Football needs to take a couple of leaves out of Rugby’s book

Rugby Union is referee'd much more intelligently than football and leads to a much more exciting 80 minutesAhead of Manchester United’s latest clash with Chelsea, the term ‘12th man on the pitch’ was used quite frequently. It seems past games involving the Manchester club now mean that Webb is seen by some as leaning towards them in his decision-making. When it comes down to it, if Howard Webb showed even one sign of allegiance to any team, then he wouldn’t be the first person to ever referee a Champion’s League and World Cup final in the same year. It’s not just off the pitch where the dissent is employed, unfortunately.

It’s no secret that, the quality of the past month’s instalment of El Clasico fixtures haven’t been the best. However, in at least two of the matches, I found myself burying my head in my hands in embarrassment for some of the players. Every foul and free kick was disputed. Whenever the whistle was blown, the team that didn’t benefit from the decision would immediately swarm the referee. And for what, a reversal in the decision? Of course, because we see those happen in the game so often, why wouldn’t they try?

It’s for this reason that the governing bodies of football need to swallow their pride and humbly accept that some aspects in football are in desperate need of improvement. In rugby, the only players that talk to the referee are the captains. Okay it’s somewhat loosely employed sometimes, usually depending on the context of what a player is saying, but any step is a step forward for football.

Others would argue that because the focus of play is much larger in football, it would be too hard for say, a centre-back who’s captain to get to the ref to argue a decision. But is that such a bad thing? If a decision was brought in which meant football employed the same player-referee relationship as football, it would surely cut about 99% of dissent out of the game and instead give paying patrons the dose of ‘The Beautiful Game’ they crave so dearly. The punishment of a yellow card would hopefully detract a player from running 70 yards just so he and the ref can have a good natter.

To be fair, some referees, such as Webb, do deploy rather strict ruling on dissent and can be seen cautioning players quite frequently. The only way to consistently govern this part of the game though, is to rubber-stamp a rule that dictates the approach players take against an official’s decision.

Another piece of the football puzzle that needs swift solving is the recurring argument of goal-line technology. When it comes to this subject, I feel as if certain figureheads who unfortunately also have a huge amount of power, are almost intentionally holding the sport back. Penalties, offsides, controversial goals and any other amount of ‘What-ifs’ could be eliminated from the game if such a system was finally introduced. Perhaps there would be added time, but if used sparingly and for goal-scoring opportunities, then I’m sure the world’s biggest sport could make it work.

If only a moment of humility would allow football’s decision makers to see that in this scenario, change is definitely good. When compared to each other, it’s common knowledge that rugby comes in front of football in the ‘Which sport is manlier?’ argument. Rugby utilizes a far smarter refereeing system and as a result sees more constant, high-octane action in a ten minute shorter match. Perhaps the biggest reason to bring in some sort of review system would be the hope that players would think twice about feigning death rolling around on the pitch like a pansy, for fear that they may actually get caught. For a second there, you might think I was born in Wales or something.

Tom is one of our most experienced contributors, with over a decade of online publishing. A Man Utd fan, Thomas brings you all the latest news from UK football.

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