Ben Burgess column: Good ideas and bad in the FA rulebook

Ben Burgess
Ben Burgess

This week I stumbled on an interesting release from the FA; it wasn’t about their shocking treatment of Eni Aluko and the whole debacle around the England Lions team.

It wasn’t even about their awful record of hiring inadequate managers for the men’s team.

It was, in fact, about the state of the beautiful game at the grass roots level. The very same level that both the FA and the Premier League have neglected for numerous years when it came to sharing out the pot of gold – TV money – at the end of the proverbial rainbow.

That’s why local grassroots sides are left with inadequate facilities to play their games on.

That’s why, in winter, children can go weeks without a game because their ground is swamped and there is no all-weather facility.

That’s why volunteers/parents have to give up their valuable time to run a team at considerable expense.

I’m off my soapbox now, so back to the FA’s 12 rules.

Some seem like a great idea, while others appear to have been designed by someone who has never seen a football match.

I agree completely with silent sidelines for spectators. Many times from my own experiences and from observing kids’ football nowadays there are far too many comments being directed at the players.

Some of those are angry and aggressive from frustrated parents; some are trying to be supportive and helpful; others, like “Get rid of it!” and “Smash it!”, go completely against the grain of what the coach is trying to achieve.

Where I disagree is on the no instruction rule for coaches. In an ideal world the children will be able to solve problems that arise during a game, but that will only apply to a select bunch of kids.

It’s akin to me asking the children in my class to solve some complex maths problems without any input from myself.

We don’t ask children to read a book before they have the phonics base to help them.

Problem solving is practically impossible without a knowledge base and experience to draw from.

I agree with the ‘Retreat line rule’, which would encourage children to play out from the goalkeeper without the threat of an instant interception.

The ‘Power play rule’ is also an excellent addition, which allows teams to add a player when they go four goals behind.

This works because the ‘losing’ side will instantly be in a stronger position, while the ‘winning’ team will be challenged and have to think and work harder to overcome a more difficult obstacle.

The craziest proposed rule has to be ‘No slide tackling’. The excuse for this proposal is that they are deemed dangerous on medical grounds.

It’s a contact sport, so there will always be a certain element of danger. Slide tackling, like tackling in general, is a dying art and an important skill to learn.

What would be next? No kicking the ball hard in case it smacks someone in the face? Play with foam balls because they’re softer?

Blackpool’s game against high-flying Wigan Athletic last weekend certainly had tackles and slide tackles, although it proved just one step too far for Gary Bowyer’s young team.

They did take the lead but Wigan’s quality and experience soon took over.

The Seasiders still find themselves in a good league position and have a game in hand on sides above them.

Bowyer will be aware that his side will have ups and downs this season because they haven’t quite got the squad depth of Blackburn Rovers or Wigan.