Archive for March, 2011

Cheating comes in many forms

In the Laws of the Game players who dive to try to deceive the referee are officially punished for ‘simulation’ but this is just a polite way of saying they are cheating.

But cheating come in other forms on the field. The player who pretends he has been assaulted to get an opponent sent off or the player who claims for a throw in when he knows he played the ball out of play himself are all guilty of cheating.

In some sports, notably cycling, athletics and weightlifting, cheating takes the form of drug taking to enhance performance. Thankfully drug taking in football is relatively uncommon since performance enhancing drugs are unlikely to improve ball control although some players, especially young players, have been caught taking recreational drugs. This is more a problem of society than sport.

Medical advances in drug detection in sport work hard to keep pace with the drug takers.

Football, however, needs medical support to detect another form of cheating – playing over-age players in youth tournaments.

The use of MRI scans to determine age is specific to football and may not be applicable to other sports.

A joint pilot study by FIFA and AFC using MRI scanning to determine the age of young players, concluded that an MRI scan showing complete fusion of radial bone growth in the wrist was more than 99 percent accurate in determining that a player was over 17 years of age.

Based on agreed recommendations from a panel of 13 international experts from Asia and Europe, AFC incorporated into the AFC U16 Tournament Regulations the AFC MRI Protocol for Age Determination.

AFC surprised member associations with the introduction of MRI scanning for age determination in 2007. AFC was flooded with requests to either allow them to change players after having submitted the player’s list to AFC or alternatively replace them on medical grounds.

AFC stood firm and some players did not travel with the team to the final competition. Some players from teams, after having travelled to the venues of competitions were not listed to play for fear of undergoing MRI screening.

In 2007, ten out of the 437 MRI wrist scans conducted showed the players were over-age. AFC applied sanctions and in 2008 and 2009 only one player each year was deemed to be over-age.

AFC was duly rewarded with its efforts when no overage players were fielded at the AFC U16 Finals in Tashkent, 2010.

AFC Medical Committee Chairman, Dato’ Dr Gurcharan Singh, said that member associations and confederations have a responsibility to initiate the fight against age cheating in their age group tournaments.

The significance of the joint collaboration between AFC and FIFA’s F-MARC programme which started in 2003 has now been realised, as FIFA will introduce MRI scanning to determine age at the FIFA U17 tournament in 2013.

Hopefully at least one form of cheating is now under control.

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Where was the video technology?

Apart from goal line technology, I am strongly against the use of video technology to referee football matches.

Whenever  a controversial incident or a mistake occurs,  there is often a cry in some parts of the media and, it has to be said from some managers and coaches, for technology to be used.

They argue that by replaying an incident and analysing it on television, football would avoid controversy and decisions would always be correct.

But where do you begin and where do you end?

Goal line technology would be acceptable, according to the criteria set out by the International FA Board, only if the result of the ball crossing the line can be sent directly to the referee within one second and without anyone else being involved.

Recent tests at the FIFA’s Headquarters in Zurich have so far failed to come up with an acceptable solution but some systems are getting close.

Using technology for other decisions, however, is a dangerous path to follow. It will open up a Pandora’s Box which could change top level football for ever – and remember it could only ever be used in a small percentage of matches worldwide.

Was a foul inside or outside the penalty area?

Was the throw in which resulted in a goal correctly awarded to the attacking team?

Was the ball moving when the match was restarted and the ball eventually entered the goal?

Was it a corner or a goal kick?

All these decisions could influence the result of the match. If you allow video technology, where do you stop?

There is also the major concern that football would become a stop start game with decisions constantly being referred to the video official.

These comments were partly due to an incident in a recent Wales v Ireland Six Nations Rugby Championship match in Cardiff.

The ball was kicked into touch by an Irish player. A Welsh player then took another ball from a ball boy and restarted play quickly with this ball, which is illegal in the rules of rugby.

The Irish protested strongly to the referee. He consulted his touch judge who confirmed, wrongly, that the same ball had been used.

Wales won the game by 19 points to 13. The illegal try they scored was worth 7 points

It was a major error by both officials which could earn the Welsh Rugby Union £750,000 in additional prize money.

The referee is recognised as one of the best in world rugby.

Video technology was available but he did not use it, to further heated protests from the Irish players.

The technology was available but it was not used because of human error.

Mistakes, by both players and officials, are part of football.

We must keep the human face of football – mistakes and all!

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IFAB delays the big decision

The International FA Board AGM at Celtic Manor in Wales was one of the least momentous in recent years.

Resolutions were passed about snoods and the colour of tights but the main discussion centred on goal line technology and the UEFA experiment which uses two additional assistants on the goal line.

The report to the IFAB informed the Board of the statistical analysis of the experiment in the UEFA competitions and suggested that the goal line assistant be moved to the same side of the field as the assistant to avoid compromising the normal movement of the referee.

The tests of goal line technology in Zurich in the past few weeks have only confirmed that, as yet, there is no acceptable solution.

The experiment has been extended for another year and hopefully a suitable system will be approved in 2012.

It seems clear that there is a division between FIFA and UEFA on this matter.

Following the England ‘goal’ against Germany in South Africa, FIFA must be seen to do something. Its solution is to look again at goal line technology.

UEFA on the other hand, or particularly its President Michel Platini, has been a long term supporter of additional assistants.

The reality is that there are few leagues or confederations in world football which can afford to have additional assistants, both financially and in terms of numbers of referees.

FIFA voted to continue both experiments and investigations.

Blatter has an election to win and the UEFA votes will be important.

The International FA Board meeting in London in 2012 might produce a different outcome.

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The IFAB must be the guardian of the Laws

The International Football Association Board will meet in Wales this weekend.

This is the 125th anniversary of the Board and in attendance will be all the members of the FIFA Executive Committee.

Most items on the agenda are fairly straightforward.

Last week was the Milan Fashion Week, this time it is the IFAB Fashion Week with discussion about the wearing of snoods and the colour of tights and undergarments.

The main items on the agenda however, will be discussions about goal line technology and reports on the UEFA sponsored proposal of having two extra goal line assistants.

A few weeks ago 10 companies paid FIFA for the privilege of having their goal line technology systems tested at the Home of FIFA in Zurich by EMPA, an independent Swiss research institution.

It appears none of the companies were able to meet the strict requirements of the IFAB and so the search for an electronic answer to whether or not the ball has crossed the line will continue.

The UEFA approach to goal line technology is to do away with the technology and add two goal line assistants.

The experiment is now taking place in all UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup matches.

All the officials involved in the matches, publicly at least, seem to think it is a wonderful idea.

There has been fulsome support from UEFA match commissioners and referee observers.

Unofficially, however, the indications are that there are few refereeing teams which think the idea is a good one.

The only problem for them relates to turkeys voting for Christmas.

How many of them will give their true opinion of the experiment when it is the idea of the UEFA President?

Similarly, how many of the UEFA appointed match commissioners, observers and committee members will tell the UEFA President his idea is no good?

This experiment has survived longer than might have been expected because it is the long time brainchild of the UEFA President Michel Platini.

The IFAB must be very strong on this matter.

The Laws of the Game must never be a hostage to political influences.

The International FA Board, historically the guardian of the Laws, must make a decision which is uninfluenced by politics or personalities.

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