Thursday, May 7, 2009

Motivating players well

Back-ground: Chelsea lost the Chapions League Semi Final on 6-May-2009 after a string of penalty claims were turned down

It does nothing for the dignity of the sport to have footballers frequently throwing themselves on the ground looking for free-kicks and penalties. It makes the players look like cheats, which is indeed what they are. But one of the consequences, just like the boy who cried wolf, is that when Drogba genuinely should get a penalty, referees bear in mind that most time he goes down he is just looking for the foul and wasn't actually fouled. I don't have sympathy for Chelsea, because they cried wolf too many times.

However, I don't think the real problem is with players' ethics, but rather with the way they are motivated. Right now if a player is in the box and his half tackled, then falling over is a good option, quite frequently it will yield a penalty. We need to introduce incentives not to fake it. For example:
1: Play on advantage more often, then if no advantage is accruing pull back for the foul

2: After the match a video referee should look through the match for instances of diving. Those who are caught will get multi-match bans for bring the game into disrepute. Currently if a player is caught smoking hash he is dealt with harshly, if he dives, then he is rarely punished. Clearly the priorities need to be changed.

3: Referees should bear in mind that if a player is fouled he can still sometimes remain on his feet. Too often a referee will only give a free kick if someone falls.

Players often have very short-term horizons, they think that if they give away a corner then the danger has been averted, or if they get a yellow card, then they haven't hurt their team. So perhaps it is time to use a sin-bin for yellow card.

And finally, when a foul happens at the edge of the box, the important thing is not where the first contact was, but rather the last. If the first contact is outside the box, but then as the players move, contact continues into the box, the referee should play on the advantage until in the box and so a penalty should be given.

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