World Cup – Wednesday 30th June

FIFA – Football’s Axis of Evil

There may be no game tonight or tomorrow but I’m in London all day Thursday so Scientific Siegfried will be looking forward to Fridays quarter finals matches a little early. As it happens I’m off to Lancaster Gate for discussions and if it all goes well I may have some FAB news for you in my next update! I’ve already said too much…

Finally before you launch into tonight’s grammatical crime wave here’s a reminder about my Golden Mullet World Cup competition

Golden Mullet
Golden Mullet

There’s a fabulous prize for the winner so if you haven’t entered yet click on the golden mullet above for the hairy scary details.


Fixtures – Friday 2nd July

  Quarter
Finals
Holland vs Brazil
    Uruguay vs Ghana
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Football was brought to Ghana as early as 1888 by visiting sailors but you probably have never heard of any of their top domestic teams. This is a shame because there have been some wonderful team names competing at the top level, such as: Hearts Of Oak, Eleven Wise, Great Olympics, Heart Of Lions, King Faisal Babes and my personal favourite Mysterious Dwarfs.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried I haff been asked to bring to you this report one day early. This is most irregular and zer has not been time for me to conduct my pre-match analysis vith the appropriate rigour. My assessments provided with that context are as follows.

Holland against Brazil is what you Englanders call “ein tuff nut to crack” because each team has comparable team metrics. Regardless it is my judgement that when die grossen Frau sings there is the polka dancing in the strassen of Rio. Also more satisfaction in a job efficiently achieved will be for the happening in Montevideo with more polka dancing with also some Wagner. This is consequential of Uruguay beating Ghana though more unity in football playing as the team.

It is my considered opinion that today I am feeling down and hip mit der kinder. Exchange with me some skin Jimmy Hill. For this I reward myself a large amount of Gugelhupf cake.

Pre Match Comment
Most eyes may be on the big match as Holland take on Brazil but spare a thought for Uruguay and Ghana. One of these teams will take an unlikely berth in the semi finals. Could we see an African team in a world cup final? Might little Uruguay – a country inhabited by just 3 million people – make their first finals appearance since they won the competition in 1930? We could even have an all South American semi-final line-up. You would have got long odds on that 3 weeks ago.

View from the sofa

Since I started my world cup blog barely a day has gone by when somebody has asked me whether there actually is a sofa or whether I really do share it with high profile footballing dignitaries while taking in the matches. Well just to put this sort of speculation to bed here is a picture of me tonight on THE sofa…

View Of The Sofa
View Of The Sofa

Obviously there is no game tonight so I don’t have the normal crowd around. In fact I’m just taking in highlights of the Grand Prix now I have half a chance…

View From The Sofa
View From The Sofa

Let’s put something else straight. Just because I’m a single bloke watching every waking minute of world cup action it doesn’t mean I have knee deep in filth. Look – I have even tidied behind the sofa…

View Behind The Sofa
View Behind The Sofa

…I never did finish that book. So now when you are next reading view from the sofa you really will be able to picture that actual sofa and imagine the scene! I like to make you feel a part of my little journeys you see.

FIFA embarrassed yet again

Football’s world governing body FIFA – widely regarded to be the fourth member of the axis of evil – has once again found itself under fire. Their luddite insistence in rejecting the use of video technology during games has been shown in all of it’s absurdity several times during the tournament but “cock-up Sunday” marks a new zenith.

First a Frank Lampard shot comes off the bar and is seen by everybody in the ground except the officials to go a full yard over the line, but the goal is not given. Everyonw including the fourth official has seen it but the referee “is not allowed” to change his decision.

Later the same day Carlos Tevez puts Argentina ahead when he is clearly offside. The linesman doesn’t flag and the understandably furious Mexican players crowd around the linesman and ref pointing at the big screen as it replays the infringement. It’s obvious from the facial expressions of the officials that they realise they have got it wrong so what happens? They referee points to the spot – one nil.

The game generates untold millions around the world. There is a huge amount riding on these games for the fans (remember them?) and the vast majority of people who aren’t FIFA employees want the use of technology such as video replays and goal-line sensors to be considered. Earlier this year FIFA said it would not budge, insisting that the way the game is played should be the same at international level as at park level.

