Sport Comment: Why won’t football learn lessons from rugby?

John Inverdale
THIS week’s column is the proverbial record that’s got stuck, for which apologies, but it’s a pretty safe bet it’s going to get re-written a fair few times in the future until things change. When will football, wonderful arrogant football, admit it can learn a few lessons from other sports?

Having taken an eternity to adopt goal-line technology, this week’s subject is retrospective citing of players for foul play or cheating.

The case study is Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham, who, depending on your point of view, may or may not through duplicitous means have done everything in his power to get Fernando Torres of Chelsea sent off at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho played the martyr afterwards, saying Vertonghen’s over-acting was the sort of thing foreign players should learn not to do when in England. While conveniently overlooking Arjen Robben’s many years of Tom Daley-esque displays at Stamford Bridge, his anger was understandable, and repeated endlessly by supporters from a raft of clubs on evening phone-ins.

So if a system was in operation whereby Chelsea could cite the Spurs player for conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the game and, after a hearing, Vertonghen found himself banned for three matches, might this not bring an end to simulation?

The disciplinary panel would be busy at first, but after that players would appreciate the short-term gain of winning a penalty or getting an opponent booked would be offset by sitting on the sidelines. What is it about a practice that works perfectly well in both codes of rugby that football seems so steadfastly opposed to? Is it because the beautiful game didn’t think of it first?

There are other idiocies, such as not having a running clock for the match, and stopping it for injuries and substitutions, so that the fourth official stands like a lemon with a board indicating an arbitrary amount of added time. But that is for another time. For now, let’s just settle on retrospective citing. Is there one good reason not to introduce it?