The formulated goals include the statement that there is a difference between the current situation and the desired one. In essence, these are a few expressed concerns about football and its supremacy among sports. In principle, the goals of making it more exciting, more attractive and fairer are of course honourable and undoubted. But they only make sense if deficiencies have been observed in the status quo that make this supremacy appear not to be permanently secured.
Accordingly, here are some concise, all of them unpleasant, theses about today’s football. Subsequently, all these theses are supported with some good arguments. Further on in the text, all the points are taken up again and discussed in more depth.
The reader is invited and has the chance to critically examine each of the statements, of course at the same time he may calmly ask himself whether many observations made do not correspond to his own, even if previously inarticulate.
The partly intuitive and psychological argumentation may be unfamiliar at first, but can partly be put to the test in the later course with excellent proof techniques, so that it is difficult to close one’s mind to the content of the statements.
The practicability, explained in more detail later, which is based on the key points a) application of the existing rules and b) a rethinking process, is brought closer very gradually, but may quietly stand from the beginning as a small proof of seriousness and realism. It may very well happen that here or there a small modification of the rules is offered, which the author, through careful consideration, has very seriously declared feasible.
The background is that it is an observed, steady development in the direction indicated, which may sooner or later lead to stagnation or a decline in the worldwide following. At the same time, however, a possible brighter future is already being outlined, with which one would like to gradually make friends. There are hardly any upper limits to the volume of followers. One only has to think of the USA, which would immediately jump on board because football has so far remained inaccessible to them due to the shortcomings that have been pointed out. There, the interest of the spectator has long been put in the foreground, and for all sports. For very simple considerations: He has to finance it
This is precisely where the first thesis comes in, because…
Thesis 1: The gigantic size of football seems to justify dealing with it arbitrarily.
Thesis 2: Football has become a pure fan sport, the needs of the neutral spectator are ignored.
Thesis 3: The frequency of exciting moments in individual matches is too low
Thesis 4: The frequency of exciting games in terms of the sequence of goals is too low
Thesis 5: A higher number of goals would create more suspense
Thesis 6: Football is a pure results sport
Thesis 7: A football match is no longer really watched
Thesis 8: Differences in performance, different playing cultures are no longer recognisable
Thesis 9: The outcome of a single match very often depends on one or two critical referee decisions
Thesis 10: The interpretation and application of the rules is directed against the attackers and thus against scoring goals
Thesis 11: Referees are afraid to make a decision that could favour a goal success
Thesis 12: The driving force for and consequential effect of any rule change/application/interpretation in general should be to increase excitement, attractiveness and justice in the game.
Thesis 13: A perceived but unarticulated injustice frightens many spectators.
Thesis 14: The media do not live up to their responsibility – which they should also do in their own interest – to market football positively.
Thesis 15: In general, German reporting is poor and lags far behind foreign reporting.
Thesis 16: Legalising betting and educating people worldwide about the fairness of today’s betting market could increase spectator interest.
One might like to let these statements sink in a little and take a position on them. The resistance is palpable, but not insurmountable. As soon as the initial indignation has subsided, one is cordially invited to study the somewhat more in-depth but still brief justifications:
To Thesis 1: The gigantic size of football seems to justify an arbitrary way of dealing with it.
Because of its simplicity and the resulting widespread use – every child kicks the ball even before they can pronounce the word – football does not seem to need to worry about its own continued existence, its expansion, the needs of the spectators. More or less according to the motto: It’s so big, you can’t break it.
It may have passed the unbreakable test so far. Why not take care of it from now on so that it can thrive and continue to grow?
Thesis 2: Football has become a pure fan sport, the needs of the neutral spectator are ignored.
The people who watch a football match are fans of one of the two teams playing – or masochists. Because: for a neutral spectator, there is virtually nothing worth seeing. For the fan, it is quite indifferent how a result is achieved. If they win, they celebrate; if they lose, they mourn. For the neutral spectator, it is a mixture of compressed uneventfulness and a collection of injustices. Apart from that, the thesis stands that even the fans don’t really look anymore. They celebrate when the team is leading, they sing, dance, laugh, they mourn or whistle when the team is behind, sometimes they cheer. It has become a social event, not a gathering of true fans of the sport. The content of a game is too low.
Thesis 3: The frequency of moments of tension in a single match is too low
Often you have to wait many minutes for a single goal scene. Defensive thinking prevails. Nobody wants to make a mistake and concede a goal because it is irreparable. No goal action, no suspense. At least for neutral spectators, as is often mentioned. When you see an attack, there’s actually no need for any tension you might feel because the outcome is pretty certain: there is no goal.
