Feb 5 2017

FIFA should open up to change

Marco Van Basten recently suggested making some radical changes to football’s rules and the way it’s played. Football doesn’t like change and Van Basten came in for a lot of flak in the media and online. Below is my response to one critical article.

Critics of Van Basten seem to have fallen into the same dull thinking that FIFA has suffered from for too long. OK, no one could be quite that bad, but too many people think football is almost perfect and doesn’t need changing.
How on earth can anyone (especially FIFA) think that a penalty shootout is a good way to end (after nearly four years of competition) the biggest sports tournament in the world? It’s absolutely pathetic. A football match should be ended as much as possible with … a football match.
One possible answer (which I’ve never seen anywhere else but just seems to make so much sense to me) is to reduce the teams to nine men in extra time. I would play 20 minutes of that with a Golden Goal winning the match (another good idea that FIFA couldn’t handle). If there’s no result after 20 minutes, then play 10-15 minutes (or sudden death) without goalkeepers. Sounds radical, but the two teams will still be playing football, not shooting from 12 yards.
If you want a direct equivalent to the penalty shootout, how about a corner shootout? Maybe with four or five outfield players on each team (perhaps five attackers and four defenders to make goals more likely) and with a 10-second limit for a goal (the guy taking the corner isn’t counted as an outfield player). It wouldn’t take longer than a penalty shootout and might actually be quicker. It would certainly be more interesting.
As for quarters in a game. Well, studies have shown that the action in football lasts for around 55-65 minutes; so let’s say it’s an hour and have a timekeeper like in American sports. I have no problem with a game being divided into quarters but actually think dividing a football match into thirds would be better with two 10-minute breaks so the teams have enough time to have a cup of tea and a piss. This will change the timing of the game, but really it won’t affect the football at all.
Sin bins might also be a good idea. My alternative is that yellow cards should be come with a points system. At the moment wasting time and breaking a player’s leg can carry the same punishment. Writing a number down next to somebody’s name is not going to be an added burden for the ref (although maths might be for some). How about a three-point system? Maybe OK. If you get five points, you’re off. People will say that players might get confused. That’s their problem. If the ref blows the whistle, the players have a responsibility to pay attention to what he says and does. So, he calls a foul, shows the yellow card, puts two fingers up (yes, I know…) and off we go. The red card would still be an option, of course. Or maybe we only need one card with a five-point system.
Do away with offsides? This has been trialed before. It sounds like it might be a good idea and would do away with the most contentious decisions in the game. I think it would make the game more interesting but would like to see it trialed again.
If you want another sensible and radical suggestion, try this: Do away with penalties. Penalty areas have become a joke. So many people fall down, it’s like a recreation of the Battle of the Somme. (Perhaps part of the answer is to bring back the obstruction rule. When was the last time you saw that used?) But the best answer is simply do away with penalties completely and award a free-kick. (I’d also like to see the penalty area removed from the pitch but it’s needed as a goalkeeper area.) Of course, awarding a direct free-kick one yard out might create difficulties, but indirect free-kicks have been awarded in similar positions. I would suggest that the attacking team could have the option of moving the ball back 5 or 10 yards on a direct line from the center of the goal.
Another idea that has been considered is to let trainers on the pitch while the game continues to avoid unnecessary (and fake) injury stoppages. This has the potential to be disruptive but again is something that could be worked out if people would just open their minds and think about it.
And that’s where the problem lies. FIFA and the F.A. and football in general have been run by people with severely limited imaginations and thinking power. Marco Van Basten is one of the most enlightened footballers of all time, so dismissing his ideas is somewhat insulting. There’s a whole bunch of radical ideas that could be realised (how about a Champions League made up of champions?). Mr. Infantino has just raised the number of teams in the World Cup to 48; that makes sense when you realise that the best football competition in the world is not the World Cup but the European Championship.
The problems start when people shut down their imaginations and limit their thinking. Other sports have made radical changes with really positive results (volleyball springs to mind; also cricket to some extent); football has been lagging behind.
Debate the ideas and come up with alternatives; don’t just shut them down because you don’t want to change. Well done, Marco, keep the flame alive. It takes perseverance as I (and FIFA) discovered when cohosting was suggested for the 2002 World Cup. “It can’t happen,” Blatter told me in a letter.
But it did….


Oct 8 2012

Pot, kettle, black c***

Terry, Cole and a Bunch of Twats

By Fred Varcoe


Should John Terry be fired by Chelsea, as demanded by The Guardian?
Is John Terry guilty? Is Ashley Cole a liar? It’s seems to be a popular thing to say. It seems to be a “right-on” thing to say. It seems to be the thing that writers in the U.K. want to say over and over again. U.K. journos love bandwagons; they make journos popular without the need to resort to actual thinking. Or, indeed, facts.
So what’s happened? An “independent” panel appointed by the F.A. has found Terry guilty of making a racist statement, while at the same time saying he’s not a racist.
The same panel has effectively called Ashley Cole a liar for “amending” (“evolving”?) his evidence.
An English court found Terry not guilty. The court requires evidence to prove the case. The F.A.’s inquiry does not require evidence that proves a case. The independent panel only has to think that Terry might have done what he was accused of to find him guilty of the offence. And that’s what they did.

