Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Luiz Adriano is Banned - UEFA Breaking FIFA Rules?

The one-match ban handed out by UEFA to Luiz Antonio for "unsportsmanlike play" during the Champions' League clash between Nordsjaelland and Shakhtar Donetsk raises a number of questions.

In case you've forgotten, Luiz Adriano is the player who scored a goal for Shakhtar from what was supposed to be an instance of his team returning the ball to Nordsjaelland from a drop-ball after the game was halted to allow treatment for an injured Nordsjaelland player. Adriano ignored convention and ran after the ball before rounding the mystified goalkeeper and slotting the ball into an empty net.

There is no doubt that Adriano's actions were reprehensible and most neutrals would agree that this did indeed constitute unsportsmanlike play.

But this ban raises some interesting questions.

If Adriano's actions constituted unsporting behaviour, the referee should have stopped the game at the point he rounded the goalkeeper and awarded the player a yellow card, as is required of him under Law 12 of the Laws of the Game. The goal would then not have been scored and the match would have restarted with an indirect free-kick to the Danish team.

But the referee did not do this. In the opinion of the referee, what occurred did not meet the criteria of being considered unsporting behaviour, so he took no action and allowed the goal to stand.

So here we have a case of the referee (and probably all the other five officials) clearly witnessing an incident and determining that there was no foul committed and no unsporting behaviour occurred.  Therefore, my understanding is that under FIFA's rules, no retroactive punishment can be meted out to the player. This is because FIFA attempts to respect the authority of the referee by only allowing retroactive punishments for incidents that weren't spotted by the officials. This seems to be a clear and unambiguous case of UEFA breaking FIFA's own rules.

Despicable as Luiz Adriano's actions were, if UEFA is allowed to hand out punishment for incidents that were seen by the officials, what is now to stop UEFA from retroactively punishing other actions from players that were also seen but not punished by the officials?  What is to stop UEFA President Michel Platini from now being able to ban a player for what he deems to be a reckless foul, even if the referee has seen it and deemed it to be a fair tackle?

Another point to consider is that the punishment for unsporting behaviour is a caution, not a dismissal. If the referee had determined that unsporting behaviour had occurred, he would have shown a yellow card to Luiz Adriano and the incident would be soon forgotten.

I don't see how UEFA can hand out a suspension for what is only a yellow card offence. Does UEFA now also have the power to suspend players who fail to stay back ten yards at a free-kick (also a yellow card offence) if the referee doesn't penalise them for it? I don't think so.

I am willing to agree that Luiz Adriano's actions were ill-advised and that the goal should not have been allowed. What is needed is a modification to the Laws of the Game that specifically includes actions such as this as being punishable by a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.

Because no such reference currently exists in the Laws of the Game, surely it is up to the referee to determine whether or not unsporting behaviour has taken place, and if he determines that it hasn't, then UEFA has no place undermining the authority of the referee and handing out ad hoc suspensions on a whim.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Football Could Learn from Futsal

I've been watching some of the FIFA World Futsal Cup from Thailand and I am finding it oddly pleasing on the eye.

The most notable feature for me is the complete lack of time-wasting incidents in the game. After the ball goes out it is quickly put back into play. I have yet to see a single player feigning injury. Substitutions take place quickly and efficiently, whether teams are winning or losing.

No doubt the main reason for these pleasing features is that the clock stops when the ball goes out of play. There is therefore nothing to be gained by wasting time, whether you are winning or losing,

I find it interesting that international futsal players are capable of getting up immediately after falling on a hard floor, whereas so many international footballers writhe around in apparent agony at the slightest of falls on a watered grass field.

FIFA recently disbanded a committee charged with looking at ways of improving the game ('led' by Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer, although Pelé apparently never attended even a single meeting) because all it could come up with was the idea of handshakes at the end of the match. Any amateur footballer will tell you they already do this at the completion of their games.

This committee could have done worse than suggesting a trial of stopping the clock when the ball is out of play, with a reduction in playing time of say thirty minutes per half. I'm not saying this should be introduced, but anything that rids of the game of the twin evils of time-wasting and feigning injuries has to be worthy of consideration.