The wait for a goal today, at about 2.6 goals per game worldwide, is about 36 minutes. If you had to wait that long for a bus, you would walk.
Thesis 4: The frequency of exciting games in terms of goal sequence is too low.
A game with changing leads, with real drama, can hardly be seen today. The usual course is this: At some point, a team scores a goal, then defends this lead and lurks for counterattacks. In the last minutes, when the trailing team has nothing left to lose, sometimes there is the 2:0, more rarely the 1:1 (a small miracle!) and usually nothing happens. Tension level? About the same as a thriller without a corpse. A deceptive package.
Thesis 5: A higher number of goals would create more suspense
This is certainly a very simple thesis that takes up the previous points. But since resistance has already been felt here in discussions, it is put forward and justified: Goals and goal scenes are certainly what neutral spectators want to see and what keeps them interested, attracts them to the stadium and in front of the screen. If they were not interested in this, there would still be the open question of whether it would not have a positive effect on the fan. Sometimes conceding one more goal, sadness, sometimes scoring one more, jubilation. It’s not about a gigantic increase, just a goal more here or there.
Thesis 6: Football is a pure results sport
The media set their standards. They celebrate winners and pull the wool over the eyes of losers. Allegedly, the achievement of a result is indifferent and will supposedly “soon no longer be questioned”. But this is only the case if the media support this self-imposed claim. They do have the chance to build up differentiations. If they don’t, you get what you see today: “The zero must stand” and “a win must be had, no matter how”. The coaches and players only implement. Question: What if justified distinctions were introduced? About the victories: That one was deserved, that one was lucky. That one was messy, that one was hair-raising, that one was ugly. Simply: we don’t want to see winners like that. You ask how it happened and reserve the right to criticise a winner. Guaranteed to have a positive effect. And negative? Can’t!
Thesis 7: A football match is no longer really watched
The constant viewing figures may suggest that fan interest remains the same. Observations and conversations in this regard yielded the clear result: the TV is on, but people don’t watch any more. As mentioned above, this can even affect well-intentioned fans.
Thesis 8: Differences in performance, different cultures of play are no longer recognisable
Compared to the past, when you could very well tell immediately that this was an African team and that a South American team, all these differentiations are becoming more and more blurred. This may be the inevitable part. But here, too, the fan actually has a say and should be happy to bring this in:
The reason for the phenomenon is certainly that the cultures mix completely colourfully. The idea of success is in the foreground, which is forced on the fan by the media. So they are prepared to swallow anything in the interest of success, even a line-up that lacks not only any representation of their own city, but even that of the entire country. This is also transferred to coaches, who change nations at will and use it to spread their teachings. There is nothing but shuffling and the result is a one-size-fits-all mishmash. The fan is perfectly entitled to say that he prefers to find identification figures who represent the local area, and he is also entitled to put this above the pure idea of success.
There is another reason why the differences in performance are no longer reflected: the attackers, who usually play better football, are “worked on” by opponents of equal athletic ability. For the defenders, any direction (of the ball) and any means are sufficient to stop the good footballer: The main thing is that the ball is not in the goal. A short, unrecognised or unpunished tug of the jersey, bringing an arm in front of the opponent, using the body illegally, all these means, even if used equally by both parties, would still give the advantage to the defender. He need only worry that the ball does not take the only harmful path, that into the goal, Any other direction is good enough for him.
Another aspect: the very good players, the ones who really make the big difference, are simply taken into double cover. The effect they achieve imperceptibly is to create space for the other players, because not everyone can be double-covered. Since then, you rarely see the good footballers on the ball. They get their appreciation from the coach, who mentions tying up opponents.
But where does the extra defender come from? From the attack, of course. Defensive thinking is preached. The media play along with the lazy game as they continue to insist that the choice of means to success trumps everything else. Better a dirty 1-0 than a great 3-3.
As soon as offensive thinking takes hold – also thanks to the fact that it promises success, which is not to be completely disregarded –, the good players would have the required protection through rule applications, we would be able to see them play football again. And that, let us be assured, would be a true spectacle.
