Hello, I’m TalkSPORT’s Mark Saggers and I hope you bear with me as I unveil what would be a major shock to football’s body politic: let’s scrap red and yellow cards altogether!
Let me explain how what I feel is needed, and needed most urgently of all at the highest level, could work.
There is always enough sympathy to go around for the players and managers. What I have come up with, however, is in the best interests first and foremost of the supporters, as well as, believe it or not, the officials themselves.
After all, don’t referees and assistants want to show just how good they are without fear of that clichéd observation from fans, managers and pundits alike: “your decision ruined this game”?
It strikes me the one thing we in the media don’t do while firing all of our slings and arrows is help them make their decisions by giving them less distractions or trapdoors to focus on.
And I’m fed up with the conning, the cheating and the conniving that goes on, so for me let’s go the whole hog on the sin bin and let a panel of ex-pros and refs pick through the bones on the following Monday. A panel given the power to replace whatever teeth are currently represented by the cards… and then some.
It incenses me that we appear to have managers out there, and don’t worry, I will name names, who are brazenly basing their tactics on a reduction in the number of opposing players!
Mark Hughes’s post-match comments referring to Harry Arter’s challenge on Joe Allen at Dean Court, are a case in point.
The biggest and best consequence of my idea is the preservation, as far as possible, of 11 versus 11 and thus that level playing field we surely agree is needed for the spectacle to reach its full potential.
I want to keep video technology for goals and offsides and there is nothing in what I am saying intended to undermine the authority of the ref as it stands.
Neither am I endorsing some charter for thugs here, a sliding scale of tariffs would soon deal with anyone who made that mistake… say 15 minutes out for a head butt, compared to the minimum five minutes, or ten minutes for Thierry Henry after handballing against the Irish in Paris seven years ago, for example.
This way tackling does not need to be driven out, the physical side that we cherish stays in the game and we do away with the ridiculous tightrope that is not only walked by the player already on a yellow card but by the man who showed it to him.
Each decision is made in isolation and players will simply know they won’t get away with it any more, while the assistants and the referees would be left to make the best decisions they can. What is more, my proposal allows them to make proper decisions according to the Laws and not with an eye on the so-called tempo or the intensity at any given point in a game, nor the profile of any offender.
Leave all that to the panel on the Monday, who can take a player’s past behaviour into account and dish out a suspension that reflects both the severity of the incident and the previous he may have totted up during the season.
Consider the cup finals we have all seen where a referee has let more go than he ordinarily would. How often have we seen that official let such a game breathe and then come down hard on the first incident that truly warrants action? The same applies here, in theory…
Now I know the effectiveness of the sin bin, on which the success of my plan pretty much depends, is as yet unproven. But let’s take one criticism of the system being trialled so widely by FIFA: if one outcome is the adoption of a negative set-up for the duration of the sanction, then that is up to the manager affected. What difference would it really have made to Claude Puel, for example, during the Anfield rearguard action I witnessed in the first week of May?
Why fret over a team switching to They Shall Not Pass for ten minutes when that appears to have been the policy for the rest of the 90 minutes anyway?
You will always get sympathisers coming up with reasons for letting the cheats prosper and I can hear their objections already, but don’t you think it’s time we freed the players and officials to give us what they are paid for? Answers on a postcard (or email) and see you next month, Saggs.