Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Monday 15 March 2010

Formula One & Rugby Union. The Boring sports

I don't know about you but I was disappointed with the first race of the formula one series from Bahrain. It was more a procession than a race. They have tinkered with the rules and regulations over successive seasons and now they have come up with a formula that will satisfy no one. In truth the most exciting part of the weekend was the qualifying on the Saturday. With the top teams so close in performance it is difficult to devise a series that encourages newcomers to enter into this very expensive sport but unless they do, I fear that fans will turn away, preferring to spend their money on more exciting pursuits such as snail fighting. They will no doubt try to introduce artificial devices to create dramas but in reality the fans want a straight race between drivers and their cars; overtaking and high speed duelling between combatants. For a few minutes during the race last Sunday I wished it was raining so as to take the cocky drivers out of their comfort zone, for that is surely the problem.

The races are so anodyne; so free of risk that they've lost all of the excitement. Why do people apparently flock to see cage fighting; because they want to see sport in the raw, unhindered by artificial and safety conscious rules that remove the spirit of the contest.
I quite like the idea of racing over a figure of eight circuit with a cross roads and conflicting traffic at one point. The drama would be intense; driver skill tested to the limit and teamwork crucial if the car is to successfully negotiate the bottleneck. The design restrictions of the cars could be relaxed, allowing manufacturers to decide their best strategies, leading to different looking racing cars that don't look as if they've all been cloned.

Rugby Union is another sport that has also lost its way. I can remember the excitement of the Home Internationals when I was younger; the eager anticipation of a passion filled contests between the four countries that comprised the United Kingdom and Ireland and France. I remember with joy the match day traditions, shared at home with close friends, with the bangers and mash lunch, the beers and the guess the match scores competition.
Now the teams include an Italian side that have only won a couple of ties in the last few years. They make up the numbers but it has been embarrassing at times. Again tinkering with the rules has left fans at a loss to understand what is going on and to even ask what they are doing there, witnessing a kicking contest of limited interest. Professionalism has brought an increase in skills but seemingly insurmountable problems of policing the physical contact areas of the ruck and mauls. At each occasion the referee can blow his whistle for any number of infringements and it's a lottery as to which one he chooses. At scrums, free kicks seem to be awarded on a alternate favour basis as the set pieces take longer and longer to complete. How long will it be before Twickenham matches involving Italy will be half full? The last match at Murrayfield produced no tries, in a
match dominated by inconsequential play. How many spectators went home wishing they'd stayed at home and saved their money?
How would I change it? Well this kicking match has to be stemmed. The game is a kicking and passing game but essentially what we want to see is a running with ball in hand game.
Kicking directly into touch from inside the 22 should be stopped.
Allowing players to call for a mark can now scrapped with more stringent policing of the tackling a player in the air law.
To stop the kicking game I propose that a player cannot kick beyond the half way line. If the ball goes into touch beyond the half way line, the throw in is taken on the half way line. If the ball is kicked beyond the half way line and stays in play, then the opposing team can put in to a scrum on the half way mark. At each offence the referee can allow play to continue if advantage could be gained by the team not offending.
Scrums should be better regulated to stop the nonsense of the set piece taking two minutes to accomplish.

If these two sports have lost some of their appeal through law changes and increased professionalism, then soccer's Premier League has gone from strength to strength. No new laws and a passion that often makes games seem like a gladiatoral contest have taken the interest in the game to global levels. Liverpool and the Manchester clubs are followed all over the world. I can see in the future problems for funding through advertising for both Formula One and Rugby Union unless they come up with a definitive set of rules and stick to them.

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