Monday, June 07, 2004

10 Ways of Improving the Spectacle of Soccer

The last time I spent any extended time in Britain the whole country was in the grip of World Cup fever. I now fear the entire place is about to come down with an even more virulent bout of a related disease. I have nothing against sport. I’m an avid fan of NBA basketball, women’s tennis, and beach volleyball. Like any man, I’ve spent a good portion of my life in front of the TV cheering on my teams. But soccer (as we call it in the States) bores the pants off me. There are simply not enough goals. I’ve been giving this problem a lot of thought over the last few years and have come up with some solutions.

Here are ten ways of making soccer a greater spectacle. Some of these suggestions (1 through 3) are direct borrowings from US sports, including (3) which is taken from the US Major League Soccer. Other suggestions (5 through 8) are designed to hobble the defence and, in particular, goalkeepers, the bane of the modern game. Limit their ability to make saves, and we could always enjoy high-scoring matches. The last three suggestions (8 through 10) do not involve changes to the rules of the game, but aim only to spice things up a little for the TV audience.

1. A 30 Second Rule.
2. Abolish offsides outside the penalty area.
3. Shoot-outs rather than penalties to ensure that each game has a winner.
4. Extend the goal posts two meters.
5. Require goalkeepers to remain on their line throughout the entire game.
6. Mandatory Head-Cams for Goalies
7. Make all players forming “a wall” place both hands on their heads until the kick is taken.
8. Abolish half-time.
9. Topless cheerleaders.
10. Bottomless goalscorers—players ought to celebrate by taking off their shorts rather than their shirts.


A number of my correspondents have asked me to clarify further the reasoning behind some of the improvements I suggested in an earlier post. I'm happy to oblige:

1. A Thirty Second Rule

As in basketball, this rule forces a team to do something with the ball within a certain period of time of gaining possession. This rule would stop a team simply passing the ball laterally all afternoon. It would make for a snappier, more attacking game. Perhaps, given the fact that a football pitch is bigger than a basketball court, a one minute rule might work better. But these picky details can be worked out later.

2. Offsides in the Penalty Box Only

Try and ask a Brit to explain off-sides, it's like asking them to explain tipping: they haven't got a clue. Sure they can repeat to you the rule. But they don't know why it exists. As far as I can tell, it's to stop "goal poaching." It prevents a striker from standing in front of the goalkeeper the entire game and making a general pest of himself. Granted that this actually is a problem--and I can't personally see that it is--then offsides ought to apply only in the penalty box. This would create more space in the midfield and stop the annoying "offsides trap." I don't know the history of the offsides rule, but I suspect it was implemented by an organization of goalkeepers to further keep down the number of goals.

3 AND 4--These are no brainers; no further explanation of their advantages are necessary.

5. Require Goalkeepers to stay on their line the entire game.

This simply extends the requirement that goalkeepers are under when facing a penalty. If goal keepers had to stand on their line the entire game, they would be unable to narrow the angle when facing strikers. This would likely increase quite considerably the number of goals in any match.

6. Require Goalkeepers to Wear Head-Cams

This suggestion has the merit of both increasing the number of goals and enhancing the pleasure of the TV audience. Goalkeepers never head the ball, so requiring them to wear head-cams--in the form of something like old miner's helmets--would not be too much of an imposition. Perhaps the head-cam would limit their mobility, but that's no loss. It simply means more goals. The TV audience would enjoy seeing penalties, corners, and free kicks from the goalkeepers' perspective. This suggestion should be implemented as soon as possible.

7. Require Players in the Wall to Keep their Hands on their Heads Until the Free Kick is taken.

Like a number of the earlier suggestion, this rule-change, which would be quite easy to enforce, is designed to hobble the defence. This rule would make the defending players much more reticent when facing a free kick in front of goal. Not only would players be unwilling even to form a wall, but they would likely turn their backs or dive to the floor when the free-kick is taken. The

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