Anyone who has ever played the Sim City computer game knows very well that the citizens you reign over will tend to become anarchic if policing levels are not adequate. Criminal tendencies have to be kept in check.
In the real World, where policing is weak, the level of anti-social behaviour eventually rises. And it becomes self-reinforcing, as it starts to become a visible ‘norm’. Fairly well behaved citizens start to lose their sense of responsibility, feeling that their efforts are pointless in an unruly environment. Poor behaviour, unpoliced, breeds further poor behaviour.
It is possible to crudely calculate the effectiveness of the policing in an area by this level of anarchy.
There is a similar ‘signature’ of anarchy in other domains, such as in sport. The behaviour of snooker players is visibly impeccable, the referee suitably empowered to monitor play and issue penalties. There is also a historic culture of pristine and respectful behaviour in that sport that is generally observed by newcomers. There is a momentum that has evolved over the decades.
Alas, in football (soccer), the momentum has seen the preservation of an attitude where the norm is to take advantage of situations. You claim for a corner when there is the slightest doubt. You elbow a striker in the ribs, or maybe tug his shirt just as he soars to head the ball. You ‘take out’ their star player with callous tackling – either to injure him or make him fearful of future treatment. Players dive in the penalty area without any bodily contact.
And the problem here is that the policing – the refereeing – is simply inadequate in dealing with this long term (and now growing) problem of deceit and misbehaviour. The problem requires heavy and decisive action, but the failure to take such action comes from Sepp Blatter at the head of World football. He wants to see ‘the beautiful game’ flow, with minimal disruption from video technology and the like. But the beauty in the game is being corroded by the cheating and underhand habits of many players. The word of the referee is final, yet it is virtually impossible for one many to cover 7,000 square yards of a football field, and keep an eye on 22 players at the same time.
Help the referee to do his job better, so that the game is fairer, and the excessive fouling and cheating can be quashed. If the 4th official can see on a video monitor that the referee has missed something, then he can inform him. Does Sepp Blatter really think that it is OK to allow a clear goal, as shown on the big video display (by mistake) to be disallowed because the referee did not happen to be on the goal line to see if it had crossed the line? The same referee had to look up at the screen and see his mistake, but was even then not allowed to change his mind – video is a no-no in decision making.
I have discussed this before, but it is becoming a chronic problem now, and urgently needs action. A fabulous and extremely easy to administer first step would be to remove from the field for 15 minutes each player who receives a yellow card. In the sin-bin. The punishment then has an immediate impact on the game – a yellow card has only a small psychological effect (the avoidance of another). And one more change, for good measure – to explain to referees that allowing fouls in the early stages of a game to go unpunished so as to keep the game flowing is not right! A foul perpetrated in the 1st minute of the game should be punished with a yellow or red card. If it is not, as now? Then it gives licence to players to intimidate their opponents at the start of a game. It sends a message that misbehaviour will be ignored for a while.