Adam Fielding didn’t want to be the centre of attention on Friday night, but he was, and it happens.
As long as there is oxygen to breathe some of it will be spent yelling at refs. When Fielding found three penalties for Adelaide, plenty of oxygen was spent. The first two have been classified as wrong. Means bugger all to the Mariners, but the ref made two significant mistakes. It happens.
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The third one, which Kye Rowles gave away, was found to be correct.
And then yesterday Newcastle felt aggrieved when Leigh Broxham miskicked into his arm which was in a position as unnatural as Rowles’ on Friday night.
Broxham, no pen. Rowles, pen. Both 100% right decisions. Can’t blame the ref. Can’t blame the VAR. Where can we send this oxygen?
The International Football Association of Boards. Or Bananas. They don’t cop much oxygen by way of venting. They deserve plenty.
IFAB ratify the rules. IFAB is making the decision making process in football as simple as solving a Rubik’s cube blindfolded, 10 tequilas down.
IFAB is a regulatory body comprised of five members – the heads of the Boards of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus FIFA. They are advised by a range of figures, from former refs to notable former players and coaches. Exactly how they come to their decisions and amendments to the Laws of the Game is one of those secret society matters, but at the back end, it’s starting to feel like one big practical joke.
Take Friday night and the Rowles incident, and a handball rule IFAB tweaked in the last couple of years.
The old days: Fielding spots it, and gives a pen which surprises many and the ref is a pariah. Or he misses it, and life goes on. Adelaide might grumble there was a handball in the chaos, but life would move on quickly.
The new days: VAR is watching. VAR refers to the rule book. Rowles hand in unnatural position. But wait. Did his boot get a flick on it off the Adelaide shot? The rule book says if a defender gets anything on a ball and then it hits his hand, it’s play on!
But wait, the rule book says it is a pen if he’s trying to block the shot. If he tries to kick it – no pen. But Rowles, he tried to block. Pen! Clear as mud.
Each week, FIFA send out some examples of rulings for referees in professional leagues to learn from. They are asked if a certain decision is correct, or incorrect. At the moment some handball examples are resulting in a 50-50 split of opinion. So what chance the rest of us.
On March 5 IFAB will stage its Annual General Meeting for 2021, the first to be held virtually, snugly ironic given Big Brother in the VAR booth and all that.
VAR has more critics than gastro, and fair enough, given the detachment of emotion festering at its core. Can’t see how it leaves us, though. It’s FIFA’s baby so you can understand the politics of a governing body like Football Australia wanting to stay sweet with them. But the clubs now run the A League, so they could bin it if they really wanted to. Doubt they will because as much as controversial as it is, the feeling is VAR has corrected many mistakes.
Look deeper though, it has also inadvertently shone a light on the weak spots of the rule book, and especially with the handball rule, only served to confuse more.
The Rowles incident up against the Broxham incident will be put against another incident in the future, and it will continue and continue and confuse and confuse, and more and more oxygen will be expended on something which shouldn’t be this complicated.
IFAB are slowly turning the game into what rugby union, and it’s 8.7 million interpretations at the ruck, wishes it wasn’t; a game put in a straitjacket by its rule book.
Football’s allure is its simplicity which leads to an endless pursuit of perfection to try and master it. Big rectangle pitch. Small round ball. Kick it toward, and eventually in, a medium size goal.
Seeking perfection, though, has to be confined to how it’s played.
The parameters have served the sport well. The whole world has been able to pick it up pretty easily.
Let’s see on March 5 what the boffins at IFAB come up with.
Item 2 on the Agenda pertains to “proposed changes and clarifications to the Laws of the Game”.
Please, ladies and gentleman, we have but one request.
Keep it simple. FFS, keep it simple.