Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to make football better by adepting rugby rules?

Football and rugby are come from the same origin, so I think both kinds of game can learn from each other in terms of rules. Now football games are more intense than last 10 years, so I think football should adept and improve the rules in order to make it better. I think we should learn from rugby because some rugby rules are designed very well for the football game.

Sin bin: In rugby, the referee has the right to "sin bin" the player, that is, suspend the player for 10 minutes. When a rugby player receives a yellow card, that means "sin bin", he needs to be suspended for 10 minutes. If the remaining time is less than 10 minutes before halftime, the player will be suspended the remaining time in second half. If the remaining time is less than 10 minutes before fulltime, that means the team is shorthanded until the end of the match. Since football games are more intense and more personal fouls, sin bin can make the players calm down when he is suspended. More importantly, as the player knows the team will be suffered by his personal foul, he will be less reckless. For the fans, we can see more tactical moves for both teams in that 10 minutes as the shorthanded team will try to avoid goals and the other team try to score goals.

Blood bin: Blood bin in rugby means when the player is bleeding, or is injured, he will go out of the field to receive treatment. Unlike football, replacement is allowed and that replacement will not be counted to be the usual substitution. In other words, when the injured player has received the treatment and available to play again, he can come back to the field and the replacement player can be also available for the other substitution. Football players also get injured, no matter it is real or not, it takes lot of time, so blood bin can assure the game flow as well as avoiding the team to be shorthanded at the injury moment.

Video referee: There are lots of arguments since World Cup 1966, when England scored the controversial goal and won against West Germany in the final. I do agree with the video referee, but there is a condition. Similar as the rugby union (coz rugby league sometimes abuse the video referee), the referee should have a decision and the video referee is the assistant to the referee. The video referee can be implemented ONLY under the condition related to the goal, that is, ONLY the situation of the ball crossing the line or not, and the video referee shouldn't be used in the situation of deciding offsides. Video referee can confirm the ref's call, making the correct call otherwise, and to be inconclusive. If the video referee is inconclusive, the referee's decision is the final decision. It can avoid the goal line controversy.

Time offs: This is the most important. The mentioned 3 changes must be supported by time offs. The referee can stop the game clock under the situation of the player is injured, players lose control and starting a brawl, and the goal line controversies. For example, Chelsea's Petr Cech was collided with the Wigan player and made Cech concussed 2 seasons ago. The match had delayed for about 10 minutes and even the referee had 8 minutes injury time before halftime, it is still unfair to Chelsea I believe. Time offs can also the good solution to the time wasting. Players fake their injury in order to waste more time if the team is leading. I agree time wasting is a tactic, but I'm not asking for being fake. If the player is injured, stop the clock and take their time to receive the treatment. However, one thing is important is, the match will not have injury time. When rugby reach the end of the game, the referee will only allow the trailing team one last play for them to level the match, if they fail to do so, the match is over. Football can learn from this, only giving the trailing team one last play and make the match better in game flows and to be more fair.

Sometimes I agree to that quote - Football is a gentlemen's game played by ruffians and rugby is a ruffian's game played by gentlemen. I want the football game to be more fair then now, so I want some major rules change in order to make it happen.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hong Kong Football - what is the way out? (Part II)

Last time I have shared a bit about the problem of the Hong Kong football, now I would like to share with you about the way out. First, I would like to share with you some suggested solutions from the people around Hong Kong.

Some people said Hong Kong should form up a representative team to participate in the league in China, but I don't agree. Yes, technically it is possible and the "national" team of Hong Kong can still remain, like the relationship between Australia in New Zealand in A-League. What I don't agree is the stakeholders. Clubs in Hong Kong are the major stakeholders in any changes in the league, so they will protect their interest at all costs. Some people suggest those clubs can be the feeder club to that representative team, but this movement has already drastically affect their interest. Some people also said the league in Hong Kong can stay remained when the representative team is formed. Well, the clubs' interests are affected again as the league and the team position in the Hong Kong football industry will be very embarrassed. Imagine their investment to the team is vanished at a night, will they support the change? I don't think so. If forming up the representative team to play in China, clubs in Hong Kong will be downgraded and it will end up with intense internal fight within the area in Hong Kong. So, I don't think it is possible.

Some people said we should set up the regional team to compete in the existing league. I think this is a good suggestion, it can solve the problem of the lacking of sense of belonging. There is a region in Hong Kong, called Tai Po, they have a representative team to play the league in Hong Kong and they use the ground there as their home court. The strong base of community support can stimulate the attendance of the match and create the long term support to the team, as well as the league. However, the down side is the advantage is limited in the regional area. If you are not living in that area, you are not going to support the team. So yes, this is the good idea, but it is limited in terms of geographical pattern.

