You may’ve noticed, there’s no football at the moment. None. And it got me thinking – what are all the people who run football, doing with their time?
The governing bodies, FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League, EFL, the FA and all the other back-handing, back-slapping, back-stabbing chosen ones who luxuriate in the profits of the wonderful game – what are they actually doing now that they’re unable to commandeer private jets to whisk them off to exotic meetings in far-flung countries to initiate another bidding war for the next competition?
Because there’s plenty that could be sorted out before the resumption of normal duties. Take VAR for instance. VAR is an excellent product, perfect for the use for which it was designed, but it is ridiculed because it’s operated by morons. It’s like giving a three-year-old a brand new iPad and wondering why they’re colouring the screen with crayons.
If the rules state that a player is offside - if any part of his body is in front of the last defender - then it’s no good lambasting VAR for accurately pointing this out. However, it is right to criticise the inconsistencies in the way it’s used. Too often the camera picks up incidents that are missed or ignored by the referee and are not highlighted by VAR when it’s obvious to everyone that an infringement has occurred.
Now is the ideal time to clarify the relationship between the referee and VAR because the current situation is having a detrimental effect on the game’s credibility. The system that was brought in to reinforce consistency is having the opposite effect because of the way it’s being handled.
At the moment VAR is only used to highlight ‘‘clear and obvious errors’’ or ‘‘serious missed incidents,’’ but only if they apply to specific match-changing situations, and it can only offer advice – the referee will always have the final word.
Which is madness. We have a system that can take out all human error from managing a game of football, making it completely fair, and we choose not to use it. In which case, it would be better not to have it at all and go back to pre-VAR days when everyone could slag off the referee for being a prat... just like we do in the lower leagues.
And as a bi-product of the use of VAR, the issue is bringing into sharp focus those areas of the game that need a change in rules. The aforementioned offside situation needs an urgent review now that we’ve the technology to see if a player is in front of the defender by the thickness of a gnat’s chuff.
The great man himself - Arsene Wenger - in his new capacity as a FIFA Chiefer has suggested that the rule should be changed so that a player is only offside if his whole body is clear of the last defender.
Which is brilliant – let’s go with that, it’ll mean more goals, more excitement and simplifies the situation for everyone. One can only hope that the powers that be are Skyping on this very topic as we speak.
As they will be on the handball rule. I’ve been watching football since Bobby Charlton had a fringe and handball was never an issue. Now, all of a sudden, it’s like trying to understand quantum physics.
Was the alleged offence committed by an attacker or a defender? Which part of the pitch? Was the arm above the shoulder? Was the ball deflected off their own head/body/foot? What was the passage of play? Was his body shape unnatural? Where was the referee? Did the VAR guy give a monkeys? Is the player a Piscean? What did he have for breakfast? Jesus, it’s called football for a reason, you’re not allowed to handle the ball – how difficult can it be to come up with a rule that everyone understands?
And it’s not just the rules of the game that can be addressed in this hiatus of calm. Hopefully FIFA will be reconsidering the format of Euro 2020, or Euro 2021 or whatever it’s now going to be called.
Having teams fly round the world playing their matches in a dozen or so countries as far apart as Azerbaijan was unbelievably out of touch with current thinking on environmentalism and climate change even before the current crisis.
One can only hope that the arch Bond villain himself, Gianni Infantino, has woken up, smelt the diesel fumes and is summoning his cronies onto a conference call to scale the whole thing back to a size that doesn’t leave the man in the street shaking his head in bewilderment.
Whilst they’re on the call, they can also reconsider their many sponsorship deals and try to shoe-horn the word ‘ethical’ somewhere into the conversation. And they could do worse than start with the Champions League and their relationship with ‘Gazprom’. Every time I see it I can’t help wondering how many oligarchs the company has created and whether or not it’s involved with bombing rebels in Syria. And sure enough, the next time Putin decides he needs another warm water port and likes the look of Lisbon, Gazprom are going to be the people turning off the pipeline feeding energy to the West.
And whilst ITV officials are no doubt currently eating up the hours trying to get round social distance restrictions for the next series of ‘Love Island’, they should seriously reconsider their music both for the Champions League and International games.
Given that we’re inflicted with it about eight times a game there’s only so much more I can take of ‘THE CHAM-PIONS!’ and The Verve’s ponderous chords chundering out either side of the adverts.
Finally, the BBC should stop making their pundits wear suits for live games. They look like they’re going to a wedding.