17 June 2010

Time to level the playing field by moving the goal posts

No, this isn't another post about overused management metaphors. It's a serious suggestion to make life more interesting for football fans.

Not enough goals?
As I've been away for nearly two weeks, I haven't seen any of the World Cup matches so far. But I have been fascinated by media complaints about the shortage of goals - not because I think it has to do with the peculiar ball being blamed by the pundits as much as with the long-standing failure of the football authorities to update the rules in line with the way the physique of players has changed over the last 150 years.

Time to update Victorian rules of the game
I've long felt that the watchability of various sports could be greatly improved by recognising the fact that many of the rules are the legacy of the Victorian obsession with writing rules down in the middle of the nineteenth century - since when there have been few attempts to update them in line with physical changes in the population over the past century and a half, let alone with a view to making a particular sport more interesting to watch (a notable exception being Rugby League's break away from Rugby Union).

Tennis, for example, unlike squash, has persisted with allowing players two attempts at serving every time they serve, forcing spectators to sit for hours on end until one or other of them 'breaks serve' as a necessary condition of winning the match.

Abolish the second serve, and tennis-players would have to make some interesting strategic decisions at crucial moments in the game - and we'd be spared the tedium of having to wait for however long it takes for one of them to break through and win a game when they're not serving.

Bigger goals for taller goalkeepers
The rules of football date back to the 1850s - since when, data from Western Europe point to an increase in the average height of males (including, presumably, goalkeepers) of one inch (2.54 centimetres) every 25 years.

If the average height of today's goalkeepers is about 6 feet (183 cm.), their average height when the rule about goal posts was laid down would have been 6 inches (15.24 cm.) shorter at 5 foot 6 inches (167.64 cm.).

For the area defended by goalkeepers to provide the same challenge to them as when the rules were originally laid down, today's goal posts should be 6 inches higher and further apart than they are now - the obvious result of which (see below) would be more goals and a far more entertaining game for spectators to watch.

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