25 September ~ When you watch football you hope that the game flows, the referee knows what he/she is doing and there's nothing really hideously unfair going on. That's what FIFA are there for – to make the game better; like stopping the keeper picking up back passes or allowing a player who's offside not to be offside, if you know what I mean. So why then haven't they sorted out penalties? If ever there was a case of the punishment not fitting the crime, this is it. Something barely discernible happens and before you know it the game's turned on its head.
For example, team X is being battered by team Y but in a rare foray upfield they are gifted a goal when their overlapping full-back falls as if shot near the goal-line. The myopic ref miles from play decides that the defender five yards from the incident was responsible and points to the spot. A goal from nowhere. And so it goes on, with every striker for every club hurling himself about like Tom Daley so they're given the goal their team can't produce properly.
Well, I reckon I've got the answer. Looking at the incidents that led to penalties I put them in four categories: a definite goal denied (ball handled on the line, say); a good chance prevented; a fair chance prevented; and "what's he given that for?". Virtually all the fouls fell into the last two groups. In other words, there weren't that many where a goal was likely and at best a shot might just have followed if the attacking player hadn't ended up on his backside. Yet 80 per cent of penalties result in a goal.
So to that answer. Draw an arc that curves round between the six-yard box and the area. Make sure it's of a radius of more than 12 yards. Fouls in this "zone" result in a penalty from the traditional penalty spot. Fouls beyond it but inside the penalty area result in a "direct penalty" from the nearest point of the arc. No defenders allowed anywhere near but the keeper can cavort about in the six-yard box to his heart's content.
End result – the ball hits some ponderous centre-half on the arm 17 yards from goal and the ref doesn't present the opposition with a goal from nowhere, just the chance of one. Not perfect but better. And when Egypt and Sweden have drawn after two hours of a tense but goalless World Cup tie, what better test of skill than a penalty shoot-out that comprises two penalties and three "direct penalties". I'm going send my dossier to the FA for approval. Wish me luck. Rob Bradley