Thesis 9: The outcome of a single match very often depends on one or two critical refereeing decisions
Everyone senses that a goal is highly likely to decide the game (80% at the World Cup in South Africa; whoever scored the 1:0 won). Accordingly, people only think defensively. The referees are also worried that one wrong whistle will decide everything. And yet it happens: Here the foul play is “overlooked”, there the offside goal is stopped although it was legal. One whistle — and everything is over. Here so long, there so long. 1:0 or 0:1. And that’s it. “Managing a lead” – the very fact that there are such technical terms for it speaks volumes — can be done by almost anyone.
Thesis 10: The interpretation and application of the rules is against the attackers and thus against scoring goals.
A basic pro-attacker, pro-offensive thinking could not hurt in the sense of the game of football, which is all about scoring goals. That the thesis is true, however, will certainly meet with greater doubt. In this respect, a proof technique is presented here that, until it is implemented at least, should silence the sceptics:
Individual scenes involving foul or non-foul, handball or non-handball in the judgement are cut together in isolation, without knowledge of the position on the pitch and without a view of the teammates and goals. Judgments are then to be made as to what would be the correct refereeing decision in the situation. Afterwards, one would compare the decision made in retrospect with that in the game. The result would be revealed: Most scenes in the game are decided depending on the position on the field. The closer to the opponent’s goal, the more disadvantages the attackers have. Counter-arguments are logically inadmissible as long as this simple experiment has not been carried out.
Another indication: A very high percentage of the offside decisions go against the attackers. Think carefully: It is only about the incorrect decisions. Offside given even though not true here, let run where it should have been whistled off. The percentage would be overwhelming against the attackers. A single match day of the Bundesliga would suffice for verification.
Apart from that, according to the rule, the percentage would have to be in favour of the attackers, as the wording is included there: In case of doubt for the attacker.
Incidentally, this is precisely the formulation that is propagated in a generally applicable manner. Think pro attacker, decide, interpret. What would be the big risk? In terms of offside, you would more often see a player alone in front of the goal, and correspondingly more often a goal. In the case of penalties, you would more often see a decision that is considered questionable, but which is accepted without comment or proof of error. And another goal. And another 4:3, another dramatic game. Ouch, that would hurt!
Another indication: Where does the term “foul not worthy of a penalty” come from? The foul is recognised, but a penalty would be too harsh. Where does it say anything about that in the rules? It is simply interpreted that way and everyone seems to accept it. “You can’t give a penalty for something like that. Then there would be 20 per game.” Questions about this: a) Because there would then be 20 penalties, may a foul no longer be penalised, i.e. may the rules no longer be applied? and b) is there an established view that defenders would apply the same defensive behaviour if they knew that there would be penalties “for something like that” after all? The answer: No. Doubt? Inappropriate.
The terrible consequence: the good strikers would suddenly have the ball more often in the penalty area, would even get it in the direction of the goal, sometimes even under it. Yet another exciting, great situation, yet another thrilling game. Who wants that? Let’s continue to watch tough games that are supposed to live from the suspense until 1:0, then from the eager anticipation of the final whistle.
Thesis 11: Referees are afraid of making a decision that might favour a goal
Another daring thesis, especially since it is purely intuitive and can only be justified psychologically, thus seemingly baseless. Nevertheless, the indications are numerous and the justifications easily comprehensible.
Since it is a core statement, it is worth digging quite deep into the psychological bag of tricks to support this thesis.
There are two cogent reasons that could possibly force a rethink, even among the reader who is so sceptical right now.
Reason number 1: In the media, especially those decisions are denounced that have made possible a goal that, in retrospect, is demonstrably irregular. On the other hand, actions that were wrongly stopped and could have led to a goal are ignored or treated leniently by the media. The loser who invokes such a thing is laughed at, the profiteer is silent. This supports the referees in their lenient interpretation of the rules against goal actions.
It often happens already at the initiation of a goal situation, where every means is justified to stop the attacker, so that one does not get into an embarrassment as soon as the goal gets even closer. Example of this: A corner sails into the penalty area. A whistle sounds. Question: For whom? More than 99% for the defence. Sure, the referee saw something. Sure, something happened. Sure, the striker also held, pulled or pushed. But sure, the defender did nothing less than punishable. The referee takes the chance to penalise the striker’s offence. The defender is off the hook. The media remain calm and lenient: “Surely he saw something here”, even if often enough the slow motion cannot even show what it was. The victim is the neutral spectator. He runs away or has already run away. He doesn’t buy this cheating package. “Every time it gets exciting, the whistle blows. No, thanks.” Actually, with every one of these whistles, there is the unspoken question: “What was it again?”
