Words by Danny Brown
When you ask most people to think rugby league, they think grim Northern towns, big blokes with anger issues and a weirdly-shaped football being lobbed about a muddy field. And to be fair, they’re not far wrong. Where’s the intricate skill moves, careful possession play and midfield masterfulness seen in The Beautiful Game™?
However, as a football lad who lives with a pair of diehard rugby league fans, you can’t help noticing there’s a couple of things their game actually does pretty well. With that in mind, here’s five things that football could learn from rugby league (based on the opinion of someone who knows f*ck all about it). Enjoy!
A simple one to start off with. In rugby league, whenever a team needs to form a scrum or kick a drop out, a big clock in the stadium ticks down from a set time limit. If a team fails to perform the action within time limit, they get penalised. Simple, and means the game gets back underway with minimum fuss.
Where we’d want to see this in football is in that annoying situation when your team is 1-0 down late on and the opposition keeper is doing everything he can to piss away vital seconds at every goal kick. Stick a massive f*ck off clock behind him and see just how quickly the ball gets punted down the other end. Lovely stuff.
Another fairly straightforward one, but one that would solve the age-old mystery of how injury time is actually calculated in football. Seriously, how does four goals, two injuries, a red card, pitch invasion and an earthquake still seem to only chalk up just 3 minutes when the fourth official’s board goes up at the end of the game? It’s barmy.
In rugby, the length of the game tends to be easier to trace. The ball goes out of play, the clock is stopped. When the ball comes back in, the clock starts again. The whistle goes at the end of the match and there’s no need for any mysterious added time. So easy even Danny Murphy could understand it (maybe).
Just like in football, red and yellow cards are a thing in rugby. Red means you’re off, yellow is a warning, pretty standard. However, there’s one big difference. When shown a yellow card in rugby, a player is also sent to the sin bin meaning they must leave the pitch and watch on for the next 10 minutes.
The main criticism of yellow cards in football would be that they don’t do a right lot. How many times have you seen a midfielder craftily leg up his opponent during a promising break, just to casually shrug off the resulting yellow card. Add a sin bin into the mix and a feisty five minutes could see the most boring of games turned on it’s head, and we’re here for it.
Ahh, VAR. That magical thing football fans either love or hate (sometimes both within the same game). It’s fair to say it’s introduction in England has been patchy at best. Rugby’s had a video ref for a while now and they’ve got it it running pretty smoothly. And with a few tweaks, video reffing could be great in the Prem.
For objective decisions (offsides, balls going out of play etc.), VAR should definitely be used. Someone, somewhere, takes a look, tells the ref and he can make the right decision. But subjective calls (penalties, red cards) are just that, subjective. By all means, use VAR to take a look if the ref didn’t see it first time but other than that, leave it. Big fan of the mid-air-rectangle-drawing hand signal though.
Now if there’s one thing that should make it’s way over from rugby league to football, it’s this. The A-League decided to mic up one of it’s refs for his last ever game in Australia the other week and it’s fascinating. If you’ve not watched it yet, I seriously suggest you do. However, insight into the referee’s decisions isn’t the sole reason why this would be great.
When you talk Premier League referees, only one man comes to mind. Mr Celebrity Referee himself Mike Dean. As if the over-the-top facial expressions, no-look yellow cards and acrobatic free kick signals he gets up to now aren’t entertainment enough, imagine the David Brent-eque comments that would go along with them. “I’d think of myself as a friend first, ref second. Probably an entertainer third.” Keep doing you Dean-O.