Mails: Let’s pray Bennell sentencing is a watershed

Date published: Monday 19th February 2018 3:31

If you have anything to say on any subject:

It will get better
I am sure that you will be inundated with praise for John Nicholson’s amazing article about child abuse. I’ve worked for child protection agencies for the last 20 years, and to hear the stories about Bennell turn my stomach. A lot of people were complicit in the harm countless young men suffered at this hands, and the hands of many other abusers no doubt protected by some shameful code of conduct. I hope they are all held to account. I genuinely hope this is a watershed moment, where the protection of young and vulnerable men is made paramount by the FA. Maybe it will also encourage fans to stop throwing around the insult ‘paedophile’ to opposing managers. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a victim, and then to hear grown men use terms and accusations flippantly and insultingly. Only that I imagine it is unbearable.

Thank you again to John Nicholson for his powerful and emotive piece. I feel we are inching towards a better football, shame we’ll have to crawl through some serious sh*t before we get out the other side.
John Matrix AFC


No surprise
Great (if troubling) piece by John Nicholson on the child abuse scandal currently rocking football, it is truly disgusting what has gone on.

That being said, the most troubling aspect of the whole story for me is the complete lack of shock or disgust I felt when first reading the headlines. It was strange and took me a while to realise, but when I first read the headlines about the abuse I did not feel surprised or shocked at what had occurred – instead I simply nodded and a resigned thought of ‘makes sense’. It was almost as if the story was expected, just a matter of time until something came out about football.

These stories have occurred so often over the past few years now that I wonder if there is an area of a young person’s life that has not been tainted by stories of child sex abuse over the past few decades. From Savile and our state broadcaster to religious groups and churches across the world, it seems these ‘paedophile rings’ have been active almost everywhere and it would appear a large number have been covered up.

It makes you wonder where we go from here and how we protect society from these individuals in the future, because whatever protections we have had in place has clearly been inadequate – even in areas you would expect children to be safe in.
Tim Harrington (QPR), London


…I wanted to write in and simply say top stuff to Johnny Nic’s article today, but didn’t want that to come over as I was entertained by it. More impressed at the sentiment, that there are people who will listen and walk you through it. Me being one of them.

Well done, mate.
Jon 3:16, CBT therapist.


The trouble with VAR
John Nicholson’s article on VAR points out precisely where it’s going wrong, although I disagree with why, to some extent. I don’t think it’s about removing debate and human error from the game, reducing it to logic and binary, as it is about removing errors that detract from a game, and allowing a game to be decided by the players.

Take goal line technology. Whether a ball crosses a line or not is not up to interpretation. It only ever was because we couldn’t wholly see the incident. If a referee gets it wrong, there’s nothing interesting about it. The only debate is how the game would have played out without the mistake. It makes sense, now that we can make that decision accurately, to remove that ‘debate’ and allow a game to play out as it should have.

VAR purports to revolve only around ‘clear and obvious errors’ by focusing on goals, red cards and penalties, but within those parameters are a lot of areas up for debate. Fouls, diving and offside calls all are to some degree down to the referees interpretation, or extremely marginal, and all could be involved in some way in a goal, red card or penalty decision. One man’s ‘clear dive’ is another’s ‘blatant push’.

These elements are what add intrigue and drama to a game. Tighter laws would only lead to tepid, predictable play. They will never be binary decisions, so allowing the referee to make these decisions is essential. We need a guiding hand to have the final say, or risk endless officiating debates and ‘refereeing by committee’.

VAR allows for a longer, clearer look at these decisions, but that will never truly allow for a ‘clear and obvious error’ to be rectified, because within those parameters, they don’t exist. The ability for the ref to make an authoritative decision has been made harder, and the debate has moved from the stands and studios and closer to the game itself.

VAR (from memory) has got some decisions right that were missed, and hasn’t really made any stinkers, but in my view the ends have not justified the means. It’s only added focus to the officiating and ‘controversial calls’. Technology has to facilitate the referee both in their role as decision maker and in removing themselves from the game where possible to let the players dictate the result. VAR I think is trying to do this, but is failing on both counts by casting its net too wide.
Mark, Newcastle


Pogba needs to graft
I’m sorry but I can’t believe that the way to help £89m Pogba is to spend more money on even more expensive players! What ever happened to training and coaching? I assume that, for an elite player like him, fitness isn’t an issue so it comes down to training and coaching and I assume United already pay some people to do that?

If he trains 4 days a week and twice a day for a couple of hours, then he has plenty of time to practice some routines and exercises with his fellow players. I’m also sure there are some clever footballing brains on this website who could also devise some routines involving some plastic cones, a goal and a ball where young Pogba and his team mates could improve their footballing skills and learn to play together as a team and it would be a lot cheaper than listening to all those agents banging on about their latest wunderkind.