They are wrong for any number of reasons. The most obvious reason is that the sheer injustice of clearly incorrect decisions going unchecked – as in Sundays fixtures – makes a global mockery of the game. The notion that officiating standards are currently universal is also bunk. You don’t see park games adjudicated with the aid of headsets or 4th officials. Often the linesmen are unqualified volunteers and sometimes there aren’t even nets or corner flags.

Since cock-up Sunday Sepp Blatter has apologised to England and Mexico and said that in light of those matches FIFA will review their stance on technology. This is more evil manipulation on his part – using the situation to his political advantage. Firstly his suggestion that FIFA may backtrack purely on the basis of these two incidents is totally disingenuous – these sort of things go on in major leagues around the world every week but they don’t generate the same level of bad publicity as a game in a world cup setting. Secondly he has little intention of changing anything – it is just a political pawn he can use to his advantage in the forthcoming FIFA elections.

The world’s most popular and wealthy sport is run by unaccountable amateurs with political self-interest at the heart of their decision making. Individuals will always make mistakes – people are only human – but it takes an organisation to perpetuate and institutionalise failure.

Playing Fair

Our national game is sick. The symptoms are getting worse and as usual it’s the fans that are suffering.

I’m talking about football (AKA soccer for my transatlantic chums) and the new depths to which it sinks every month. There are a huge number of fans like myself that are almost apathetic with despair at the continued abuse and mismanagement that eats away at our game. Here are some examples of the issues as I see them – problems that affect the game at every level…

Players – On the field

    • “Simulation”

I hate that phrase. It means players diving under the slightest (or no) challenge, rolling around with hands over face while feigning an injury that miraculously disappears 30 seconds later. All of this to win a free kick or penalty and perhaps get an opposition player unjustly booked or sent off.

    • “Gamesmanship”

Aargh – another shitty phrase – it’s CHEATING! this includes players grabbing shirts to hold their man back. How about claiming for free kicks or throw-ins that the player knows belong to the opposition.

    • Pure nastiness

waving an imaginary card at the referee to try and get an opponent booked or sent off

Didier Drogba diving
Didier Drogba diving

Players – Off the field

    • Pretend loyalty

players kiss their badges and then angle for a move to another club

    • Going on strike

returning late to their clubs after a break

    • Mardiness

not wanting to play for a manager or being regularly late for training

    • Complacency

Some players are essentially hugely spoilt children with no connection to their community or the lives of normal football supporters. They expect adoration and support, enjoy all the privileges their careers give them but then set about biting the hand that feeds them by getting involved in illegal or immoral activities that damage the image of their profession.

Fat drugy cheat Maradona
Fat drugy cheat Maradona

Agents

    • Leeching

These morally vacuous leeches often put their own interests ahead of their clients. They create player unrest in order to engineer a transfer merely so they can draw an extortionate commission. Imagine your financial advisor doing this. Oh – bad example, you probably can.

Agents - Looking after number 1
Agents – Looking after number 1

Managers

    • Discipline

They have a tough job to do with unenviable pressure as they try to meet supporter expectations while operating within the constraints dictated by the board. That said they sometimes fail to manage discipline well within the club. Strange how disciplinarian England manager Fabio Capello has managed to get millionaire players to take their country seriously where his laid back predecessors struggled to get them to give 100%.

    • “Tapping up”

if a manager wants to sign a player who is under contract at another club he arranges for a minion (eg: club scout or player) to put the word out unofficially to unsettle them at their present club. They complain if it happens to one of their players of course.

Ferguson jibes at a referee
Ferguson jibes at a referee
    • Bad mouthing

managers are always publicly criticising referees, players or other managers in order to gain preference or psychological advantage. It keeps the journalists busy but really it’s just cheap and tawdry.

