Sunday, February 17, 2013

Association Football

For those who don't take the EDP on a regular basis and, therefore, may have missed my recent letter to the editor -


If ET lands on Mousehold, I wonder what he would make of the recent EDP
articles about the dearth of football excitement at Carrow Road?

Perhaps he would conclude that these earthlings will be pushovers?

After all, one of the definitions of stupidity is doing the same thing
over and over and expecting different results. So, if the game is
boring and pointless – change the game! It's not rocket science. The
problem is most football supporters believe that the Rules of Football
came down from Sinai with Moses on tablets. Cricket and Rugby have
no such illusions. They adapt the game to meet the modern world.

Stop complaining and do something about it!

So, what could realistically be done? Unfortunately, there is not much that could be done that could be described as realistic. Why?

One word – FIFA.

“FIFA is the international governing body of association football, futsal and beach soccer. Its membership comprises 209 national associations. Its headquarters are in Zurich, Switzerland, and its president is Sepp Blatter. FIFA is responsible for the organisation of football's major international tournaments, notably the World Cup.

The laws that govern football, known officially as the Laws of the Game, are not solely the responsibility of FIFA; they are maintained by a body called the International Football Association Board (IFAB). FIFA has members on its board (four representatives); the other four are provided by the football associations of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, who jointly established IFAB in 1882 and are recognised for the creation and history of the game. Changes to the Laws of the Game must be agreed by at least six of the eight delegates.”

I suggest that not many people know this. I didn't until I looked it up. (I'm assuming that Wikipedia are correct here!)

Still my contention holds true.

“The role of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is to discuss and decide upon proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game. FIFA and the UK-based associations (English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs) can propose matters to be discussed and ratified at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), which usually takes place in February or March.

These meetings take place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in strict rotation, as well as locations decided by FIFA in years when the FIFA World Cup™ is held. A representative of the 'host' association acts as chairman. The same country also acts as hosts for the Annual Business Meeting (ABM) which takes place in September or October.

Although the ABM can consider general business submitted to the Board by any of the continental confederations or any of FIFA’s 208 Member Associations and provide decisions, it does not have the authority to alter the Laws of the Game.

More about the AGM

Each of the IFAB members can forward in writing suggestions or proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game, requests for experimentation to the Laws of the Game and other items for discussion to the secretary of the association hosting the meeting by 1 December of the preceding year. This is then printed and distributed by 14 December. If any amendments or alterations need to be made to the initial proposal, the deadline to do this is 14 January, as topics for discussion are printed and distributed to the members of IFAB on or before 1 February.

More about the ABM

Each of the IFAB members can forward any proposals, requests for experimentation regarding the Laws of the Game and other items for discussion in writing to the secretary of the host association, at least four weeks before the date of the meeting. Any confederation or other member association of FIFA may forward proposals, requests or items for discussion in writing to FIFA’s Secretary General, in good time to ensure that they can be considered by FIFA and, if acceptable, forwarded to the secretary of the host association at least four weeks before the meeting.

Voting and decision making

FIFA has four votes on behalf of all its affiliated member associations. The other associations of the IFAB each have one vote. For a proposal to succeed, it must receive the support of at least three-quarters of those present and entitled to vote. The decisions of the Annual Business Meeting of the Board shall be effective from the date of the meeting, unless agreed otherwise.

The decisions of the AGM of the IFAB regarding changes to the Laws of the Game shall be binding on confederations and member associations as from 1 July following each AGM. However, confederations or member associations whose current season has not ended by 1 July may delay the introduction of the adopted until the beginning of their next season. No alteration to the Laws of the Game can be made by any confederation or member association unless it has been passed by the Board.

Sorry, is it me? The two highlighted sections seem to be mutally exclusive. Have I missed something? Can someone enlighten me, please.

Before I lose you completely, this seems to be the most important point in any exploration of how to make football a better game. The FIFA and IFAB websites are full of the momentus news that the introduction of goal-line technology is imminent – or sort of, kind of, maybe. I can find no references to anyone exploring ideas to make the game more relevant, exciting and fair. Looks like I'm on my own again.

This brings us neatly back to the “down from Sinai” argument and how other sports deal with the governing laws. In my original letter to the editor I mentioned cricket and rugby. Interestingly both sports are about as old as football – a least in the codifying of the laws.

“The work to draw up the first rules of Rugby football started on 25 August 1845 and ended on 28th August. The work was done by three senior pupils at Rugby School after they received instructions to codify the game of Football.”

There is a very good resource on the web site:

What is clear is that the Rugby laws have been consistently updated and continue to be revised almost every year.

The story in cricket is generally the same - “The basic rules of cricket such as bat and ball, the wicket, pitch dimensions, overs, how out, etc. have existed since time immemorial. In 1728, the Duke of Richmond and Alan Brodick drew up Articles of Agreement to determine the code of practice in a particular game and this became a common feature, especially around payment of stake money and distributing the winnings given the importance of gambling.[7]

In 1744, the Laws of Cricket were codified for the first time and then amended in 1774, when innovations such as lbw, middle stump and maximum bat width were added. These laws stated that the principals shall choose from amongst the gentlemen present two umpires who shall absolutely decide all disputes. The codes were drawn up by the so-called "Star and Garter Club" whose members ultimately founded MCC at Lord's in 1787. MCC immediately became the custodian of the Laws and has made periodic revisions and recodifications subsequently.

