Sunday, October 07, 2007

High Barnet

During a quiet drink with a couple of friends last week, I mentioned how much I had enjoyed what I'd seen of the Rugby World Cup (never a sport I'd cared much for before), and how I might be more inclined to take my kid(s) to watch rugby rather than football, if I returned to live in the UK.

After my much anticipated copy of the Sunday Times has arrived, I've been taking the trouble to read the rugby columns more carefully to learn more about the game. As a result, my enjoyment has increased, culminating in yesterday's fantastic quarter-final that it was impossible to turn away from.

Other than a possible cost differential, the most obvious reason would be the considerably superior behavioural example that rugby players set, not least in their attitude towards referees. There's also an appreciable absence of 'bling',and some of the other odious trends that have creeped into football, such as diving.

I've often wondered why I have no problem supporting England's rugby or cricket team, but find myself so negatively disposed towards its football team. It may simply be because my love for Charlton is so great, that it renders all other football teams loveless, even the national one.

More likely, it's because if I ever have the misfortune to meet any of the England football team, I'm sure I'd despise them, especially the ones that play for Chelsea. I'm not sure I'd feel the same about Michael Vaughan or Phil Vickery, though it's perhaps because income and lifestyle wise, at least they're likely to be a bit closer to my level.

My friend mentioned how even at the most lowly levels of the game (the rugby equivalent of 'pub football'), talking back to the referee is voiceferously discouraged by both teams, regardless of who the aggressor might be. He thought it was simply a class thing, but then apparently the same can be observed during rugby league matches, a game for the masses if ever there was one.

Thus it was with surprise that I read this article concerning my old local team, Barnet FC. In short, the players agreed to a self-imposed rule that only their captain Ismail Yakubu can talk to the referee about decisions made during the game. Since implementation, the team has gone on a 7-game unbeaten run in League Two that has taken them to sixth in the table, having accumulated just one point from their three opening games. Coincidence? You decide.

What I find most refreshing about this story, yet so obvious upon reflection, is the conclusion that arguing with referees actually undermines a team's prospects, let alone the poor man in black's authority. This is not only because, as the article discusses, players are more likely to perform at their peak if they are free from any inbuilt sense of injustice about a recent decision (admittedly this may not have applied for former Addick whinger, John Robinson). Moreover, to the best of my knowledge, in the history of the game, a decision has never been reversed following a team's protestations.

But is it not possible that the referees might just be favouring the side, consciously or more interestingly subconsciously, that doesn't spend 90 minutes effing and blinding at him? As they never cease to remind us, they're only human after all.


At 12:07 AM, Anonymous sillav nitram said...

my sentiments exactly, nice post.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Mikey126 said...

I think you have something in that it may be easier to care about a national team if you have less involvement with the club game. Then again, most egg-chasers I know care passionately about the national team, although this may possibly be influenced by my observation that most of them watched Saturday's game at their clubs, having played their matches early, and where the ale flowed in copious quantities thereafter.

Club rugby? Nah, mate. When I lived in Charlton I was five minutes' walk from Blackeath RFC. Always thought I should take a look, but bever set foot through the gates. I did used to see Mick Skinner at the Sun Ya takeaway at the Standard though - lovely bloke.

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Addickium said...

A few years ago a referee (either Halsey or Clattenberg) awarded Fulham a penalty against the Arse at Craven Cottage. The Arsenal players surrounded the ref and forced him to speak to the lino; the penalty was eventually downgraded to a free kick.

I've seen referees consult the lino before awarding a penalty when it's been obvious a foul has been committed but the ref has been unsure of the exact spot but that's the first time I'd heard of one changing his mind after pointing to the spot.

What's funny about rugby matches (both codes) is not just that it's only the captain permitted to talk to the ref but when the whistle-blower talks to a player the official is often called "sir". Can you imagine Neanderthal Rooney doing that? Not without telling him to eff off first, anyway ...


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