    • Fixture hypocrisy

constantly complaining that there are too many fixtures and then jetting their team off to the far east for a money raising game

Club Directors

    • Gross financial mismanagement

Board members are always harping on about how their club needs to be run on a business footing and then they run it in a wholly unsustainable way. Numerous clubs are on the verge of financial collapse as a result of spending far too much over a long period of time. When Portsmouth became the first Premier League team to enter administration this week Alan Sugar related the story of how his 1992 proposal to the other club chairmen to create a modest contingency fund for such an eventuality was unanimously rejected. They were willing to take the Sky money but not to put a little aside for a rainy day.

Rams directors jailed for fraud
Rams directors jailed for fraud
    • Short termism

Managers are hired & fired with comic regularity. QPR recently appointed Neil Warnock as their FIFTH manager this season! Other examples include Roman Abramovich sacking Jose Morinho despite a fantastic record because he didn’t like the style in which the Chelsea team were winning their matches.

    • Selling the granny

Directors will do anything for cash, however silly and however much it puts upon the fans. Witness some the recent proposals: Playing a ridiculous 39th game abroad for TV revenue; introducing a playoff system for European qualification so league position becomes irrelevant; Inviting Rangers & Celtic to leave the Scottish league and join the premiership.

    • Commoditising young footballers

clubs recruit young players en-masse from places as far as Africa, often failing to pay expenses and then dump the vast majority when it suits them. They are playing an unsentimental numbers game and mistreating children and their families in the process.

    • Supporter abuse

Despite the huge increase in TV and advertising revenue generated by clubs supporters are being priced out of attending matches with great increases in ticket prices. Additionally most clubs now have at least 3 kits that kids will pressure their parents into buying, and these will be frequently replaced so they can sell a new design.

“Professional” Bodies

    • Fit and proper persons?

Prospective club owners are supposed to be vetted by the football authorities to ensure they will be suitable custodians. Why then are so many clubs in such deep financial trouble? Why have numerous owners been exposed as criminals or to have criminal connections?

    • Cronyism

Fans should not even know the names Sepp Blatter or Jack Warner because these FIFA employees are supposed to keep their heads down and work professionally on behalf of fans everywhere. Instead the media reports a stream of controversial quotes and policy statements that make it abundantly clear that these deeply suspicious characters are only looking after their own political interests.

Sepp Blatter attending to important FIFA affairs
Sepp Blatter attending to important FIFA affairs
    • Institutionalised bias

Numerous examples of this, but none more powerful than the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. France and Ireland are among a number of teams that fail to automatically qualify for the 2010 World Cup and go into a play-off draw. When FIFA realise that a major nation like France have failed to qualify automatically they introduce a seeding system for the play-off draw mid-qualification to improve their chances of getting through and in the process maximise TV revenues. This scandal is then overshadowed by the infamous match that then followed. Ireland are much the better team but Thierry Henry deliberately uses his hand to stop the ball going out of play and then passes it to a team mate who scores. The cheating although blatant was missed at the time by the referee. It could have been picked up by video during the game and put right but even though the 4th official saw it at the time he was not allowed to inform the referee. France win the game and qualify for the finals. Henry freely admits the handball offence. The Irish nation misses out on a deserved place in the World Cup finals and the players miss out on a once in a lifetime experience – something that would have been the pinnacle of everyone’s career. Most will never get another chance of a finals appearance. After all of this the authorities do precisely nothing. No fine, no ban, no verbal warning. It’s fine – you can do this. In essence, FIFA have a dead body with a gunshot wound. They have witnesses who saw the murder and the assailant admits the offence. Verdict – not guilty. Meanwhile FIFA continue to promote their Fair Play campaign without any appreciation of the irony.

    • Spinelessness

It is 2007 and struggling West Ham pull off a remarkable escape from near certain relegation thanks to their signing Carlos Tevez who scores 3 goals to win 3 matches. Sheffield United go down instead and lose £30m of revenue in the process. It emerges that Tevez was signed illegally and should never have been allowed to play for the club and nobody is in any doubt the Hammers would have been doomed without his intervention. After much wrangling the Premier League fine West Ham £5.5m but do not deducted points. Net result – West ham buy their survival but Sheffield United get nothing for being massively cheated in financial and football terms (they later take entirely independent legal action and win £15m compensation). Once again the message is we make but don’t enforce the rules.

