Sunday 23 October 2016

Mike Dean shows the way to fix our game

Referee Mike Dean has done football a great service. Photo: Reuters
Referee Mike Dean has done football a great service. Photo: Reuters

Across training grounds the length and breadth of England on Monday, managers had to make some adjustments, long overdue adjustments.

The reason? A couple of wonderful refereeing decisions from Mike Dean which instantly changed the landscape of football.

Before the season got underway, I read about a directive to referees which instructed them to implement the rules in penalty areas before and during set-pieces.

There was some talk about the problem during the Euros but there was a lot of pulling and draggin going on in France.

I wondered would it go the way of many other such directives about foul play and cheating over the years and I was pleasantly surprised when Dean followed his instructions to the letter.

The look on Mark Hughes' face when Dean produced the red for Robert Huth in the Stoke v Manchester City game was one of complete shock.

But I guarantee you that once Hughes had digested the implications of Dean's decision and the one which followed which saw Raheem Sterling red-carded for the same pulling and pushing offence in the box, he knew exactly what he would have to do at the first available opportunity on the training ground.


That's the reason why every Premier League manager was doing corner and free-kick drills in the box and the object of the exercise was to get players to do nothing.

From now on, all movement in the penalty area before corners will be strictly monitored and the no-contact rule enforced.

I have to say, I am delighted with this. Don't for a second think that this is just a small detail in the game. Watch the season unfold and watch the difference it makes. It will clean up the game to a huge degree.

There will be more decisions like this before the idea finally beds down that you simply cannot put a hand on a player in the penalty area at any time without risking a penalty kick if you're a defender or a free-out if you're attacking.

All we are doing here is restoring the game to its correct position. There is nothing revolutionary about it other than it is the first serious attempt to address a type of foul play which slowly but surely has been strangling set-pieces and making the game unwatchable.

There was another significant referee related event last week. They used a video referee in America and the world didn't end. The experiment was done in a minor league game between the Red Bulls second string and Orlando B and the referee in that game used the video facility to make a couple of calls.

All reports say that there was no impact on timing or the flow of the game. In other words, it worked well.

I've always been impressed by the Americans' practicality and I saw it for myself when I was over therer with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Before I went, I heard the stories about how the Yanks wanted to destroy the game with no offside and no drawn games but I have to say, I found their approach refreshing and always aimed at entertainment.

FIFA wanted to spread the game into the American market so they let them tailor the rules to suit what they believed was a sharper hunger for action among television audiences.

Again, the world didn't end when they played around with the offside rule and had a shoot-out to decide any drawn games and of course, the first few attempts to launch a decent professional league failed.

Now, the MLS seems to be flourishing and the game has a big foothold in the USA.

They have become more influential in football globally at a political level and it doesn't surprise me that FIFA chose an American league to trial video technology. It worked and that's all that really matterd.

Both of these developments are really good news. I know a lot of the time I find myself complaining about football and the bad things in it but if the authorities keep pushing towards these improvements it will transform the game, I'm sure of that.

There was one slightly worrying note from the weekend. Dean did his job and followed the directive. Mark Clattenberg did not.

Above all we must have consistency in this. No pulling and pushing.

Zero contcact or face the consequences.

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