Who was it who said, ‘the more I practice, the luckier I get!’
Tim Royall GFC


The cab quartet
In response to Ben the Baggy’s email: while I accept the frustration at (apparently) underperforming players, the solution of terminating contracts doesn’t work. WBA won’t be able to walk away from those player’s employment contracts because the players aren’t performing on the pitch. If WBA did try and terminate, the players would be entitled to be paid their promised wages through to the original end date of the contract. So terminating a player’s contract would result in: (1) no saving on wages, and in fact probably increased costs through defending the legal action the players would take; (2) WBA losing the player’s services; and (3) WBA definitely getting no fee for the player. Aside from those pesky problems, it’s a top idea.
Chris the Wanderer


More on VAR
It seems the three-headed dragon that is VAR is rearing its ugly head again in the aftermath of the weekend. I have to admit I am firmly on the fence about its introduction. I’ve long agreed that we needed some kind of technological innovation to aid and assist the referees on the pitch, as it’s undeniable that their job is now considerably harder than it uses to be for a multitude of reasons – the pace of the game, skill level of players, gamesmanship and increased media scrutiny to name but a few. I seem to remember some mailbox contributors from earlier in the season commenting on other leagues where VAR had been introduced (Germany and Australia, was it? – someone correct me if I’m wrong) and stating that it had not gone as smoothly as perhaps it had been portrayed by the media and the governing bodies. I think it is now safe to say the introduction in the English league has been nothing short of shambolic.

But rather than moan, gripe and whine about it – we need to acknowledge that VAR is here to stay, but we need to have a sensible discussion about how best to utilise it. I think we can all agree that the Mata offside from the weekend was very poorly handled. It seems to be at odds with the original mission statement of ‘correcting obvious mistakes’ and is providing a negative viewing experience both in the stadiums and on TV – this, in particular, will be what worries the FA most as it is damaging to their ‘Brand’.

So – how do we fix it? I think the FA needs to collate all the case studies so far and put together a definitive list of all instances where VAR could/should be used, and publish it so that everyone is aware of when we can expect VAR to be called upon. Do we review offsides? Do we review bad challenges? I think a great deal more clarity is needed for both players and fans (and hopefully minimise the stupid square signs the players have started doing). They also need to decide who initiates the VAR review – in my mind I think that decision needs to come from the referee. The referee should be dictating when he wants to use VAR, and ‘asking’ for a review– one of the most frustrating things for fans at the moment has been the VAR referee ‘highlighting’ an infringement to the on-field referee after play has stopped minutes later, as I believe happened in a Liverpool game a few weeks ago. Consequently, the reviews need to be better communicated to stadium fans and television viewers – perhaps the scoreboard for the stadiums, and a VAR symbol on TV. Rugby seem to manage the ‘advantage’ calls pretty well, I’m sure Sky/BT shouldn’t find it too hard..

If we can nail the implementation and improve the viewing experience, then VAR can be a useful asset to football. Until then, I fear it will just detract from, y’know, the actual football being played and the real stories that should be told.
Lee (We should be talking about Rochdale…), LFC


…Mourinho is loving all this talk about VAR. Maybe I’m the only one to have noticed (or maybe I had a blackout), but on Saturday’s MOTD, United were first up, and after Lukaku’s goal on 55 minutes, that’s where the Highlights package ended. That’s 35 minutes where a team that Mourinho set up did absolutely nothing worthy of including in a Highlights package. This is a telling indictment of the man, and of his methods.
Shane Tallon, Dublin


…Having seen VAR come into play during the FA Cup tie between Huddersfield and Manchester United, I think it’s safe to say Football isn’t ready at all. It was an absolute shambles from beginning to end.

First issue is knowing when to call for VAR. In this instance the linesman didn’t flag Juan Mata for offside which meant he believed he was onside. The referee should have only referred to the VAR if the linesman was unsure. I’m not sure if this conversation had happened between the referees, but it made Juan Mata look very silly after his celebration.

Second issue is time. It took way too long and the fact that the Video Referee was actually sitting in London is even more shocking. Each stadium should have VAR set up which an on-site video ref to ensure decisions are made a lot quicker.

As we see in Cricket, each team is given two reviews for decisions to go to a Video Ref. This should be implemented into Football where each team is given two challenges, once a referee has made an decision. The captain of each side will have the power to challenge a ref’s decision. If the ref’s decision has to be overturned in favour of the challenging captain, then that team keeps their review. If the video referee shows the Ref’s decision was correct then that team loses that review. This will stop players arguing with referees, diving and incorrect decisions.

All in all I don’t think the Premier League is ready for VAR as there is still a lot of work to be done. I feel the standards of Referees in the FA are still good enough to take control of games and not rely on a video referee. Everyone will always have an opinion but VAR should always be used as last resort.
Zayn Shah


…I’m not a fan of VAR, feel it takes too long and that it needs a lot of work. But to complain it gave a decision, a correct decision at that. But shouldn’t have been used because it wasn’t a “clear or obvious error”.

