Wishful thinking

Some simple ways to make the 2011-12 season more palatable. Badge kissing, coloured boots and the the inanity of Mark Lawrenson all require immediate attention

Before we begin to list our hopes for the new season, it should be noted that nothing we ask for ever comes to pass, often because that would require adjustments to the Laws of the Game or to the Indecent Displays Act (1981). So there almost seems to be no point in, for example, expressing the hope that one day a referee will send off a player who makes the shushing or ear-cupping gesture to opposing fans when they’ve scored. Or that anyone over school age wearing a jester’s hat inside a football ground should be required to do community service, with the punishment extended if the wearer has a previous conviction for waving a giant foam hand.

But these are momentous times, with state and corporate power coming under forensic scrutiny – even if the final outcome is only that a couple of mid-ranking News International executives are sent to jail and there are fewer exposés of footballers’ private lives. With old certainties being challenged, there may be reason to hope that some of our comparatively modest demands will be acted upon.

So let’s see all transfer fees being disclosed, along with agents’ fees and other costs, while the transfer deadline should also apply to managers, not just players. Transfer deadlines should end strictly at midnight – no deals held up by paperwork or broken fax machines should be accepted. If a player hasn’t been photographed holding his new club’s shirt beside the chairman, it doesn’t count. No TV report on the day after the transfer deadline should feature a supporter who has bought a shirt with a departed player’s name on it. The same ban should apply to tattooed fans.

Alex Ferguson should be required to start talking to the BBC again, seven years after falling out with them over a documentary about his son Jason’s activities as an agent. Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards is said to be working behind the scenes to resolve the feud but we all know he’s useless – parliament must intervene (when they have the time). To wear coloured boots you must have scored at least eight goals in the previous season. The only player who can wear gold boots is the one who scored most goals last season. 
No wearing of gloves with short sleeves, unless you’re a goalkeeper. Squad numbers should match a players position (perhaps even including the word “false” before the No 9). Certainly no 8+1 or 99.

A player who kisses his badge must not be allowed to leave in the next transfer window, while anyone who points at the name on their shirt after scoring should be substituted. All goal celebrations (except for pointing at the name on your shirt) should be legal, including the shirt removal routine. It might not be pretty, but it doesn’t deserve a yellow card. Similarly, players should be able to take penalties whatever way they want. Only an attention-seeking moron would want to back-heel a spot-kick but if they succeed, that’s the goalkeeper’s fault – not theirs.

Players should be required talk to each other on the team bus, instead of wearing those big headphones. No autobiographies should be published until the subject has retired (and in the case of Manchester United players, unless they reject the club’s offer of coaching or ambassadorial roles). The playing of music to celebrate a goal should be banned. In the same vein, no singers to lead national anthems – a brass band is bad enough. The England Supporters Band should have their instruments confiscated with extreme urgency.

Commentators shouldn’t be allowed to complain if there’s a punch-up – just shut up and let everyone enjoy it, especially the sight of the self-appointed peacemaker reacting furiously to a clout from behind. Similarly, if a streaker comes on to the pitch just show it – the viewers might be bored but they won’t 
be shocked.

Remind TV pundits that not all games have turning points, they are simply decided over 90 minutes. Mark Lawrenson should be forcibly challenged whenever he tries to suggest that the solution to any major club’s poor performance in the opening months of the season is to “get the chequebook out”. Finally, when FIFA have resolved their in-fighting, they need to sort out the official rankings – England aren’t one of the top six teams in the world.

From WSC 295 September 2011