Breath testing, no booze or segregation – the post-Covid matchday?

Date published: Tuesday 24th November 2020 9:09

Keep your mails coming to…


Breath test to get into games
It occurs that the pandemic allows an opportunity to fundamentally change how sections of football crowds behave (those that do so very badly that is) and, at the same time, create a far more welcoming environment for both families and BAME supporters.

It’s all very well discussing why it is so important to get fans back into their grounds be that for financial or atmospheric reasons. But all shy away from the elephant(s) in the room. Specifically, the three reasons why going to a football match can be either quite unpleasant or downright hostile.

Firstly, white men. Secondly, alcohol. Thirdly, the combination of the first two whilst placing same in stands within grounds where they will be surrounded by like-minded idiots who think it is perfectly acceptable to stick the finger or make throat-slitting gestures (for example) at the “enemy” in the away/home stands.

Because that’s what we all love best about the ‘beautiful game’ right? Hundreds of knuckle-draggers chanting about Munich or Hillsborough. Or singing the fabulously ironic song of “Your support is f&cking sh*t! with, clearly, zero self-awareness. Delicious.

And all of this whilst safe in the knowledge that a combination of Police Officers, stewards and digital colour CCTV means that the people being abused will be unable to respond in the direct, and physical way, some of us remember from the ‘70s and ‘80s. In other words, you can abuse opposition players or supporters because there is, generally, extraordinarily little chance that the abuser will suffer any direct consequences.

So, how can we change this? Simples.

If, as seems fairly likely, only a percentage of crowd capacity will be allowed back into stadia, followed by an expectation that face masks, temperature checks and social distancing will be pre-requisites, then we only need to add two other conditions of entry.

First, alcohol breath test. Fail the existing (UK) limit for drink-drive and you don’t get in. No ‘ifs or buts’. Takes 30 seconds to administer and the same again should somebody wish to contest the result. Oh, and btw, in my 26 years experience, I’ve never known a sober person challenge why they should take an alcohol breath test and yet, funnily enough, those who either think, or know, they are or might be over will kick off like you wouldn’t believe.

In addition, no alcohol sales within the ground, which the clubs will go ballistic about, and will claim is a vital revenue stream that they simply cannot do without. This may be perfectly true but consider for a second the alternative. There are no UK governments that love football and any repeat of ‘pandemic-trial’ supporters rushing to hug each other or running down to the pitch-edge to congratulate goal-scorers will result in just one consequence. So, is the sale of lager more important than the club’s survival?

Secondly, no segregation. Yep, and for those that are now wiping their morning drink off whichever screen they were reading this on, I did actually write that. Imagine any ground where you are not surrounded by hundreds, or thousands, of blokes who couldn’t care less how their behaviour would affect anybody who wasn’t white and male? These same blokes wouldn’t dream of behaving like they do at football when dropping off or picking up their kids from school? But, rather, where there is a mix of home and away fans who will access the same pie-and-pint and toilet facilities rather then the steel screens and lines of stewards, Police or both keeping them apart.

Then, perhaps, we can generate the kind of electric atmosphere you can get from other live sports, including lots of booze, but without the threat or oppressive fear of violence or intimidation that we find, depressingly, only inside football grounds and outside them.

If this isn’t the single greatest opportunity to clear out the hooligans and welcome in BAME and women and children into football, then I don’t know what is.
Mark (Name another European sport that ‘hates’ an opponent and their supporters more than Football). MCFC.


De Bruyne’s influence overplayed?
Daniel Storey identifies that City are in a noticeable slump and has noted that the key players are not performing. It was interesting that Storey made reference to De Bruyne’s poor form at present. However, Storey’s message is confusing with respect to the importance of De Bruyne.

Storey notes that ‘Kevin de Bruyne has tailed off this season. If that’s more to do with him being so easily identifiable as their greatest weapon than any fault on his part, that doesn’t help City.’

How does he come to this conclusion that De Bruyne is their greatest weapon when he openly bemoans the decline in form of their most dangerous goal scorer, loss of their most dangerous winger in Sane, and the drop in form of crucially important players in Sterling and Silva. In the past weeks we have heard of the loss of leaders like Kompany and David Sliva as major losses to the teams leadership ranks, yet if KDB is truly a leader he will rise to the challenge.

It is this bizarre rose tinted view of De Bruyne which just makes no sense to me. Could it be the case that De Bruyne has been an important member of a great team rather that their most potent weapon?