Imagine that was your team in the Champions League/World Cup final who lost because a decision was wrong and VAR wasn’t used. Your reaction?


It’s not all bad
So everyone is discussing how bad VAR is at the moment but i wanted to email in just to confirm its not actually all that bad at all

Finally we have moved on from the tedious debate between

A) spurs fans being happy watching there team progress and show a clear direction going forward against pretty much everyone else saying yeah but you haven’t won anything (stupidest argument I’ve ever heard – all teams want to win but at the same time all you can ask of your team is to show progression and movement towards the ultimate goal which is to win things, unless you just decided to support Man Utd while living in Milton Keynes or somewhere similar)

B) the debate about Net Spend

So I for one will be thanking the football gods for introducing VAR into our game
Russ The Blade (SUFC – not a wannabe gangster with a cool nickname)


Pet hates
Some of the mails in the mailbox during last few weeks have reminded me of my pet hates in football, here are few of those:
– Wrong use of statistics: There was a mail a while back saying how Chelsea’s results have gotten worse since the spat with Mourinho. It included stats that had 9 games before the spat and 10 games after. Why 9 games, why not 10 (like after the spat)? Because it proves the point better? This is often used, even by excellent F365.
– Mind games: Same mail about the spat between Conte and Mourinho, which was actually inspiration to my response. Load of boll*cks. So, let’s assume it actually is the catalyst to poor performances, is this how it goes? Conte and Mourinho exchange heated words. Conte is so infuriated that he sends Bakayoko to midfield every game and in team talks just raves about Mourinho forgetting tactical plan alltogether while laughing maniacally. Mourinho does Mr Burns from Simpsons, “excellent”, another manager destroyed. Utter nonsense.
– Retrospective banning. Why is it that not a single dangerous two footed tackle warrantee banning for several games just because referee didn’t see it properly and issued a yellow or even worse, just a free kick? Must be the most idiotic rule ever invented. Alli’s “tackle” vs De Bruyne springs into my mind. To my untrained eye, looked like De Bruyne was really lucky he still plays this season. And it’s really not the only one. Brute Warnock commenting that Bennett’s studs up tackle injuring Leroy Sane was just “typical to English game” and again a dangerous tackle escaped proper punishment.
– Shallow counter arguments to feel-good / positive stories: Tottenham and Liverpool have been excellent this and last season. They challenge in Europe and fight for the top spots in the league and from a neutral’s perspective (can anyone really be neutral though is an another discussion…) are so much fun to watch. I never want to miss a game from either team. However, one just knows when some team gets positive news for couple of weeks, an internet brigade appears to throw dirt and find some unrelated punches to sap away the joy. An excellent case is also Barcelona a couple of seasons ago. They were lauded as the perfect team yet it clearly rubbed the keyboard warriors and suddenly Barca seemed to became widely hated team with really laughable arguments like referees favouring them or that they tap up players.
– Speaking of which, tapping up players: Journalist asks player A what he thinks of player B. Player A says that he thinks player B is a really good player. Internet ninjas go berserk. Surely this heinous crime of complementing a player that doesn’t even play in the same team is a crime worthy of great punishment? Again, ridiculous. So what if a player or even a manager compliments a player? Should there be an universal rule that whenever player / manager is asked about any player, they should stay silent, because who knows, maybe it might be interpreted as tapping up? As every top player is rumoured to go to every top club nowadays, surely every player is doing this unspeakable crime nowadays. Tapping up to me means a club approaches player offering a deal before negotiating with the other club.
– Altering names. Fraudiola, Flopp, Moaninho etc. Just stop it. It wasn’t funny the first time, it surely isn’t funny anymore and it will never ever be funny. I usually read all the mails but when I see one of these, I know it’s not worth reading.
Matti Katara, Helsinki


Sutton context
Just wanted to add a little detail to the mediawatch mention of Chris Sutton’s reaction to scoring at Hull.

As a student at Uni in Hull I bore witness to the game (having froze through a reply against Hayes in order to qualify to buy a ticket to the Chelsea game) in which Sutton was subjected to dogs abuse by the good people of ‘Ull. Insults targeted all the usual areas of his football ability, parentage and sexual prowess (Oi Sutton you couldn’t score in the Tower (then Hull nightclub…)) The crescendo of abuse at one point fell quiet though only for the silence to be broken by a youth who called Sutton a “cumbubble” after he missed, which for years later my friends and I would still reference as the single worst insult we’d ever heard…
Pete (DRFC in exile), Suffolk


Bakayoko blues
The thoughts of Bakayoko returning to our first team against Barcelona has me absolutely f*cking terrified.

If he starts on Tuesday I’m putting the mortgage on Barcelona.
Conor (Dublin CFC)

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