So we’re ten. And therefore entitled to grant ourselves a few birthday wishes. In no particular order, they are as follows:
The police to be persuaded that the law does actually permit them to eject people from a ground for systematic racist abuse, but that, equally, there’s no need to confiscate someone’s sandwiches, or comb, or glasses case on the basis that they might be offensive weapons; No stands to be named after a team’s sponsors, or fast food franchise holders;
No footballers to confess to political allegiances until after a general election, unless it’s Vinny Jones or Barry Fry, both surefire vote losers for the Conservatives; Politicians to be forced to choose between rival teams with substantial support in their constituencies – and none of this “I want football to be the winner” nonsense, either they’re fans or they’re not; David Mellor to be brought back into the cabinet – that way, with luck, he’ll be too busy to appear on Radio 5;
No half-time interviews with celebrities keen to show they’re on first name terms with the team’s manager; ‘Personality’-led FA Cup draws to be made pay-per-view, so the FA will quickly come to realise how teeth-grittingly bad they are;
Bob Wilson to go on a crash course in basic communication techniques so he’ll grasp that if you ask someone a question you have to give them longer than five seconds to answer before interrupting; the BBC to impose a moratorium on ‘themed’ commentary of the ‘It may have been raining cats and dogs on Merseyside but it was the visitors who went home with their tails between their legs’ variety for the Premiership highlights; Ian St John to have his chuckle surgically removed;
Stiff custodial sentences to be imposed on any person held to be responsible for inviting Denis Law to be a pundit for a televised match; Come to that, replace all pundits with Ruud Gullit and a couple of his mates (but not Dennis Wise); and if Ruud’s got the time, make him FA Technical Director, too; Use of the words, ‘To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’ to be banned in broadsheet sports pages; The phrase ‘What Pelé once called “The Beautiful Game” . . .’ to be locked in a black box and buried at a secret location;
All journalists to pay to see at least one Premiership game per season – and no claiming it back on expenses; The football authorities to henceforth refuse to take any action whatsoever against players named in four-in-a-bed/love cheat/reefer madness stories in the tabloids unless the events described took place on the pitch during a match;
Strict rationing to be introduced on use of football metaphors in articles about politics/the arts/genetic engineering/everything else, with an outright ban on their ‘ironic’ use on Newsnight (‘Just when they should have been penning the government in their own half, the opposition were busy scoring an own goal’);
An end to moving Saturday matches to Monday night; The FA Cup contract to be conditional on screening a live match from every round (with no enforced kick-offs between 9 pm and 12 noon); Graham Kelly to take assertiveness classes (‘Bugger off to your European league, then, see how far you get’);
The FA to announce that nobody with a scrapeover hairdo can sit on the international committee; João Havelange to explain once and for all just exactly who he is and what he is up to; Sepp Blatter to be gradually weaned away from hair-oil, allowing his dark locks to go their own way naturally; One place in the World Cup Finals to be decided by a lottery for all those teams who fail to qualify, to make all that effort seem worthwhile for the likes of Dominica, Macau and England;
The old myth that ‘the crowd wouldn’t stand for it’ to be dispensed with as a reason why English teams couldn’t adapt to a more ‘Continental’ style of play; Managers to be prohibited from offering a player’s nationality as an explanation for his actions; Brian Clough to be sent backwards in time to 1991, where he’d resign after the Cup Final and not ‘write’ an autobiography;
Anyone who already wears a uniform in their day job or who lists ‘Amateur Dramatics’ among their interests to be prevented from becoming a League referee; And just for once, a new club owner to admit that he’s aiming for a mid-table position in Division One rather than the World Club Championship within five years.
That’ll do for now. Should we add that that this seems to have the makings of a board game for two-to-four players, seven years old and upwards, and that interested manufacturers should drop a line to the usual address? Hell, yes.
From WSC 110 April 1996. What was happening this month