Statistics show teams in the Premier League foul on average 12 times per match, while teams in the other three big leagues foul an astounding 50 per cent more at an average of about 18 times per match.
Last season, over 90 penalties were awarded in the Premier League which begs the question whether or not fouls on other players are being properly regulated or not. If it is accepted that fouls will always be committed by all teams, which must be a fact, then it is really a question of how to regulate the punishments metered out by referees in these situations.
Whereas technology could assist in determining whether the ball was over the line or not, or could possibly sometime in the future even determine whether a player is off sides or not, fouls are left up to the judgement, experience and skill of the referee and his two linesman to spot, and to make instant decisions.
Blatant fouls such as a player going in with their studs up are easier to determine, but the officials don’t always see everything and sometimes miss a foul completely. In these instances, there could be an injustice depending on the seriousness of the foul, although the FA has the power to punish a player retrospectively if the referee misses the incident, and the player goes unpunished.
One of the rules that I think affects all teams, involves a player being suspended after the game in which he has committed a foul. In other words, the team that has been fouled against doesn’t feel the benefit of the suspension, which I feel is wrong, especially if it is a retrospective punishment.
The foul itself can be instantly damaging not only to the player but the team as a whole, and I am not just talking about serious fouls like the one against Arsenal’s Eduardo when he suffered a broken left fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle in a match against Birmingham in 2008.
At least in that game, Arsenal felt the benefit of the punishment when Martin Taylor was sent off for that foul, although his suspension effectively took place against other teams in later matches.
Possibly he should have been suspended in the next game that Birmingham played against Arsenal, whenever that was, so that Arsenal, who I think suffered very badly psychologically as a result of that incident, would still feel the benefit of the punishment metered out. This would obviously apply to all teams in all Leagues, so it would be fair.
Likewise Jonjo Shelvey's red card against Manchester United also earned him a suspension, but should he have served it against United when the teams next face each other?
Forget the details of the sending off, for what it's worth I think he was harshly done by, I am simply using his subsequent suspension as an example.
Obviously there are logistical issues; if a player fouls against a team already relegated, it could be years before he serves a punishment, but the FA could look for another solution in this case.
A rule such as this would also hopefully make players reflect on some of the tackles they make before they actually make them, and as such would lift the profile of the sport itself which is not a bad thing.
Whatever the case, improved technology and an enlightened way of thinking may go a long way to improving the game as a whole.
What do you think, could it work, or are the current rules fine as they are?
image: © kong niffe