Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lessons Soccer Can Learn from Rugby

How was the World Cup for you? To me it was overblown, over-hyped and over-coached. Too many games, too many fouls, too pampered players. Not enough flair, not enough belief, not enough joy.

The top players like Messi were harassed and kicked to death. The beautiful teams like Spain were cornered through bullying, negative, destructive game plans. Referees were shorn of effective weaponry.

Rugby is a much more disciplined, fluid spectacle as anyone watching the recent All Black/Springbok games will have noticed. The referee has absolute control and he is backed up by the Citing Commissioner. If I were Sepp Blatter (not a pretty thought) I'd learn from the game they play in heaven and institute four changes immediately:

1. Bring on the Sin Bin

Two Dutch players should have been red carded in the final. They weren't because it would have ruined the game as a spectacle. In Rugby this is overcome through the sin-binning of a player for ten minutes. In Ice Hockey, they have improved upon this to have two minute, five minute and ten minute binning. Soccer should institute a similar system and you would see an immediate end to the endless, vicious and professional fouls the game is full of.

2. Punish repeat offenders

In Rugby, if a team infringes frequently then the captain is called to the referee and given a general team warning. The next offender is sin-binned. This punishes the kind of strategy adopted by negative dirty teams.

3. Introduce a citing officer

In Rugby, a player can be cited for an off-the-ball incident post match or for an incident the referee never saw, and then banned. This has really cleaned up the game and precludes even smart ass off-the-ball offenders from getting away with it.

4. Give the referee very strong powers to stamp out dissent

When do you ever see a Rugby player arguing with a referee? Never. When does a Rugby player ever approach a referee aggressively? Never. Why? If he did he would be in breach of Rugby’s code of conduct and banned for several games. Cricket has the same template.

We are all sick of these namby pamby, spoiled footballers protesting, intimidating and arguing with referees. Particularly since we see it carried over at every level of the game, including school boy and grass roots soccer.

The isn't rocket science, it's just best practice. Wakey Wakey, Seppy Seppy.