The Captain: "They are ruining the game."
Once again, the spectre of bad behaviour in football has reared its ugly head this week – and I for one am getting sick to the back teeth with it.
From the sickening cheating of players who fall to the ground after a leaf blows into their ankles, to those characters who react to a throw in being awarded against them with a volley of abuse for the officials, they are ruining the game.
It is time the whole situation was tackled – and learning lessons from other sports, especially rugby, may well be the way to do it.
Now, I’m sure there are people out there groaning, and thinking, ‘I’ve heard it all before’.
Well maybe you have, but maybe you didn’t listen.
Firstly, let’s put a microphone on the referee. That is no kneejerk reaction to the Mark Clattenburg controversy, trying to hear what the refs themselves say is not really the point. Instead, it would allow listeners to hear just how footballers speak on the pitch.
I heard Ray Wilkins, normally a man of opinions so beige they are used as sleeping aids, talking on the radio on the subject this week.
He said you could never eradicate bad language on the pitch because ‘it is a passionate game, and people say things in the heat of the moment’. Rubbish.
I can remember one incident in a Heineken Cup rugby match – the highest profile competition in European club rugby.
Scott Quinnell, a veritable man mountain, was involved in a full-scale punch up on the pitch, when the referee came over, and managed to get the pair to stop fighting.
The ref, who was around five foot six and weighed about six stone, turned to Quinnell and told him to stop acting like an idiot, and that he had awarded a penalty against him.
The reaction, picked up clearly on the ref’s microphone was simple: “Sorry sir.”
Now if ever a man was acting in the heat of the moment, it was then. A high pressure game, a flash of temper, and yet the respect for the referee stayed in place.
Of course, that is not down purely to the fact that referees have microphones in rugby, but it must help.
Knowing what you say on the pitch will be heard by millions and reported in the press would surely make some players think twice before speaking out.
I remember when former referee David Elleray wore a microphone in a documentary more than 20 years ago, and the furore created when Tony Adams called him a cheat after a decision went against Arsenal.
A few incidents like that in the first few weeks, and I am sure it would soon be a different story.
Other rules, such as moving the position of a free kick ten yards forwards if anyone questions a decision, and a ten minute sinbinning for a yellow card would also help, but maybe it’s a case of one step at a time.
However, that step must be taken soon, because it is time for football to stop burying its head in the sand and to tackle the issues which are in danger of driving fans away.