By Walter Broeckx
I don’t like the ritual from Delap when he is going to take a throw-in.
On Sunday I watched the game and I have timed how much time it takes to get the ball back in play when Stoke City can take a throw and they let Delap do it. You have to take 30 to 45 seconds for a throw. This depends of course on what the score line is. When they are in front it takes more time than when they are behind. What a surprise.
The ritual goes as follows. Delap jogs over slowly as he knows this is his moment in the game. Everyone likes to be in the spotlight. This takes some 5 to 10 seconds. Then he gets the ball and a towel and starts polishing the ball like one can see some professional bowling players do.
This cleaning takes up to some 20 seconds and sometimes even longer. Then he turns to the field and makes the throw but this also can take up to some 10 seconds. You can understand that he sometimes needs to point at players to change position. Depending on the score line at that time, as you can imagine.
The questions that we hear is : is this legal ? Is there anything in the rule book on this ? Can he clean the ball every time with those towels ?
And the answer is : there is nothing specific in the rule book to forbid this. A rule book is a book in which the basic principles are brought together and I can imagine that no inventor of the rules ever could have imagined that there would be a player who would act like this. So nothing has been said about the possibility of cleaning the ball with a towel every time to take a throw.
Maybe in a few years time the rules are adapted and it could be that the practice will be forbidden but now there is a gap in the rules as this is a thing that never happened before. One could say it is something like the rule that says you got to give a yellow card when a players celebrates a goal by pulling off his shirt. When the rules where written down it was unimaginable for a player to celebrate a goal by pulling off his shirt and wave it around. It took a few years before Fifa reacted to this and now it is punished with a yellow card.
So it could be that in a few years time Fifa changes the rules and tells us that it is forbidden to clean the ball with a towel during the game or before taking a throw-in.
But for now the only thing a ref can do is to tell the team in advance that he will not allow it. The ref can do this he decides that the game should not be delayed by this event that takes some 20 seconds every time.
The only rule he can use to punish or forbid this is in the section of the rule book where they give instructions on how to deal with a deliberate delay in restarting the game when the ball has gone out of play or after a foul. In that section there is a list of events in which case a ref has to react and give a yellow card to a player when he is delaying the restart of the game. In that list of eventualities is one that says that in case of, “exaggerated delay when taken a throw-in or a free kick” the ref has to give the player a yellow card. It is the same thing as punishing a player that is pretending to take a throw and then hand the ball to another player. This is also an event that should be punished with a yellow card.
So it is all up to the ref to act. If he thinks it is not exaggerated and he uses it to take a rest himself during the game, there is for the moment nothing that can be done about it. It is one of the tasks of a ref to keep the game going and to punish time wasting so he has to do it. But for some reason refs don’t mind a bit of a rest during the game!
Editorial bits and pieces
* The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Don’t Panic).
And although I would never in a trillion years compare myself to the great man, you might like to read a pale imitation of the great man’s work in Making the Arsenal.
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