November 25, 2010
Scottish referees are causing controversy currently with their plans to strike this weekend over the abuse they are suffering North of the Border, and on Wednesday one particular Scottish referee was party to another controversy, this time in a European tie between Ajax (of Amsterdam) and Real Madrid. Cruising to a 4-0 victory, Real had two players sent off in the last few minutes in somewhat comedy fashion.
It turns out these two players, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, were a yellow card from suspension. Real, with a win last night, qualified with a game to spare for the knock-out stages of the Champions League – the premier European football competition. Thus instead of risking that these players get another yellow in their next competitive match in the competition which would lead to their suspension for the next match, coach Jose Mourinho appears to have instructed both players to get sent off because a sending off leads to a one-game suspension and the slate wiped clean. So the two players miss the meaningless final match against Auxerre and are free to play in the all-important knock-out stages.
This is the kind of managerial genius Mourinho is famed for from his times in charge of Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan. Of course though, UEFA aren’t so happy about it, and are mooting the possibility of taking some action. This would of course be a sad mistake – but UEFA are very good at making such mistakes. The Guardian has written that UEFA would be better placed to ignore the incident. As they say: It’s a ridiculous loophole created by UEFA’s own disciplinary system, and it’s hardly the worst example of poor sportsmanship ever witnessed in football or elsewhere.
It neatly epitomises the sometimes perverse incentives that institutional structures set in place and so the response, if any, should not be to create more rules on top of the existing seemingly ill-conceived rules. The Guardian has some suggestions, such as making dead rubbers meaningless for cards, or doubling cards up if they are spotted to be deliberately induced. These though seem to work within the existing flawed system. Why not make the disciplinary system progressive in the sense that the slate isn’t wiped clean if a player gets a red card – why reward bad behaviour in such a way?
October 21, 2010
Football (soccer) is never short on a story or two. Wayne Rooney and Liverpool FC seem to be invariably the sources of them currently. As Liverpool recede slightly from the news (although any absence of a pick-up in form will surely see coach Hodgson sacked fairly soon – particularly since potential managerial candidate Frank Rijkaard has been sacked from his most recent job), Wayne Rooney has most definitely taken over.
There’s a huge, huge amount beneath the simple story that he wants to leave Manchester United. Having won most things they are to win while at Old Trafford, he has stated that the club’s ambitions no longer match his own: He wants to win Trophies. United won only the Community Shield and League Cup last season, a very poor turn-out compared to recent seasons that have seen United win the Premiership repeatedly and the Champions League.
But United have lost Ronaldo to Madrid and Tevez to Man City in the last couple of years, without proven replacements (although Nani reportedly scored a great goal last night to secure victory in the Champions League for United, his contributions are much more sporadic than Ronaldo’s ever were), and their start to the current season has been decidedly circumspect. Still unbeaten, they’ve only won 3 of 8 games and thrown away winning leads all too often – 3-1 at Everton and 2-0 at home to West Brom. Such form is uncharacteristic in the extreme for Manchester United and it would seem Rooney is applying his skills of forecasting to tell us that Man U won’t be winning much any more. It’s a bit like the Bank of England giving its inflation forecast though given it then takes some action to ensure what it predicts happens – if Rooney does leave then the probability of Man U doing worse increases substantially.
There are, of course, many other theories doing the rounds about why he wants to leave, perhaps most obviously: Money. Apparently he could earn twice as much down the road at Manchester City, or down in Madrid. UEFA is bringing in financial fair play regulations next year apparently – restrictions on how much clubs can pay footballers. Hence this may be a classic case of barmy regulatory structures and unintended effects via the incentives they create. If Rooney can’t after this season get a fat pay packet from City or Real, then he needs to get moving now so he can still get it. Apparently a number of agents are telling their clients this currently.
So, football fans who oppose all things financial being involved with football (when it harms their team), do we really think these arbitrary restrictions being introduced by UEFA next season are an unmitigated good thing?