Variations on a cunt

The F.A. say Terry called Anton Ferdinand a “fucking black cunt … fucking knobhead,” while Terry maintains that he said something along the lines of “Did you accuse me of calling you a ‘fucking black cunt’ … fucking knobhead.”
Apparently Ferdinand had insulted Terry in relation to Terry’s shagging of Wayne Bridge’s wife. The F.A. hasn’t taken any action against Ferdinand on this. Apparently this kind of emotional provocation is OK with them.
And apparently it would have been OK if Terry had just said “fucking cunt” or “fucking human cunt” or just “cunt.” And it didn’t matter that Ferdinand didn’t hear the insult (apparently they were 19 meters apart at a very noisy ground).
The only thing that matters, apparently, is that three “independent” people think Terry used “black” as an insult. The ruling of the British court apparently doesn’t matter; the British justice system is obviously inferior to the F.A.’s and the F.A.’s panel can evaluate evidence better than an English court. And the F.A.’s panel doesn’t need to prove anything. Yes, that’s the kind of justice we journalists need. It makes a much better story.
Anton Ferdinand accusing Terry of shagging his teammate’s wife is not a story. Because the F.A. approve of that (OK, don’t disapprove of it). Terry reacting on the spur of the moment under provocation should result in his career being destroyed, according to the Guardian. One assumes that the Guardian thinks that everyone who reacts in an insulting verbal manner when provoked should be sacked, even if there is no evidence that proves the verbal insult was actually a verbal insult.

Racism but not a racist

Nobody seems to think that Terry is a racist, but in the heat of intense competition and under severe provocation he may have used a race-based slur against his provoker. If he was guilty, it was most likely an emotional outburst with racial overtones rather than a racial outburst (which would by logical extension be aimed at all black people, including Terry’s teammate and witness Ashley Cole). If this can be proved he should be punished on this basis, but who among us hasn’t said hurtful words in anger at someone they like/love/respect/admire?
Now Cole is being dragged across the, er, coals because he was offended by the F.A. panel insinuating he was a liar. He called the F.A. a “bunch of twats.” He’s been punished for that (even though it hasn’t been disproved and a three-man independent panel I convened believe it to be true). Specifically, he has been accused of enhancing his evidence to support Terry. Again, there’s no proof (yet).
So, Terry has been punished for something that may have occurred but hasn’t been proved. Cole has been punished for saying something that is true (and, let’s face it, has been proved a thousand times) and may be punished again for something that may or may not have cleared Terry but which hasn’t been proven.
For Terry, three judgments can be made here:

  1. Terry used the phrase because he’s a racist;
  2. Terry used the phrase on the spur of the moment because Ferdinand insulted him;
  3. Terry used the phrase as he claims, i.e., that he wanted to check what Ferdinand thought he said.

For the F.A.:
If it’s 1, then the F.A. should throw the book at him. But not even the F.A.’s Spanish Inquisition believe it’s 1.
If it’s 2, as captain of Chelsea and as a supposed “role model,” perhaps the punishment fits the crime (although when people cripple footballers with fouls, it’s the same punishment and that doesn’t fit the crime).
If it’s 3, it’s not really an issue.

 
For Terry:
If it’s 1, he would be better off taking the current punishment (a four-game ban) and getting on with his life and career and continuing to hide his racism;
If it’s 2, then Terry should man-up and say he used the phrase under extreme provocation and is sorry to all concerned and accept the punishment;
If it’s 3, he has to fight because then the F.A. is in the wrong. Perhaps Terry should have the right to ask that the F.A. panel be examined for bringing about a wrongful judgment and punishing him on unproven grounds, so bringing the game into disrepute.

 
There are two more disturbing aspects to this case.
First, the F.A. has a double-jeopardy clause in its statutes that basically says the F.A. should follow the rulings of the courts. Obviously they haven’t done that in this case. They have been very keen to find Terry guilty (apparently the conviction rate for the F.A. is the same as that of most police states), so they’ve ignored their own rules.
Secondly, Rio Ferdinand, Anton’s brother, referred to Cole as a “choc ice,” i.e., black on the outside, white on the inside. Surely this is a far more serious case of racism than that of Terry’s. It would be like me calling the F.A. or Guardian readers “nigger lovers” for their actions. Yet Rio Ferdinand was only fined £45,000 and not banned.
Should this incident be as big as it’s been blown up to be? It merits attention in the media, but it also deserves some perspective. I hope Terry comes out with a statement that clarifies everything. NO ONE has come out of this looking good and perhaps all the parties should reflect on that.

“We’re whiter than white.”

****
Addendum

I found this on the web and I post it without comment:

10 fatal flaws in the FA disciplinary panel’s ruling on John Terry.

