Let’s introduce injury bins and close-of-play hooters. And can we ban fans, usually young ones, from begging for a shirts?
- Player of the season | Manager of the season | Match of the season | Signing of the season | Young player of the season | Flop of the season
There is a coming-together on the pitch, perhaps two players rising to contest a high ball or a player on the run being dispossessed by a sliding challenge. One, whose team are leading, stays down. He appears to be in pain. The physio is beckoned on and kneels over his man to administer treatment. After a while the ailing player is helped to his feet and is led, limping gingerly and wincing in apparent agony, from the field. But it is as if an invisible, all-healing forcefield rings the pitch, because the moment he hobbles across the white line he spins and demands to return to the fray. The referee waves him on and he sprints back to his position, suddenly in rude health. Attempting to deceive the referee by feigning injury is a bookable offence, for unsporting behaviour, but in these circumstances it is absolutely never punished, and not only does this tactic steal chunks of action from almost every match it often interrupts the flow, divesting teams of momentum. It is, in short, cheating, and annoying. Unless officials can properly enforce the law concerning unsporting behaviour, even retrospectively, another option is required. So how about giving each stricken player 60 seconds to get on with play, after which – unless they are bleeding, in which case they are already forced off the pitch for as long as it takes to stem the flow – they are obliged to leave the field for a period of no less than five minutes. You never know, the idea of placing your team at a numerical advantage might prove to have surprising restorative powers.