Did I mention yesterday that I despise international weeks?
After another quiet start to the day, I realised that that comment wasn’t fair. No…I HATE international weeks.
The only time international football gets interesting is when the finals arrive, and going to a Brazilian or Italian bar to watch the games is far more enjoyable than watching along with beer-bellied bulldogs singing ‘No Surrender’.
And it got me thinking, at the end of this dramatic week that may change the face of English football – what would I do if I was given the keys to the football laws?
There’s a lot I’d do if I could change the FIFA/UEFA statutes forever – and given how often the administrators claim that the beautiful game is purely for the fans, it would be nice if they took some of my fantasy ideas on board.
• Synchronise football calendars so that however many games a particular league has during a top flight season, all clubs at least start on the same weekend. This would have a knock-on effect of allowing the transfer window to be synchronised as well, with all transfer deals having to be completed on the Thursday before the first weekend of the season. We would have none of this “Will we sign anyone –and how long will it take for them to bed into the squad?” chaos when the season is already a few weeks old and would give us a chance to enjoy and absorb the real spectacle, the games on the pitch.
• Cancel international friendlies and compress qualifying campaigns to a fortnight over the Christmas period and a fortnight at the end of the season. No longer would clubs have a handful of splattering of anxious weeks where large numbers of their players are under someone else’s care, with all the injury risks that that entails. It would also give international managers a real chance to work with their players, and although I would never lose any sleep over international football in the way I do over Arsenal, that may well appeal to them. You could also then start each season at the beginning of September, ensuring the synchronisation I discussed above.
• Provide substantial compensation to any clubs who lose players on international duty. That would have provided us with a decent fee when RvP was injured last season and given Le Boss funds to bring someone on loan at the very least, should he have felt it necessary.
• Introduce an immediate accounts audit which obliges all clubs seeking to play in the top flight of their leagues to operate profitably. Capital expenditure such as stadium and training facility infrastructure would not be included in this, since these costs would be long term investments and, as is usually the case thesedays, provide community facilities as well as for the benefit of fans. This measure would prevent the Oligarchs and billionaires from trying to turn our sport into a plaything and prevent clubs from buying success by artificially inflating the market or even worse, sending clubs out of business when they grow tired of them. Much as I admire M*nure and Ch*vski about as much as I do international weeks, I still want us to beat them rather than win in their absence. Where would we be without rivals?
• Introduce Hawkeye technology for top flight and European competitions. I’ve always been one who believes that the controversy we have in football, however galling it may feel at the time, is part and parcel of what makes the game the great spectacle we enjoy. But there are a number of times when Hawkeye technology would benefit the game, and, after what it’s done for other sports – and not just cricket – I don’t think it would slow the game down any more than when players complain about their perceived miscarriages of justice.
Think about when it could be used:
o when the ball goes out or crosses the goal-line and a goal is not given
o when a foul could be inside or outside the box
o when a player is given offside and denied a perfectly legitimate goalscoring chance
If referees really want to ensure the game is as fair, will they see it as undermining their authority? Decisions such as whether a tackle is a foul will still be up to the referee, and his interpretation will still provide talking points that us fans love to discuss.
• Change the way big tournaments are finished. Am I the only person who doesn’t think penalties are a satisfactory way of finishing competitions? After a two year World Cup or a ten month Champions League campaign, at least let us finish games by playing the game. It’s not often I agree with Terry Venables, but he once came up with the idea of each side taking two players off at 90 minutes and then one every five minutes until it was six-a-side. Given that players tire during matches, this would bring a whole new element into the tactical side of the game and allow a side to win through attacking football rather than defensive. Some sides play for penalties and at the end of the day, the only person who really gets glory in a shootout is a goalkeeper – the most defensive player on the pitch.
Anyway, hopefully this will inspire some of you to think of some other ideas of how to improve the game. Let us know your thoughts.