Insofar as the referee is pilloried for recognised goals and pursued for a single action leading to a goal but illegal, but on the other hand – even often enough in the same game — graciously passes over two incorrect offside decisions and two actions that were subsequently deemed worthy of a penalty, all of which could have led to a goal, the reaction of the match officials is thus predetermined and predictable. A referee says to himself (intuitively): “I’d rather blow the whistle ten times wrongly. The main thing is that I don’t let the ball go once, a goal is scored and it is proven to me that I should have blown the whistle. So if in doubt, blow the whistle.” The consequences are obvious and clear, as with most other points: lack of goals. Reduction in tension. Loss of spectators.
Reason number 2, which makes a match referee vote against the goal situation, is an equally intuitive argument, but is easily understood: A single goal almost always brings a gigantic shift in the distribution of chances for that game, usually the game decider. In other words, if an action is allowed to continue with a shadow of a doubt, if a goal is awarded with the score at 0:0, the referee has the feeling that he has decided the whole game (the same can apply to a possible equalising goal for 1-1). You look for the fault in the action – and practically always find it. Somewhere, an attacker must have had his hand on the jersey or tugged and pushed. You can blow the whistle with a clear conscience. The consequences for the referee? None. For football? Devastating, but hardly noticeable, see the point on “The greatness of football”. The creeping death.
But the further aspect, which in principle contains parts of the solution, is that as more goals are scored, this excessive value of a goal would generally no longer be felt at all. A goal has fallen. So what? More like: Great! Let’s see what happens next. Especially since the score could well have been 3:1, where a decline in the fearfulness of the whistle blowers is already being observed these days. With more goals, the score would be 3:1 more often in the future, the referee would be relaxed and let the game go on. Goals, goals, goals. Excitement, action. Enthusiasm. More fans.
By the way, it is very easy to combine the two reasons given: A goal is the countable action. A thought goal, a possible goal does not count. Let’s examine the perceived reaction first in the case of the goal that was not given: it should have been a goal. Yes, sure, it’s bitter that it didn’t count. But it was 0:0 beforehand and 0:0 afterwards, so what’s there to get upset about? The term “it should have been 1-0” doesn’t really exist. If it did, you might think of a missed chance or something. It would have, if and but is the argument of the losers. This is not pursued. “Yes, so many things could have been so beautiful. That goes for me too. For you it’s: Dream on. You’ll get nowhere that way.”
But a goal that is recognised, that is counted and that actually decides the game – the goal was 1:0 and the game ended that way – can be wonderfully sold as a “game-deciding mistake”. Because it was. However, the fact that the goal that was not given is just as great an injustice, since it prevented the only theoretical but correct decision in the game, is obvious at best with very thorough reflection and internalisation. This fact is one level of abstraction higher. And this level is reluctantly climbed in the simple game of football.
Thesis 12: The driving force for and consequential effect of every rule change/application/interpretation in general should be to increase the excitement, attractiveness and justice of the game.
The FIFA officials, the rules committees, may have many relevant considerations when determining rule changes or refereeing instructions. However, it is the really relevant one that is given far too little consideration and should actually always be the basis: The game should become more exciting, more attractive more just. We need the neutral spectator. He wants to see the goal action, preferably the goal. He wants to see the penalty, he doesn’t want to see an offside flag, even if it were justified. If it happens – sure. If it happens wrongly. Gladly. But not predominantly.
The USA had a goal at the World Cup in their own country and saw a great marketing opportunity for your simple case of increasing, decisively increasing, the number of goals. They did not get through to ossified FIFA representatives. Only with the one demand that even found its way into the rules and reflects everything that is lacking today, at the same time showing how easily it could be remedied: When in doubt, give the attacker the benefit of the doubt.
By the way: It would already be enough if even in undoubted scenes it was interpreted for the attacker, because the opposite happens. The slightest doubt? A striker free? Stop right there! I’m sure there was something there, and if not, I’ll whistle anyway. We have to get rid of this way of thinking. The referee must not embody the permanent anti-climax “… nothing again, whistle blown again”. This must be made understandable.
Thesis 13: A perceived, but not articulable injustice scares many spectators away
This injustice relates exactly to the point before: The strikers are disadvantaged, but they themselves do not know exactly what it is. The (neutral) spectator feels this too, without being able to pronounce or classify it. He waves it off and turns away, even if he cannot say why.