If De Bruyne is the teams greatest weapon, it only accentuates the need to question his performance level in Europe when city were overwhelming favourites to win the Champions League. Overwhelming favourites because all of the key players outlined by Storey as being dangerous were at their peak. Storey raises the key point of City’s fear factor which matters in the debate around De Bruyne and City, teams have been terrified of Aguero, Silva, Sterling and Sane all on the pitch at the same time and this allows KDB space to play any pass he fancies. If teams go out and do not play their own style of football against City, surely this negates the true value of a player as it is not a real contest.

And if we look to De Bruyne’s stats, his assists over the period of City supremacy have been disappointing in direct compassion to the average top assist holder in each season. Is 16 of 106 assists really evidence of a greater weapon? Even in his record equaling season, 20 in 102 vs Henry’s 20 in 85 is not that impressive given that De Bruyne and City capitulated in the title race to Liverpool.
Jamie, Eire.

READ MORE: Premier League winners and losers

Bradley, you naughty boy

I’m quite sure that even without formally having heard of it anyone with any sense of perspective can discern between data/information/knowledge

Data- Leicester have more penalties than United, who have the same as Liverpool and Chelsea

Information- You’d look at what the inputs (touches in box, possession in final third) into the above figures were to provide some insight

Knowledge- You’d watch United throw themselves to the ground (or fouling their opponents) and winning the softest, craziest decisions regardless of VAR review or otherwise (cf Pogba vs Spurs, the other attempt (Fernandes, was it?) at a dive against Spurs in the same game, Fernandes against Villa (a joke of a decision- a real joke)- I’ll stop at three because that is off the top of my head and I don’t want to annoy myself with the afternoon still ahead of me.

You’d then recall Pogba kicking Aaron Connolly halfway up his thigh from behind and it not being a penalty, and we will all recall the decision just gone where Conor Gallagher was kicked in the shin by Fernandes but it was not considered a foul- despite quite clearly being, y’know, a foul.

The difference between data, information and knowledge, for anyone watching United (and in particular Fernandes) get the benefit of doubt where it exists (and where, frankly, it doesn’t) over a period of a year and more of VAR can be more succinctly expressed as a request not to piss down our legs and tell us it’s raining.

Bradley- our legs are damp, it’s not raining. please put your statscock away.
Darragh, Spurs, Ireland


United’s low bar
Imagine my surprise to see an email from VedSen about his surprise to see ManU being above Arsenal and City after just 8 games, but I’m afraid I completely missed the point of it.

Shouldn’t he be more concerned that his beloved team sit 10th, below Aston Villa, Southampton, West Ham and Crystal Palace, shouldn’t he concern himself with his own team’s affairs rather than that of rivals?

It’s only x no of games etc etc is often trotted out, Patrice Evra spoke yesterday using the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” analogy, so how can you judge your team so early in the season.

Well, a good way is to look at the corresponding fixtures for last season, we all want/need our team to improve on that, so it’s a good yardstick. Take the team with the least room for improvement (and the least need), champions LFC, currently they have 2 points less than last season, defeat at Villa but a draw at ManCity, if this was repeated across the rest of the season, they would finish on about 90 points, which should be good enough to win the league were it not for (obviously), Tottenham, who currently have a staggering 12 points more than last season for the same games, despite being managed by a busted flush deemed not good enough for ManU and spending about the same as OGS (Lo Celso doesn’t count as he was a loanee last season).

ManU, have 1 point less (have substituted WBA for Norwich) and their gains have come from games they would have been expected to win last season. Is there a conclusion to be drawn? Is the league much stronger this year (wont go down well if LFC triumph again), is there sorcery afoot as VedSen claims?

And one other point, LFC sacked Brendan after 8 games as they were 10th in the table, wonder how that went?
Howard (average managers for average teams) Jones


…One of the most curious things about football fans that I’ve noticed in the mailbox is that when a team is doing well, their fans assume that their opinions on everything are infallible. So here’s to Sam for his 4 points. I would have responded but I realised there were no footballing arguments there. So let me offer some, on the 3 floundering teams – City, Arsenal, and United.

Pep has spent £428m on defenders since 2016. And they still managed to ship 5 goals against Leicester. And without Aguero and Silva up front, City are struggling to break teams down, especially with Sane gone and Sterling injured. So Pep still needs to show he can rebuild a team. City’s best players – Kompany, Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Aguero, Sterling – none of them were signed by Pep.

