When Did Football Get So Ugly?

"Gordon Bryan"As the new football season cranks into life, I find myself asking the same question as last year – just when *did* football get so ugly..?

2012 was not the first time I had asked myself this, but the feel good factor of the London Olympics meant that the start of the football a couple of weeks later brought a rather sour feeling, that instead of the honest competition of London we would now be getting month after month of cheating and whining, with blanket coverage of it in the papers.

Of course, that’s exactly what happened. The cheating – tick. The whining – tick. The relegation of almost any other sport to a supporting role behind the coverage of the cheating and the whining – tick.

I noticed it again with the Commonwealth Games this summer, and I think it can be put down to a few things…

The refs. When watching the multi sports of the Olympics and Commonwealths, it’s very noticeable how much the refs are respected. Very often they are miked up, and we can hear the exchanges between the players and the officials.

Yes, there are often disputes about calls, and yes, the players will voice their opinions, but once the ref explains and the decision is made, that’s the end of it.

I remember one specific example when watching the 6 Nations Rugby – an England player was giving the ref some verbals, so the ref immediately went to the England captain.

Ref – “I don’t need or want any opinions from your player over there. The next time it happens I’ll be taking action. Get it dealt with.”
Captain – “Yes Sir”

The captain then went straight over to the player concerned and had a word, because he knew that if the player did it again he would be off the pitch for 10 minutes, which has a huge impact in rugby.

That’s not what happens in football. Any free kick decision will result in the ref being surrounded and jostled by players, from both teams! The manager on the sideline will be hurling abuse at the other officials. It’s ugly, it’s horrible.

I think another factor is that football is a truly global game, and matches are being played in front of tens of thousands of people, which is not the case in a lot of the smaller sports. That can create a cauldron gladiatorial atmosphere, and players lose their heads.

Another factor is the time clocks. In a lot of sports, the clock stops when play stops, which means that time wasting is a complete, er, waste of time, because it gains nothing. Again, this is not so in football, where time wasting does work. Going to the ground injured will eat up a couple of minutes, and the arbitrary number of minutes added on at the end never adds up to the time wasted, so it works.

So, what’s the cure to the ugliness?

I think they should introduce the time clock stop. I also think a video ref would help as it’s currently a massive job the ref in the middle. I also think they should mic up the refs and use the rules which already exist about dissent. If anyone speaks to the ref out of line, they get a yellow card. If they do it again, they get another yellow, which means they are sent off.

Doing that would cause a massive hoo ha in the game, and with all the bad language that would come through the mikes, and players being sent off left right and centre it would look ugly, but it would have an effect in time, and in the short term would it look any uglier than what we currently have?

Do let me know what you think – leave a comment below!

‘Til Next Time,
Health & happiness,
P.S. Football and sport in general give great opportunities to use my FB Passion Profits techniques. You can grab my free report where I go over the basics at FB Passion Profits – The Basics!

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  • This seems like common sense to me, Gordon. I’ve never taken much notice of football and having a teenage son who isn’t interested in it really cements that. But I tend to know a fair bit about what is going on because I like the news! And your post made me think, as usual. I think one of the things that really turns me off football, as opposed to other sports, is all the arguing, the controversy and the people saying nasty things. So I love your positive suggestions.

    • Thanks Harriet!
      The rules already exist for refs to clamp down so hard, and when the suspensions start to kick in, things would change fairly quickly I think. No reason why it can’t be done, as other sports have shown, but I suspect I’m living in dream land ;-(

  • Perhaps a little less money and less celebrity in the beautiful game might help the players understand their responsibility to entertain us with their skill. I am sure that less celebrity might would help the players to place less emphasis on their own importance and increase importance on the team. Money and celebrity for the individual dominate and the team is diminished as a result. These players seem to have forgotten just how fortunate they are.

    • Yes Peter, I think there is a lot to that point about the money and celebrity, that the players think the refs are beneath them, and they think the fans can be taken for granted,

  • I think you make a great point about the players losing their heads due to audience size. I hadn’t really thought of the gladiator-like feel to the stadiums before but that’s entirely true.

    • I see a lot of former players doing TV work, and they all say ‘oh he shouldn’t act like that’ but they were just as bad,and that feel of being in a battle definitely has something to do with it!

    • could be a good season for you then!
      You make a good point, about winning by any means necessary, because the ref hassling often can work. If a team hassles the ref all the time, it may not change a specific decision, but it might influence the ref’s thoughts for further decisions. I hate it. I love seeing other sports where they simply respect the refs decision, and it could be like that football. I’m not holding my breath unfortunately!
      cheers, Gordon