    • Ignoring player cheating

Referees get a lot of stick for getting it wrong on the pitch. They might miss serious foul play, be taken in by the sort of cheating I mentioned above or just get a decision wrong. They are human and this will happen. With so much at stake (financial / career / pride) there has been a call for cameras to be used during matches to help adjudicate on a select few incidents (eg: did the ball cross the line) and help the ref out but FIFA have this week ruled against this despite overwhelming support from clubs, managers, players and fans. The non-technological alternative to this would be for panels (which already exist) to review video evidence after matches and dish out any appropriate sanctions. For instance the player caught faking an injury that got an opponent dismissed could be caught out and banned and the opponent reprieved. The authorities refuse to go down this line. Once again they are endorsing cheating by\ saying as long as you get away with it on the day we don’t care.

    • Supporter abuse

The authorities sign up to lucrative television contracts that see matches played at all times of week and day with scant regard for supporters. How they expect Carlisle fans to make a Monday evening trip to Bournemouth which finishes after the final train home departs is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t stop there. Few tickets for cup finals and tournament matches are made available to fans of the clubs involved while vast tracts of seating are allocated to sponsors and plainly seen to be unoccupied on the day. The tickets themselves are inevitably snapped up by ticket touts and sold back to fans for eye watering figures. The authorities don’t care about any of this and do nothing to protect the fans interests.

    • Financial incest

The Premier League is by far the richest football league in the world. Unfortunately the great bulk of this money goes to players and agents. The authorities ringfence only a tiny proportion of this wealth for investment in grass roots football and community projects and even the National Football Centre in Burton – a core facility taken for granted by other major footballing nations – has only been begrudgingly given the financial go-ahead 9 years after the plan was announced

Thanks for sticking with me despite the rant but you can see the extent of the problem. Even if you hate football the fact remains it is a major industry in financial terms. Many kids idolise footballers and the game needs to provide positive role models, demonstrate sporting etiquette and inspire people to live healthy lifestyles. Football is important to millions of people whether they regularly attend matches or passively support a team from afar. It is our national sport and it is being driven into the ground by people who don’t care about the game or it’s supporters and only care about the money or status they can take from it.

The Solution?
It’s cliched but true to say that money lies at the heart of the problem, but that in itself is hardly a useful or insightful analysis. Ultimately it comes down to governance. Any organisation if left to its own devices will tend towards self interest, hypocrisy, bloat and potentially – if left to become totally incestuous over time – corrupt and evil. These are all symptoms of self regulation. You only have to look at banks paying themselves huge bonuses (latterly from the public purse) in reward for failure, or politicians claiming expenses for moat cleaning (also from the public purse). These are symptoms of systems with insufficient feedback. Any organisation needs a moral compass if it is to survive itself in the longer term.

Here is the way forward – for football at least. Professional football bodies are empowered by the club chairmen who collectively sanction their behaviours. The same applies to players who are answerable to their employers. Presently clubs are mostly run by businessmen with pure financial self-interest at heart – whatever they say publicly. Fans need to secure meaningful representation at board level in order to moderate and direct the decision making process. Fans should make fine businessmen because they know the customer (themselves) best. They have an unparalleled undying loyalty towards their brand yet despite their club allegience they are part of a wider collective that can and does function with cooperation, insightfullness and wisdom.

Widespread supported involvement in the running of clubs is not a pipe dream. A few lower league clubs already have significant supporter influence at board level. Presently Manchester United fans are trying to buy out the Glazers and run their own club. The Arsenal Supporters Trust is bringing the fans voice to the boardroom. A number of high profile clubs (and even more lower league clubs) are on the brink of financial collapse and when the present incumbents are ousted the fans will undoubtedly take on a more controlling role in club affairs. This general move towards fan power can only mean greater influence upon the authorities and within the club boardrooms, filtering down to the pitch on match day. Some clubs may soon cease to exist and others may fall a long way from grace as flaky financiers are seen off by the administrator but the game will survive and re-emerge healthier for it’s ordeal.

So in the long run if you want something done about the state of the game you have to kick it off yourself.