A Waste Of Time – And My Money!

RENFREW FC – Match Programme

Scottish Cup –October 27th 2018 – Fauldhouse United

A WASTE OF TIME – AND MY MONEY!

Remember that time you paid a restaurant for a four course meal, but the chef hadn’t bothered to prepare a desert course? Or when you went to the theatre to see a standard five act play, but the curtain remained down after four? And then there was that time your wife re-mortgaged the house to buy tickets for a Van Morrison gig (mistakenly confusing your fan-worship of Jim Morrison) and he buggered off after forty-five minutes with no encore?

No – of course you don’t. These things just don’t happen. Well, the first two don’t.

So why, as football fans, do we implore our players to “take it to the corner,” in the last five minutes of a match should our team be winning a tense, close match? Why do we laugh like a drain when our keeper changes his mind regards which side of the six-yard box to take a goal kick, with only three minutes remaining?

And of course, conversely, why do we give our opponents pure dog’s abuse when they do the same in similar circumstances?

We’ve paid our hard-earned admission money to see ninety minutes of football, and yet are happy, indeed actively encourage, a whack of it being wasted. And we’re the lucky ones – we pay only £6 a match.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘it’s all about the result. Nothing else matters.’

But really? Is that what you pay your money for? Not me, I’m afraid.

If supporting a team meant simply witnessing them ‘win,’ then why not just have coin-toss at 2pm on a Saturday? We could celebrate, or cry into our bovril, and be back at the pub in time to watch the wrestling on World of Sport – or whatever’s on these days.

No – we the football fans are being cheated. Cheated and swindled by those we pay to entertain us.

Of course, fans of other sports want their team to win no less than we do. But in, for example, Rugby League and American (Gridiron) Football, the length of playing time is strictly governed by the time the ball is actively in play. Time wasting is futile, unless you are prepared to take a hefty smack to your face.

Basketball has a ‘shot clock,’ ensuring both teams, no matter how far they be in front / behind, still attack when in possession. Handball referees give a visible warning for passive play, and if the guilty team doesn’t immediately buck up their ideas, a free-throw is awarded to the opposition.

So what the heck are the football authorities going to do about all this?

As yet, we just don’t know, but plans are afoot to at least look at the issue.
Can you believe it? They are actually going to do something! Huzzah, then, for the International FA Board – or if you want to save time, ‘Ifab.’

It seems that an accepted length of playing time fora football match is a tad more than an hour. Somewhere between sixty-two and sixty-five minutes, I read recently. It differs from country to country and culture to culture, apparently.

In England though, for season 2017 / 2018, in-play time ranged from an average of fifty-three minutes and thirty-four seconds at West Ham’s home games, to fifty-eight minutes and thirty-one seconds at Stamford Bridge.

Now, that to me is just not acceptable. As a consumer, I’m effectively getting only around sixty-one percent (give or take) of what I paid for. I’d have to be escorted off Asda’s premises if when I went to pay for my box of twelve beers, the checkout operator removed four after scanning them.

But wait till you read this: Cardiff City’s recent match with Burnley recorded the lowest in-play time for a Premier League match in five years. The ball was only ‘live’ for forty-two minutes and two seconds.

For a Cardiff City fan buying even the cheapest ticket available, £25, this represents a straight binning of £13. Although, it’s still value for money, I guess, if you consider that match five years ago between Stoke City and Aston Villa, was only forty minutes and fifty seconds!

Incredible.

It’s not just the blatant time-wasting tactics mentioned earlier that are the root cause. In the Cardiff match, their centre-back, Sean Morrison spent eight minutes preparing to take long throws. In total, he took twenty throw-ins with an average time of twenty-five seconds. Ten took more than half a minute. The longest prep-time was thirty-seven seconds.

Then there’s free kicks. How much time is taken up for the referee to mark the spot; pace out the ten yards; run a crash course on the laws of the game for those players forming the wall; retreat a safe distance; approach the wall again to quell a squabble between two petulant adults (“he started it, ref!”) and then eventually recommence the damned game?

When I was a kid, there a bloke called Law. And another nicknamed ‘Sniffer.’ Latterly there was Shearer. Alan, not Neil. What they all had in common, other than an uncanny knack for scoring goals, was the simple, one-arm-raised celebration.

Score; arm up; smile at your fans, smooth down your hair that has be tousled by your celebrating teammates and run back to the halfway line for the match to restart. Simples. Time lost, about a minute.

Nowadays, even the most basic celebration involves an impromptu mosh with those spectators closest to the pitch; a mass pile-on of all players, substitutes and boot boys from the scorer’s club; the formation of a heart shape with the scorer’s hands; a two fingered salute to the heavens (one finger from each hand, not the Harvey Smith kind) and a laboured trudge back to the halfway line for the match to restart. Not so simples. Time lost, sufficient to resolve the whole Brexit debate.

And that’s before the increasingly complex, choreographed routines prompted by Icelandic team, Stjarnan. Everyone wants their moment as a You Tube sensation, it would seem.

Admittedly, some celebrations are fun to watch, but should they be considered a substitute for football action? No – all this should be looked at with a view to providing value for money for the fans.

And so it will.  Soon.

All changes in the laws of the game have to be agreed and sanctioned by Ifab. They will be meeting here in Scotland next March to discuss this particular matter, amongst others. Of course, we’ve been here before and nothing materialised. Goodness knows why – I mean, it’s not rocket science is it?

Let’s just hope this conference doesn’t turn out to be yet another waste of time.

THE MAD HATTER

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