Some people also said asking for more government support. Well, I'm not going to disagree this suggestion, the government can provide the resources that every corporation can't match. However, as the previous said, the government seemed they were not going to keep support the football industry as they don't think they can get the money back quickly. So the support from the government is not reliable and I predict the outcome is not that well.

So, what's my suggestion?

I suggest to reform the league system, franchising is my final goal. As the relegation system is unofficially dead, we should make it official. Eliminate the relegation system and make the existing team in the top flight be one of the franchisees. The advantage is it can stabilize the participated teams regularly and prevent the threads of the effects after relegation, as it will affect the finance of the teams. On the other hand, the league should introduce the playoffs to replace the relegation matches, so there will be more matches to play as well as to make the league to be more intense. I believe the core change of the league system is the competetion level. There is not necessarily to purchase former stars to the team as it will bring lots of financial burden to the team. Therefore, changing the league system is better and more economical choice. Like A-League in Australia, even there was stars to play for that league, such as Romario, the more attracting factor to attract the crowd is the league competition and sense of belongings. Hong Kong can learn from this.

Even I support Germany as my very first choice, I still support the football in Hong Kong. I can't say I'm a hardcore Hong Kong fan, I do hope one day the football in Hong Kong to be strong again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hong Kong Football - what is the way out? (Part I)

Days ago the old arugment of Hong Kong football had been started again. The chairman of South China, which is the biggest and most successful club in Hong Kong, Kit-sing Lo, commented the rival club, Rangers, should be relegated according to the underacheiving result. You may feel that it makes sense, right? But if I tell you the relegation system has unofficially dead, and South China had escaped the releegation 2 years ago because they were the biggest and most successful club, what do you think?

People in Hong Kong really love football - they watch league games all over Europe every midnight. Just count the match schedule of ours. Friday, German Bundesliga match, Saturday and Sunday, league matches all over Europe, Monday, English Premier League (sometimes they have Monday night football), and Dutch league, Tuesday and Wednesday, Champions League, Thursday, UEFA Cup, then back to German Bundesliga in Friday! However, why people in Hong Kong don't watch their own football? I would like to share my point of view here in terms of the problems of the domestic league.

Problem 1 - No investment: Comparing with last 15 years, there was not many people would like to put money into the football industry. This is because they believed this industry in Hong Kong would not gain profit. In fact, yes. This is the main reason why Hong Kong football is declining. As the result of without investment, the league in Hong Kong was not able to attract big name players to play in Hong Kong, or retain the talent in the foobtall industry. Some of the football players in Hong Kong quited the football career because they simply didn't have enough salary to keep themselves survive even. So talents all went away. Kit-sing Lo is the exception, he put lots of money to invest South China after acquiring it 2 seasons ago. Is it enough? No, we need more.

Problem 2 - Without sense of belonging: It all happened all over South East Asia I believe. Asian people support the teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, Milan, etc. are because the various reasons, but not because they feel they belong to that place. Can you see why those people support their own team? This is because they feel they belong to that place, so they support the team wholeheartedly. This is one of the main reasons that the local football in Hong Kong declined. People in Hong Kong don't know about the big names in their own team, and even don't know there is a team around his region. So how can we expect them to watch the game? They know stars in all over the world, it is OK, but they don't care the teams around them, this is the core problem.

Problem 3 - Where is the Government support?: Since the Hong Kong Government had decided to hold an equestrian event instead of football, I personally felt the government had already given up Hong Kong football entirely. Years ago the government had already stopped the support to the football section in the Hong Kong Sports Institute, I personally felt very disappointed and now, even given up to hold an event! It was not enough to invite the big teams to play in Hong Kong every year, I should say it is not a support to Hong Kong football, it is a gimmick indeed. I rather prefer to put that money into the training and support to the football players than inviting those stars to Hong Kong.

Problem 4 - Rotted system: Who will watch the match when you know the whole league is not fair? Frankly South China should have relegated 2 seasons ago, no matter how big the impact is. This is the fair of the game. Now the relegated team do not need to be relegated because of the "special reasons". This time Rangers I mentioned above would like to stay in top flight because they have different sponsor and would like to use the different name to compete next season. Kit-sing Lo was very unhappy about it, but, he seemed to be forgotten what happened to his team 2 seasons ago. The whole league system has beed rotted long ago. So facing this situation, people like me won't watch the game.

Hong Kong was the strongest region (we are not a country, so we call region) in Asia in 1970s to 80s. However, since the uprise of Japan and Korea as well as the prolong decline of Hong Kong, now Hong Kong is the second tier all over Asia, and have a great distance to the strongest nations such as Australia, Japan, and Korea. It is very disappointing indeed and solutions are urgently implemented.