Playing the game

wsc302 Football charities and voluntary organisations are struggling to survive in the face of austerity, writes Alex Lawson

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations estimates that by 2016 the voluntary sector will lose £911 million in public funding. The age of austerity is already having a major effect on grassroots football. The UK’s sporting charities are remarkably fragmented – the likes of the Football Foundation and Football Aid represent the larger organisations in a pyramid featuring professional clubs’ charitable arms, corporate philanthropic projects, small-scale grassroots organisations and long-standing local government initiatives.

wsc299 Teams can pass their way into the Premier League, but Adam Bate thinks that the long ball game is the best tactic to keep them there

It all looks set for an interesting battle at the top of the Championship. While Southampton are heralded for their pleasing football under Nigel Adkins, West Ham continue to power on with the arch-pragmatist Sam Allardyce. The prevailing wisdom is that trying to play football is not practical in the Championship. But history suggests you can pass your way to promotion.

Mark Brophy questions club influence when so many players are caught bending the rules of the game

A lucky viewer watching Sky's Goals on Sunday show a few weeks ago will have seen the star pairing, Ian Wright and Jermain Defoe, being quizzed on that weekend's horror tackle furore. Have you, the question went, ever witnessed a manager telling his players to hurt the opposition deliberately? Jermain and Ian agreed that would never happen, though Wright then offered the caveat that no one needed to tell some of his ex-team-mates to do that – they were naturals at it.

With players going down easier, Matt Nation believes football is fast becoming a contactless sport

Watch an Over-55s game on my local pitch and you'll rarely see a foul. The players may regale whoever will listen with stories of how a match wasn't a match unless they'd broken their jaw at least once and then barged the opposing goalkeeper so hard that the game had to be stopped so that people could go and look for him, but they're remarkably mild-mannered on the pitch. They have to be. Tackling is frowned upon or, if the referee is getting on a bit himself, banned outright.

While goal-line technology is a popular concept in theory, Rob Freeman explores the issues it may bring into the game

It’s not often that UEFA makes changes in the Champions League that benefit football at all levels, but this season sees the use of extra officials behind the goal, as piloted in last season’s Europa League. This is in line with FIFA’s recent decision to ignore renewed calls for goal-line technology, and refusal to even consider the subject, despite incidents such as Frank Lampard’s World Cup “goal” against Germany. Such a decision has angered those in the media supportive of using technology, but have they thought it through?

The penalty shoot-out has never been particularly popular. However, as Matthew Knott wonders, if we all dislike the system so much, why has no one come up with a lasting alternative?

As a system it has variously been labelled as “public flogging”, “a lottery”, “gripping drama”, and even “racist”. Even Sepp Blatter professes to dislike its use, yet August 5 marks 40 years since Denis Law stepped up in the first-ever penalty shoot-out in England and demonstrated its potentially humbling effect.

Steve Wilson recalls a time when the biggest names in football turned out for a game of six-a-side. How come it never caught on?

Imagine that the Masters Football tournaments that help fill the void each summer were played during the season. Now imagine that, instead of the best-supported sides being regionally invited to knock together a roster of paunchy, balding alumni, each of the 20 Premier League clubs sent along a squad padded out with first team regulars. Madness? By today’s standards, perhaps, but back in the 1980s it was a regular, and entertaining, occurrence.

The long throw is back with a bang, as Rory Delap bamboozles Aston Villa. Glen Wilson champions this strong-arm tactic

August 23, 2008, will be noted as the day that a traditional bastion of British football made a comeback, via an injury-time winning goal in the shadow of Sir Stanley Matthews’s statue. Yes, the long throw-in is back.

Research has proved that there is more to penalties than just luck, writes Simon Creasey

Shootouts are always fraught with tension. However, one man believes that he has discovered a way of easing the tension and maximising a team’s chances of winning. The man in question is Ignacio Palacios-Huerta from the London School of Econ­omics’ department of management. Part of his body of work includes a recently co-authored report with Jose Apesteguia of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, entitled “Performance pressure in the workplace: evidence from a randomised natural experiment”. The report saw the pair study 260 shootouts from national and international cup competitions – a total of 2,712 penalty kicks.

The trend in fake orgasmic goal celebrations is out of control and something needs to be done, according to Al Needham

Like everyone else, I thoroughly enjoyed Euro 2008, but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. Sure, the football was great, the lack of lumpy Englishness refreshing, and the feeling that you couldn’t tear yourself away from even the 0‑0 draws (just in case the entire Turkey squad ran on at the last minute, scored the winner, then ran off down the tunnel leaving everyone else standing there) was palpable throughout. But there was something else. And it bugged me for weeks.

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