By Tony Attwood
We have been pondering whether there are any regulations at all in the Premier League about the quality of the pitches the PL matches should be played on. Judging by Tottenham’s game against Manchester City the answer is an extremely big “no”. You can play on gravel if you like. Or sand. Or in this case mud.
However although the PL won’t do anything on most things (often because of their deals with the TV companies, as in this case, and with PGMO when it comes to refereeing matters) Uefa, of all organisations, will actually act.
They have announced that they are going to undertake extra pitch inspections at Wembley early next week and will insist that the mud pile is improved ready for the Champs League game between Tottenham H and PSV Eindhoven. As I understand it, but haven’t been able to get it confirmed, if the ground is singularly unsuitable officials can refuse to sanction it and Tottenham lose the game 3-0. PSV also have the right to appeal.
It seems that the team that tend to the pitch at the stadium in Middlesex would not deal with the NFL markings before the game between Tottenham H and Manchester C for fear it would harm the grass even more, but Uefa insist they must go on the grounds that not doing so will harm the TV image.
A spokes entity for Uefa said, “Uefa is closely monitoring the situation at the Wembley Stadium and working together with the club, The Football Association and the management of the stadium, to guarantee safe playing conditions for the upcoming Uefa Champions League match.”
- Guardiola chimed into the debate saying that the pitch was not suitable for football. Meanwhile a Mr D Levy who is reputed to be in charge of the erection of the much delayed new stadium has confirmed that Tottenham will play at Wembley for the rest of this year. However the Daily Telegraph in a recent piece suggested the ground might not open until February.
Part of the problem seems to be that Tottenham is not willing to pay the full level of bonus payments that would be necessary to have builders, electricians, sewage contractors and installers work throughout the period from December 23 through to January 2, when most of British industry packs up and goes home.
Thankfully Arsenal were drawn at home against Tottenham in the League Cup which means the game can be played on grass.
Elsewhere it seems IFAB are really upping their game in terms of changing the rules of football at the next IFAB meeting on Monday and Tuesday next week in London. At this meeting representatives of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland gather along with an equal number from the rest of the world to make up new laws. Any changes that get six or more of the votes available will go to the full meeting of Fifa for overall agreement. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have one vote each, and the rest of the world has four.
One new proposal involves removing the word “deliberately” from the handball rules, and instead having a focus on the hand being in an unnatural position. An alternative approach involves only having handball if the hand or arm makes contact with the ball over the player’s shoulder height. It would also be an offence if the ball hits the arm below shoulder height but in an unnatural position, which could be defined as more than eight o’clock or four o’clock from the body. Any goal scored after striking the arm of an attacking player would be disallowed.
Of course all such changes will work easily in countries that have VAR, but not the Premier League which continues to stand alone, at the behest of PGMO.
Another proposal is that penalties will simply be the shot taken by the player, and rebounds or follow ups will not be allowed. So if the keeper palms out the ball or it comes back off the post, the penalty is saved and a goal kick is awarded.
This would bring it in line with penalty shoot outs and would stop players encroaching on the area (a common problem that referees seem unwilling to deal with, although again VAR can sort that) since as with shoot outs, there is no benefit in encroachment. A one shot stop in fact.
And then we come on to stopping substitutions during time added on at the end of the game to avoid time wasting (although in fact if the officials added on the right amount of time as taken by the substitution event, this would be overcome anyway.)
The additional time issue gained major coverage in Arsenal’s league cup final against Manchester City where only three minutes were added (seemingly at the request of the TV company who feared viewers were drifting away before the adverts) when in fact given the number of second half stoppages and substitutions the time should have been at least double that.
It would not have affected the result of course with Arsenal being 3-0 down, but the moment that rules start being manipulated for TV (as in fact they were then) we have a situation in which TV runs the show, rather than the rules of football and the referee.
No action was taken against the referee and assistant on that occasion, but this is an opportunity for IFAB to sort out who actually is in charge of matches – the ref or the paymaster.
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