Dripping Yarns with David Arnold

A splendid game on Tuesday evening saw the Rooks pick up three points against a Lowestoft team that then faced an unenviably long coach journey home to the Suffolk coast.

Prior to the game I feared the worst when I learned that no fewer than seven of their first time players were free to play again that night, three of them returning from suspensions.

The latter statistic suggests that some of the Lowestoft squad have dodgy temperaments and, sure enough, the trait manifested itself in the course of the game when their early goalscorer, Joe Francis, was sent off for committing two foolish fouls in the space of two mad minutes. Playing against 10 men isn’t always easy so credit to Lewes for making the advantage tell.

Football is a game where tempers can easily fray and the Rooks are not without one or two individuals unfamiliar with the descent of the old ‘red mist’.

I have often wondered whether there is more that could be done to curb persistent dissent; the latter being the cause of much winding-up of themselves by players.

So I was very interested to read some recent comments by Ian Ritchie, head of the Rugby Football Union.

“I like the 10-yard rule in rugby,” he said. “The minute somebody in rugby starts disagreeing with the referee their team is marched another 10 yards back. I’ve always thought that this same rule could be applied to football.”

In fact there was an experiment with this in English football around a decade ago.

Though Premier League referees reported a definite improvement in the behaviour of players, the measure was scrapped at the request of world governing body, Fifa, in 2005.

Fifa maintained that non-rugby playing nations would not understand what it was all about. A strange objection really because the rule either makes sense in the context of football or it doesn’t.

Personally, I’d like to see it reintroduced as I am sure it would deter much of the pointless prolonged haranguing of officials who have already made their minds up about a particular decision and are for certain not going to yield to any amount of player pressure.

There may also be merit in borrowing another idea from rugby. Ian Ritchie says he is convinced player behaviour is influenced by the presence of open microphones on the rugby pitch. Fans using Ref! Link can listen to a “wired up” referee’s reason for making a decision.

Indeed, not only can they hear what the referee is saying but they can also hear what is being said by the players around him. Obviously being “on air” (with verbal exchanges also being recorded) is a pretty powerful incentive for players to be careful of what they say and also to watch their language.

After all, mum might be in the grandstand listening aghast at every profane word emanating from her beloved son!