As proof, a psychological study should also be cited here, which remains intuitive but is made comprehensible:
When you see one of those many penalised alleged striker fouls these days, almost as often you see an attacker shaking his head, his gesture suggesting, “What, I’m supposed to have fouled?” He points at himself, he shrugs his shoulder, if “reasonable” he accepts, curses a little (watch out! Yellow card!) and runs back. A good actor, one has to assume. He manages to conceal the offence committed, to pretend that he has done nothing and, on top of that, to have the audacity to complain about being caught, and for this complaining he is prepared to get a yellow card. Well, he’d be ripe for Hollywood.
On the other hand, you see a defender who tackles an attacker hard, but even during this action he raises his arms placatingly to indicate that he would do nothing, but really absolutely nothing wrong…. He doesn’t do anything, but has to draw attention to it with a gesture so that everyone sees it. Huh? Well, this protagonist also has an engagement in Hollywood ahead of him.
Obviously: The striker who shakes his head after being “caught” has in fact (usually) done nothing – incidentally, it is urgently worth mentioning here that it would often not be a question of whether or not this or that person fouled, but how much this or that person fouled; the referees have a good justification to rule against the attacker, since one can predominantly see that he too has done something, even if it is only a “fighting back” — while the defender, who raises his arms protesting his innocence already during the action, has committed foul play. He hopes to get away that way. After all, there are not that many excellent actors.
Thesis 14: The media are not fulfilling their responsibility to market football positively, which they should also do in their own interest.
The same applies here as under 1. The gigantic size seems to justify highlighting only unsuccessful actions. Certainly, the problem is rather German, as under 15. Here it is mentioned extra that it would be a responsibility to provide for spectator enthusiasm and in this respect also to put the finger on the wounds, which are: It is not (any longer) exciting. That is recognised. Do something! And: embody and express drama and passion, a feeling of sympathy (even if this is not felt here and there). The audience could also be attracted by this instead of always hearing about catastrophic mistakes.
Thesis 15: Generally speaking, German reporting is bad and lags far behind foreign reporting.
Especially in Germany, a mentality has taken root that only emphasises error analyses and disaster achievements. This is a huge complex that requires its own, longer section in the text. Here it should only be mentioned that a) under all circumstances and for everyone to understand, at least the good and the bad should be in balance, because — comparable to the school teacher where all the children received bad marks –, otherwise something would be wrong with the observer, who would probably start from false premises and expectations, and b) emotionality and passion, even if only feigned, should be a basic requirement for every budding or finished journalist.
As a small motivational advance here: There seems to be a fear on the part of the reporters that one’s own expert status will be called into question with pure, demonstrated enthusiasm. Something like the old familiar motto: “Up, the grass is nice and green.” The feared verdict on the “expert” at the microphone: “He probably thinks everything is great, even the farmer’s trick I already did in the sandbox.” In this respect, you have to work out the faultiness of every action. Sometimes it’s the attacker, sometimes the defender. There is no such thing as good. Basta.
Thesis 16: Legalising betting and providing comprehensive information about the fairness of today’s betting market would increase spectator interest.
A very large, stand-alone complex. Here only so much that it is guaranteed to be a tension maker that could increase spectator enthusiasm. Provided one has placed a bet on a game, even a weak game can become extremely exciting, That much can be guaranteed. That’s not supposed to be an interesting aspect? Thinking along is required everywhere. Particularly when it comes to betting, in this country the mind sometimes goes blank. Betting = ruin. And now leave me alone!
Clarification about the fairness of the betting market in the section above. The only thing that can be assured here is that the betting market has developed further around the world, whereas in Germany it is regressive and anachronistic. Further development has long since brought it out of the twilight worldwide. Placing a bet is not synonymous with pickpocketing or setting houses on fire, which is probably still assumed in this country for the winners, but for the losers it is based on simple gambling addiction and inevitable ruin.
Incidentally, in Germany in particular, all the experts seen and heard in the media always emphatically affirm: “No, I don’t bet.” On the one hand, there is reason to doubt this, on the other hand, one should calmly consider why it should be sold to one that one should watch a football match under all circumstances – after all, the people making this statement are live on the air right now — but under no circumstances should one take such an interest in it that one becomes involved in it with a bet that merely financially underpins an assessment, an opinion. How short-sighted, this thinking! The spectator should stay, but not be allowed to join in, in his own interest. A real paradox. Here’s some serious advice: Switch off! Because of absurdity and stupidity! Forces improvement.