It runs to 63 pages, and is the FA’s justification of its findings. But the panel’s written ruling is a flawed document containing errors and inconsistencies.
1. It states as fact Terry and Ashley Cole met Anton Ferdinand “approximately one hour after the match ended.” Documentary evidence in court proved the team had left by then.
2. There is reference to “Mr Ferdinand’s wife.” He is unmarried.
3. There is no adequate explanation of why Terry was charged under FA rules while Ferdinand, who admitted having breached them, wasn’t.
4. The FA’s burden of proof required reference to the seriousness of the accusations. It is perverse a matter deemed by the criminal justice system to require a “beyond reasonable doubt” yardstick, be judged upon using anything but that.
5. In reasoning on the FA’s rule 6.18 (on the primacy of findings in previous tribunals), the panel goes on a meandering run across the face of the defence, attempting to pick-out the one thread-needle route by which they might reach their intended target. This is not only bad law, it is also an irrational conclusion setting a bizarre precedent.
6. The panel takes the view that because Ferdinand wasn’t cross-examined during the FA hearing, all evidence was accepted unchallenged, a position ignoring cross-examination of Ferdinand in court.
7. The panel emphasises Terry’s use of profanities to infer malice. These are the same words three professional footballers told the criminal court were a part of the general punctuation of speech within Premier League matches.
8. The panel’s belief an innocent Terry would confront Ferdinand at full time, rather than applaud his own fans, misapprehends the character he has displayed over the last 14 years.
9. A section headed “the Barcelona evidence” compares Terry’s initial reported denial of kneeing Alexis Sanchez in Camp Nou, with his latter admission. The panel takes certain inferences from this, despite having been unable to prove the existence of the initial denial. Indeed, having listened back to interviews from that night, I cannot find any evidence of an initial denial.
10. The panel sets stall by the “evolution” of Cole’s evidence. It is normal for witness statements in criminal proceedings to evolve in this way. Changes are to be expected given Cole’s evidence was based on notes of the FA’s investigating team, and not a tape recording.

Taken together these flaws demonstrate that the FA panel was both slapdash and irrational in its approach to this case.


Jun 2 2011

The curious case of the corrupt Mr. C – a FIFA story


A short story by Fred Varcoe

Mr. C (which may or may not represent his name, but could also stand for Complete C***) knows all about corruption in FIFA.
And knows all about corruption in business.
In fact, he’s one of the world’s most corrupt people in one of the world’s most corrupt countries. He’s made zillions of dollars from being corrupt. He comes from a corrupt family.
I guess “C” could stand for Complete Crook.
Daddy even bought him a fake educational certificate from a famous university.
Mr. C treats all others with contempt. He was born into richness and privilege and snobbism and a massive superiority complex. Other people are meant to bow down to him.
Mr. C likes football.
So he tried to buy it.
He bribed his way into a position of power in his country and then went to a meeting of powerful football people in his region.
He took along some dancing girls and lots of envelopes.
He put lots of money in the envelopes.
He also gave lots of money to the dancing girls.
Before the meeting, all the powerful football people had a party.
At which the dancing girls danced.
All the powerful football men thought the dancing girls looked lovely.
And many of them thought they’d like to fuck them.
Mr. C said no problem. The dancing girls were there to make people happy.
As were the envelopes full of cash.
The next day, Mr. C stood for an election.
All the men thought Mr. C would make an excellent football executive.
After all, he had lots of money – and dancing girls.
So they voted him in.
Mr. C became a powerful football person.
He mixed with football’s elite.
He was, in fact, one of them.
Even though they hated him and knew he was corrupt.

This is a dramatic reconstruction based on actual events.
Here’s another one involving Mr. C.

Curious George, a newspaper reporter, went to talk to Mr. C.
They had a nice chat.
George wrote an article that said Mr. C was a good chap and should be running football on his own – or something like that.
The next time George went to Mr. C’s locale, Mr. C said thank you. They had a drink in the company of Mr. C’s manager, Dick.
But Mr. C was a busy man, so he had to go.
Dick took George to a nice restaurant. Dick paid.
Dick took George to a nightclub. Dick paid.
Dick said: “How do you like the women.”
George liked them very much.
He wanted to fuck all of them, but this was an expensive fucking place.
Dick gave George an envelope.
“This is to cover your taxi expenses,” Dick said.
There was $500 in the envelope.
That’s a lot of taxis, George thought, before thinking once again that he’d like to fuck all the women in the nightclub.
“Who’s your favourite,” asked Dick.
This is a toughie, thought George.
But he thought he’d be polite and come up with an answer.
“The one over there with the big tits,” he replied.
Dick called Big Tits over and they had a chat.
George also enjoyed chatting with Big Tits, although he can’t remember what she said.
Dick said he had to go.
“Big Tits will go with you wherever you want; everything’s on me.”
He winked.
George got his drift and rushed back to his hotel with Big Tits.
He woke up thinking that Mr. C really was a fine fellow and wrote that in his newspaper.