As to Arsenal, Arteta seems to have made them more solid against stronger teams, but nothing more than solid against the weaker ones. If Pep’s weakness is the defence, Arteta’s seems to be in organising the attack. With Auba, Lacazette, Ozil, Saka, Pepe, Ceballos, Willian, and a handful of other good young players available, Arsenal have somehow managed to become a very boring side to watch. And what the whole world can see – playing Auba down the middle, seems to elude Arteta for some reason.

Meanwhile, this United side is currently badly hobbled. Martial has been a disaster so far this season, and when he’s bad he’s quite useless. Some strikers turn into great playmakers when they’re not scoring goals. Martial just turns into a waste of space. Greenwood has had his share of troubles and Rashford tends to lose his mojo when he’s roughed up in the first half hour of games. They did well last year because they were collectively very efficient at converting chances into goals last season, until they rediscover that, they’ll limp along, underconfident and out of step with each other. The rest of the team is doing fine, after the initial wobble. There are plenty of useful options for most positions, and can hold their own against some pretty formidable teams. If and when Solskjaer gets the front line to hit any kind of form, this will be a different side. Till then he needs to just play Cavani and bring Martial on as an impact sub.
Ved Sen, MUFC


An indirect solution
Sorry if this has been written about in the mailbox recently. I’ve not been keeping upto date as much as I usually do!

Anyway, I understand what IFAB were going for when they decided to change the rules around handball. After all how can it be fair that the ball hits a defenders arm away from his body stopping a shot or cross and nothing comes of it as used to be the case all too often.

However, clearly a penalty is way too harsh a err penalty for simply stopping a cross or off target shot by accident. Why can’t we give an indirect free kick for these accidental infractions? Then reserve a penalty for deliberate handball (e.g. saving a shot on the line)?

Plus, we get the added bonus of way more indirect free kicks in the box which everybody loves don’t they?
Mark, MUFC


Baggies talk
Two paragraphs from me. Firstly, against Manchester United we should have had either: a foul given and a free kick awarded for Maguire’s foul on Grant when through on goal resulting in a red card, or a penalty awarded for Fernandes’s challenge on Gallagher. There are no special rules as far as I can see against a follow through on an opponent not being a foul even if the ball is won in the penalty area. The replays were inconclusive as to whether Fernandes won the ball and therefore it was not a clear and obvious error in its original award. There was certainly contact with the player. This was also the case in the Villa-Brighton game and Villa should have had a spot kick. The VAR referral system is prejudicing the on field referee’s decision by suggesting they look at it again, therefore implying they have made a mistake, without just cause. In the build up to United’s penalty, there is a clear trip in the build up by Fred on Gallagher and we should have had a free kick. VAR should have made this clearer but instead they focused on Furlong’s handball. It clear this is not VAR’s fault, so the only conclusions are that the authorities are culpable for setting awful laws of the game, and/or that the people using the technology are doing so incorrectly, inconsistently and maybe incompetently. I suspect both factors are true.

Secondly, I like Bilic. We have played OK so far, and have been unlucky. He has also done good transfer business I think, and we have looked like we can compete technically at this level. He just needs to get this across in terms of mentality. However, Bilic needs to address the awful form of Diangana and Pereira. It’s not working. Our strikers are struggling for chances as they have had next to no end product so far this season. Their ball retention is nowhere near good enough at this level. Shocking in fact at times. Our lone striker often then comes deep to get involved and there’s often no one in the box as a result. Our midfielders and wing backs could also do with playing further up the pitch. Give Phillips a run instead, or dispense with wingers and play Krovinovic in behind Grant and Robinson. We do not look dangerous enough and this will see us relegated as, against teams in and around us, we simply won’t score. It may be too late already.
Rich (Baggie but loving Grealish for England), Cambridge

Fitness egg
Not sure if anyone remembers the fitness egg from Holland (as far as I recall) who few years ago criticized the high intensity training and games of Liverpool claiming that it would lead to lot of injuries for players! He was obviously laughed off with no real impact to players then and for couple of years since but to me seems to ring true now for Liverpool … whose players seem to just seem keep falling off the team cart .. Keita being the latest to be injured. Surely there’s other factors in play too but given amongst big six only Liverpool seems to have a massive injury list. Is the playing style of Klopp to be blamed along with the fixture congestion?

Completely unrelated but I had mailed in saying Willian leaving Chelsea is not a bad thing. He blows hot and cold … not consistent enough. Looks like he’s back to normalcy after a roaring start at Arsenal. So much for being deal of the season.
B CFC (Lamps led cfc is going to score 80+ points this season)

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