Five more steps towards football reform: transfers and…

Date published: Sunday 17th May 2020 10:22

After his first five steps towards genuine football reform come five more from Seb Stafford-Bloor, including publishing details of transfers in full…


Corners aren’t dangerous enough
Nobody will like this, but so be it: corners are underwhelming. The excitement they generate and the anticipation they create is completely disproportionate to what they actually are.

In fact, is there a single supporter anywhere in the world who doesn’t think that their team is just bad at corners? No and understandably so. In 2014, the Washington Post did a study and found that from a sample of 12,750 corners taken, only 370 goals were scored and just 2,157 shots were taken.

It’s not exactly worth the ripple of excitement, is it? Is it even worth the journey for the centre-backs?

Solution: It’s a process of elimination. We can’t do anything about the ball. Nor should we try to alter the physical mechanics of the scenario. Defenders should still defend, attackers attack, and the grappling tactics have to stay, because there’s no efficient way of policing them and most referees don’t have the courage to give penalties.

But how about changing the size of the quadrant by the corner flag? Dramatically so and in a way that creates a more potent angle for the cross. Firstly, it would create a little variance between the inswinger/outswinger options. Secondly, it would invite slightly more creativity in set-piece design, both in terms of the nature of the delivery and the type of runs made in anticipation.


The League Cup practically belongs to a small group of teams
Premier League involvement in the League Cup was part of the original breakaway agreement. It was a concession the First Divsion clubs made to protect the value of the Football League’s main competition and, of course, letting teams like Liverpool and Manchester City walk away from it would obviously bemuse potential sponsors and damage revenue.

But it’s difficult to ignore what it’s become: exciting in the earlier rounds, certainly, but incredibly predictable when it matters. Since 2014, it’s only been won by City (five times), Chelsea and Manchester United (both once), and not only is that anticlimactic, but it also closes off a route into Europe which would be more valuable to a different type of club.

It’s counter-productive. Yes, it needs to be a spectacle, but it could also be a subtle tool for mobility, allowing clubs a generational chance they might otherwise never receive.

Solution: The previous season’s Premier League top six are prohibited from taking part. They would be engaged in European football anyway and, almost without exception, their priority each and every season is to secure continued participation and revenue. Let that remain the case and allow the teams with more need to have a more whole-hearted squabble.

In time, maybe it would come to be dominated by teams finishing from 7th to 10th in the Premier League, but given that that list isn’t set in stone or guaranteed by a sovereign wealth fund, then that really isn’t such a bad thing.


Publish referee reports
The Premier League aren’t going to row back on VAR, because they’re too invested in it and, ultimately, they wouldn’t want to lose face. As a result, the practice of officiating a game will become more opaque, continue to involve more voices and, without doubt, be the source of more anger and objection than ever before.

Solution: Don’t put them on camera. This came up in the Mailbox not so long ago and, interesting as it would be, there are a couple of referees who would enjoy the attention far too much. It’s easy to imagine. One of them would whiten his teeth. A couple more would have hair transplants. All of them would have pithy personal motifs as tattoos. Nobody wants a small army of Mark Clattenburgs but that’s probably what we’d get.

Instead, release the reports. Make them downloadable. It’s not going to make fans agree with every decision made against their teams, but it would help them to understand why those decisions have been made. That’s more important. With VAR’s arrival has come an entirely new emotion in football grounds: bafflement. Silent, shoulder-shrugging confusion over what’s happening on the pitch, why it’s taking so long, and what processes were used to make a call.

Yes, of course we’ll just argue over that instead and, somewhere, in the darkest parts of the internet, people will fight over what commas and colons really mean and how they pertain to secret bias, but the transparency would be good and the clarity would be there for those who want to find it.


Publish details of transfers
When did undisclosed fees become so fashionable? And why is it so hard to find out what a club actually paid to sign a player?

A proper factual account, not the embellishments found online. Why, as a fan, do I not have access to a resource which tells me firstly how much money my club my club has spent, secondly what that spending was contingent upon, and – thirdly – in what kind of increments it has been or will continue to be spent?

More importantly, wouldn’t my better understanding promote a more balanced appreciation for the mechanics of the game? Which says nothing of this strange little compulsion football has to exist and operate in the darkness, which it possesses solely by convention.

Solution: Publish that too. Not in excruciating detail, but at least in a form which allows people to understand the flows of money – what was the fee, what are the basic clauses, and who are the beneficiaries of the deal? It would be antagonistic, let’s not pretend otherwise, but the hand-wringing happens already and so the pay-off might as well be some greater transparency.


Touchline behaviour
Is there anything more pointless than a touchline ban? If a head coach has to watch his team from the stand, how much of a disadvantage actually is that?

It’s inconvenient, yes, and for those coaches who like to peacock in their technical area, being away from centre stage is less than ideal, but does it alter the competitive balance of the game in a way that it should?

No. When a player is suspended, he’s not allowed to play. When a manager is banned, he just sits slightly further away. It’s a ceremonial sanction at best.

Solution: Ban them from the training ground, too. Obviously this would depend on the grade of offence, but – for example – the next coach who Pardews a player, or is found to have genuinely abused an official, should be prohibited from the club’s training ground for the days ahead of the game. Not allowed on the pitches, in his office, or even through the front gate.

He’d still text his assistants and remotely control what’s happening during training, but so much of coaching is personality-based that it wouldn’t be anything like as effective. It would give the first team a substitute teacher for the week and, because not all players are equally professional or mature, there would inevitably be a consequence to that.

That’s a punishment. That’s actually a deterrent, too.

Seb-Stafford Bloor is on Twitter


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