whether people say so or not, influence a referee. The rule should be as in rugby, the only people next to the referee should be, The Offending Player and the Offending players Captain. Anybody else should recieve an instant booking.

    2. DIVING – Actually painful to watch these guys writhing around and diving as though they are being judged. Simple fix, give the referees power to review the game afterwards.. Infact, go as far as they have to watch. And give them the power to award retrospective yellow cards… a player may dive 2 times in a game…missed in the game due to good acting, but obvious on cameras with sevaral views. 2 yellow cards in a game obviously results in a 1 match ban… players would soon stop diving when suspensions where involved. I know rules have to be able to be applied to all levels of football, but surely the rule could be written, “where video evidence is available…..” so if somebody has some video evidence, it can be reviewed at any level. They can recind cards… so why not dish out aswell.

    3. Celebrations – i agree with what has been said, the feeling of elation when scoring surely should be celebrated, it does not really hurt anyone if somebody takes their top off or ends up in the crowd, but a time limit could be applied, say 1 minute would be fair to be back in your own half, otherwise the game just kicks off.

  11. I couldn’t disagree with any of that – including the pink mittens!!

    One sanction that I would like to see referees being able to invoke is for players that wave imaginary cards to receive exactly the card they are asking the referee to give to another!

    Red or yellow no difference, whichever they are asking for is what they should receive!!

  12. Whilst I’m happy with the rules as they are there’s a couple of changes which are worth a try.
    1. Advantage. Play the rugby rule and wait to see if advantage accrues before blowing up for the foul. If not, only then award the free kick.
    2. Corners. Subject to an agreed minimum distance cbetween ball and near post, corners to be taken from where the ball went out of play.
    But we muck about with the offside rule at our peril. It’s the ONE rule which determines style of play.

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