In modern times the Body Line series forced a change in the Laws to take account of “leg theory”, thereby consigning Jardine's attempts to nullify Bradman to the scrap heap. The introduction of DRS has further brought the game into the 21st Century. (Interestingly, I can remember moves in the 80's to somehow nullify the West Indies all-pace attacks of that era. They were quite rightly resisted. - aside – I wonder how the Don might have fared faced with Michael “Whispering Death” Holding, Joel “Big Bird” Garner, Andy Roberts and Colin Croft – I suspect he would have scored runs but his average would have truly suffered.)

Summing up: my contention that those (perceived) hide-bound and traditional sports, rugby and cricket, embrace change where it is likely to improve the game – both for players and spectators. So, why should football be different?

I contend that it should not, and there are a few things that could easily be done to improve the game and not critically affect the way it is played.

There have been experiments in football. Tinkering with the off-side rule, messing with the goal-keepers options, etc. do not actually lead to more goals, which is, the point of the game – to score goals.

Here is something simple that would lead to more goals and not affect the fundamentals of the game. Make the goals bigger.

Don't forget the size of the goals and pitch were set when equipment and players were far different. Why not update? Add 30 cms to the height of the goals. Add 60 cms (30 each side) to the width of the goals. Result? Better game with more goals.

Complaints about the different referring decisions in different countries should be investigated. Referees should apply the laws in the penalty area – not just in other area of the pitch. Players should be booked for feigning injury – it's a form of cheating.


Are these fundamental changes? I contend not. Is this changing the nature of the game? I contend not. Are the authorities even considering anything like this? I suspect not. Why?

See all of the above.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Richard III

made glorious summer by this Son of York

Continuing where I left off explaining my love affair with Shakespeare: Richard III is probably the most difficult of Shakespeare's well-know plays for the modern audience to understand fully.

I account for my expertise with Richard purely by chance. I don't remember studying another play between Caesar and Richard. So, I was still quite inexperienced when I first tried to make sense of it. Now, it is a firm favourite.

It is often produced on stage and in film - with the Laurence Olivier film version probably the best known to the general public. The complexity of the play arises chiefly because without an intimate knowledge of The War of the Roses (which, of course, Shakespeare's audience almost certainly had) the action and the relationships between the characters is not very easy to follow.

Sitting down with just the text to guide you is poor fare indeed. Although Richard is very much the focus, characters come and go, or are mentioned, without any textual clues to their background, relationships, families or importance. The Dramatis Personae is not much help either:

King Edward the Fourth

Edward, Prince of Wales, [afterwards King Edward V], son to the King

Richard, Duke of York

George, Duke of Clarence, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, [afterwards King Richard III], brothers to the King

A young son of Clarence

Henry, Earl of Richmond, [afterwards King Henry VII]

Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury

Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York

John Morton, Archbishop of Ely

Duke of Buckingham

Duke of Norfolk

Earl of Surrey, his son

Earl Rivers, brother to Elizabeth

Marquis of Dorset and Lord Grey, sons to Elizabeth

Earl of Oxford

Lord Hastings

Lord Stanley, called also Earl of Derby

Lord Lovel

Sir Thomas Vaughan

Sir Richard Ratcliff

Sir William Catesby

Sir James Tyrrel

Sir James Blount

Sir Walter Herbert

Sir Robert Brakenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower

Christopher Urswick, a priest

Second Priest

Tressel and Berkeley, gentlemen attending on the Lady Anne

Lord Mayor of London. Sheriff of Wiltshire

Elizabeth, Queen to King Edward IV

Margaret, widow of King Henry VI

Duchess of York, mother to King Edward IV

Lady Anne, widow of Edward Prince of Wales (son to King Henry VI) [afterwards married to Richard]

A young Daughter of Clarence

Ghosts of those murdered by Richard III, Lords and other Attendants; a Pursuivant, Scrivener, Citizens, Murderers, Messengers, Soldiers, &c.


I thought so. What's needed here is a genealogical table coupled with a synopsis of who likes/hates/loves who.

When you get to the “winter of discontent” opening speech you better have some idea of not only the above; but also of 15th century English social mores. Without it you are going to be lost after scene one – if not sooner. As Clarence, his brother, is carted off to the Tower, it's hard to see why Richard is so happy; until you realise that the thoroughly despicable Duke of Gloucester is cheerfully plotting the downfall of his brother the King and his brother Clarence is in the way, “I intend to prove a villain” is quite clear but the reasons are very enigmatic.

The scene where Richard woos Anne (who spends most of the scene spitting at him) seems incomprehensible to modern audiences until you realise Anne really has no choice in the matter. Richard's contention that “I will have her, but I will not keep her long” seems all the more evil Anne being so distraught because she knows she will have to marry him no matter what she thinks.

Another possibility which might have appealed to an Elizabethan audience may be the many pragmatic reasons why Anne would consent to this unwanted marriage - “a woman alone at court needs a protector - there is a sense in which she wants to believe in his passion, wants to think of herself as the salvation of a "bad" man who will be converted by the love of a good woman.” (Garber p. 142) No matter how convincingly we theorise, it is still very obtuse to a modern audience and no matter how I tried to explain it to today's teenagers it just didn't, and doesn't, really make any sense.

One good thing about my study of Richard was the wider reading I was exposed to, particularly The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Using the novel genre she examined the validity of the Tudor propaganda which destroyed Richard's reputation after his death. All very interesting, but it is wise to remember that even Shakespeare was a prisoner of his time and, in particular, was using contemporary sources for his inspiration.

His drama is not a history and even the Richard III Society would agree that Richard III is an excellent play if a poor history.

It's still one of my all-time favourites.


The confirmation that the body found in a Leicester car park is indeed that of King Richard II give yet more fuel to the campaign to re-establish his reputation.

But, overcoming Shakespeare's characterization will continue to be difficult.