Archive for August, 2011

The SS FIFA sails on regardless

After his successful re-election in May this year, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said that his main priority would be to introduce a number of major changes to the way the world’s governing body was run. An Extraordinary Congress would be held to ratify these revolutionary changes.

What has happened so far? Not a lot.

A recent report by Transparency International was highly critical of the way the organisation was governed but the SS FIFA, like a super tanker on the high seas, sails on regardless, unable to change course quickly such is the momentum of the present system and the vested interests that are part of it.

The report is clearly damming of the present situation within FIFA and states in its introduction:-

‘FIFA’s efforts to bring integrity to sport have to start at the top. They count for nothing without good governance, top down, that sends a signal to all those involved in football that there is zero tolerance of corruption throughout the sport.

Those responsible for governing the world of football and ensuring the sport’s integrity in this challenging environment must lead by example. In doing so, they send a positive message to the world.’

Transparency International calls for the creation of a multi-stakeholder group drawn from FIFA’s stakeholders. Such a multi-stakeholder group would assist the process of re-establishing the credibility of FIFA and world football and would work with FIFA to develop strong anti-bribery and anticorruption measures.

The TI Report makes a number of sensible suggestions including:

A time limit on the period anyone can serve on the FIFA Executive Committee or serve as President. There have only been three FIFA Presidents in the last 50 years.

An overhaul of its composition to include representatives from confederations, federations, players, leagues, referees and the women’s game.

An independent panel drawn from both outside and inside of the game to set up a review of these procedures.

Disclosure of all possible conflicts of interest and of all gifts received.These are some of the basic starting points and will begin to increase the transparency which needs to be introduced.

Too much power is presently entrusted to the FIFA Executive Committee. There are too few changes to its membership and it wields tremendous influence.

Its credibility has plummeted in recent months with nine out of the twenty four members the subject of allegations of some sort.

It controversially awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar amid accusations of corruption during the bidding process. Too much power is concentrated in such a small committee.

At the present time the SS FIFA sails on regardless, however. It is not in its nature to make radical changes although these are urgently needed.

Hopefully the recommendations of Transparency International will not go the same way as many other proposals for change before them.

Remember how long it takes a super tanker to turn, however!

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Big results and big decisions

The second leg of the UEFA Champions League Final Qualifying match between Udinese and Arsenal was an exiting match between two teams with much at stake.

Victory would qualify the winners to take part in the lucrative Champions League which could earn the club around £25 million. Defeat would mean involvement in the Europa Cup, the second tier UEFA competition, where the financial rewards are much less.

Udinese scored first through its excellent captain Antonio Di Natale to level the tie before Robin Van Persie scored an important away goal to bring the match level and put Arsenal ahead in the tie.

The critical moment came in the 58th minute when Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen was adjudged by Portuguese referee, Olegario Benquerenca, to have handled a cross ball from a corner. It was hard to see the offence and there appeared no claims by Udinese players.

The penalty did not seem to be awarded immediately the offence had occurred and it may have been a decision made on the advice of the additional assistant on the goal line, as part of the present experiment.

As it happened, Arsenal goalkeeper Szcsesny saved the kick and the tie turned in Arsenal’s favour.

With 20 minutes to go there was another incident at the other end when Theo Walcott appeared to be struck in the face by an Udinese defender. The home crowd complained about Walcott over-reacting but television replays showed that contact had been made.

Significantly, the offence was not picked up by the additional assistant on the goal line.

If this had been reported by the additional assistant it would have resulted in a red card and a penalty kick.

Which brings me to my main point.

The criteria set by the International FA Board for goal line technology demand accuracy to within 1cm on whether the ball has crossed the line or not.

If the introduction of additional assistants along the goal line is to be an alternative to goal line technology, these assistants must have the same percentage of accuracy in the information they pass to the referee.

Remember also that they must be accurate not only with whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line but with all incidents inside the penalty area.

In too many situations these additional assistants do not seem to be prepared to make the big decisions inside the penalty area.

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The first legs of final qualification ties for the UEFA Champions League took place last night.

One of the top ties was between Arsenal and Udinese at The Emirates Stadium in London.

Arsenal had just lost their captain Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and their manager, Arsene Wenger was banned from the technical area for his conduct in a previous match.

Arsenal won 1-0 although Udinese were the better team for much of the match.

In all UEFA club competitions an additional assistant is situated along each goal line as part of the ongoing IFAB experiment.

The procedure is the brainchild of UEFA President, Michel Platini, who has long been an opponent of goal line technology and believes the extra official at each goalmouth will be able to assist the referee in deciding when the ball has crossed the goal line as well as alerting him to other offences committed inside the penalty area.

The technology still does not exist to meet the demanding requirements of the International FA Board although further experiments will take place soon.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter did an about turn after a particular high profile incident in the match between England and Germany during the 2010 World Cup and raised again the question of goal line technology when previously he had dismissed it.

An interesting question might be whether he would have been so quick to change his mind had the incident taken place in the match between New Zealand and Slovakia. Maybe not!

In last night’s match the Dutch team of six officials, and especially referee Kevin Blom, handled the match well but in my opinion the match would have been handled exactly the same if there had been only four officials.

The extra officials made little apparent contribution and I question whether they would have become involved if there had been a controversial incident inside the penalty area. The term ‘chocolate fireguards’ comes to mind.

In my opinion they were spectators with ‘the best seat in the house.’

The official attendance was 58,159. I would say it was 58,159 plus 2.

This expensive experiment, funded mostly by UEFA, cannot be implemented world wide purely on a cost basis but there are other technical weaknesses.

When the experimental period finishes next year the IFAB should say to UEFA ‘thank you but no thank you.’

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Fair play and safety

The Laws of the Game are generally very simple and are based on the principle of fair play.

Another consideration is safety.

In Law 12, for example, a player using excessive force is defined as far exceeding the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.

Using excessive force is, of course, a sending off offence and in this case the Laws consider the actions of one player against another.

There are other aspects of safety in the Laws, however.

Recent developments in the design of footwear with the introduction of blades instead of studs had many questioning whether this made boots dangerous and it is only in the last ten years that the blade type of sole has been generally accepted.

Other examples are that the corner flagpost must be not less than 1.5 metres with a non-pointed top and that players must not wear anything which is dangerous to an opponent, including jewellery.

One of the most important safety clauses in the Laws however is in Law 1, The Field of Play.

Recently a young goalkeeper from Powys in Wales died when the goalposts at a public park fell on top of him.

There have been similar tragedies in the past.

As far back as 1993, the International FA Board considered this matter after the death of a young American boy in the same situation.

This explains why the final section of Law 1, Safety, states that “Goals must be anchored securely to the ground.”

There are reasons for every one of the 17 Laws and the safety of players is probably the most important one.

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