Archive for September, 2011

A referee is as good as his last decision

I have just watched the Europa League match between Celtic and Udinese.

I thought referee Bulent Yildirin from Turkey looked very impressive for 87 minutes.

He was always close to the action and gave his decisions with authority.

He will always remembered, however, not for the 87 minutes of excellent refereeing, but for a major mistake three minutes for time when he wrongly awarded a penalty kick to Udinese.

He was perfectly positioned to see the incident but inexplicably awarded a penalty kick when no offence seemed to have occurred.

Yildrin is not normally appointed to major UEFA Champions League matches and this was an opportunity for him to impress the powers that be in UEFA.

In my opinion, however, he failed the ultimate test.

Had he given this critical penalty decision in an important Champions League match say between Barcelona and Manchester United, the fall out would have been even more controversial.

A match lasts 90 minutes and a referee is judged on his performance over the whole match.

If he makes even just one major error he has to accept the consequences.

He is always only as good as his last decision.

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Another side of football technology

In tonight’s UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal and Olympiakos the Arsenal coach, Arsen Wenger, was banned from the technical area after misconduct in earlier rounds.

He was initially banned from the technical area for the qualifying round match against Udinese of Italy but because he chose to pass on instructions via one of his coaching staff who sat beside him in the directors’ box, he was banned for another two matches by UEFA.

There has been much discussion about technology in football, especially the use of goal line technology but this is a different matter.

A UEFA ban on a manger communicating with his players while banned raises special problems, given the new technology.

Suppose a manager sat in his office during a match watching the match on television and relayed instructions to his coaching staff via mobile phone or even MSN.

Is this against the terms of the restriction?

What is the difference between this situation and passing on information via another coach sitting beside him in the directors’ box?

Not a lot!

New technology has changed the effect of bans on coaches and managers.

The regulations should take account of this.

Maybe they need updated.

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A question of professionalism

The 2011 Rugby World Cup is taking place at the moment in New Zealand.

This World Cup includes nations such as France, Italy, England and Argentina, all past winners of the FIFA World Cup while USA, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Scotland, Romania, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Japan and Russia have been regular participants in the FIFA World Cup Finals over the years.

It is the other participants who are interesting – Fiji, Tonga, Canada, Samoa and Namibia – none of them recognised as giants of sporting excellence – but they have qualified for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Such a wide representation is good for sport, unlike the World Series in Baseball which is only for American teams, with a couple of Canadian teams added on.

My comments however are more about the approach of the teams to the tournament.

The English players after their narrow victory against Argentina were allegedly allowed to have a drinking session in a bar. This was followed by a number of players taking part in a bungee jump and white water rafting session.

There has been some criticism in the English press of the management allowing its players to take part in such high risk pursuits – and I believe the criticism is totally justified.

Professional athletes must avoid such situations.

Can you imagine Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi taking part in drinking sessions, bungee jumps and white water rafting during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa?

Never in a million years!

Rugby may have recently entered the professional era, but it has a lot to learn from football about being professional in its preparation.

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Andrew Jennings is an investigative journalist who has spent much of his career investigating corruption in sport.

He has investigated corruption in the International Olympic Committee and more recently has focussed his attention on alleged corruption in FIFA.

I have never met Andrew Jennings although I did receive a call from him when I was in Geneva Airport, shortly after I left FIFA as its Acting Director of Development, having had overall responsibility for refereeing, women’s football, sports medicine, futsal and development courses.

He wanted me to comment, as a former senior employee, on different aspects of FIFA.

I refused to make any comment since I was supportive of much of the work accomplished by FIFA and had no political or personal axe to grind.

I remain very supportive of much of the development work done by FIFA worldwide.

There is now, however, a major problem of credibility for FIFA.

His website, Transparency in Sport, has now made serious accusations against many senior figures in world football.

These include, Chuck Blazer, the General Secretary of CONCACAF, Jack Warner, the former President of CONCACAF and a former FIFA Vice President, Ricardo Teixeira, the President of the Brazilian FA, Chairman of the FIFA World Cup 2014 Organising Committee and a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, Joao Havelange, the former President of FIFA, the present FIFA General Secretary, Jerome Valcke and the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter.

He expects a Swiss court in Zug to make a public statement on some of the accusations in the next few months.

I have no way of confirming or denying that any or all have a case to answer but in the interests of transparency, a word often used by FIFA, the accusations must at least be investigated and a report of the investigations made public.

Who would have thought 12 months ago that revolutions would have taken place and overthrown the governing powers in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya?

If revolution can take place in these countries perhaps a revolution could also occur in FIFA.

Time will tell – but don’t hold your breath!

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