Football gets its Hawkeye

January 8, 2018
WG Grace
This week, football’s new video assessment system reaches cup competitions in England. Will we learn from experiences in other sports?
Technology was accepted for lines-calls in tennis some years ago. It has also been introduced into cricket, and Rugby (both codes). LWD followed the emergence of Hawkeye in tennis, and one post has been studied as a business leadership case.
The changes were mostly accepted, perhaps grudgingly from those with a yearning for the romance of earlier days. Football now seems likely to follow a similar trajectory of initial controversy followed by eventual acceptance. There will almost certainly be learning from experience.
The new football system has been tested in Italy for around a hundred matches. It seems that the video referee is called into action in about 25% of matches. This is in contrast to the approach followed by rugby, when the hold-ups are incessant, and where referees are now conditioned to check every possible infringement,or point-scoring opportunity.
Tennis and cricket have opted for a limited number of player appeals. The approaches has been linked to spectator involvement following the game on large viewing screens, and rather naff graphics in cricket.
The problem I see is a concern by official bodies to obtain the ‘technically correct’ decision. This may be influenced by the financial swings hanging on a single decision.  In tennis, this means the evidence for a ball being hit in (including on) the line, or outside the line. The technology tends to be trusted to a precision that is not possible for the human eye of even the best umpires. A similar state of affairs holds in cricket where the technology reveals the slightest of contact with ball on bat, which would influence a decision for caught or LBW (out for the ball striking the player’s pads according to complex rules known as leg before wicket).
The current systems reduce uncertainties of human error to plausible ‘right or wrong’ decisions.  We are not quite at the limits of uncertainty according to the scientific principle formulated by Heisenberg, but not precise enough to make practical debate futile.
A better way?
There is a modification to this approach which seems better to me. The technology could be used to avoid obvious errors, rather than resolve minuscule quibbles over the slightest of touches of a ball on a bat, or whether  a ball has gone beyond the line (of a football or tennis playing area , or marginally forward in a passing sequence in rugby (one of the game’s delights cut short too often at present.)
Will the new system being introduced resolve controversy about decisions by the officials? Not according to one Italian expert describing their footballing experience. Are the fans happy? Only if the decision is in their team’s favour, he replied with a sigh.

Premiership wins a license to print money, but who profits?

June 2, 2016

Claudio Ranieri

While international success continues to elude English football clubs, its Premiership has acquired a license to print money. But who profits from it?

Next month, the European Football Championships begins.  Of the so-called home nations, England, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, and Wales have all qualified. Scotland, riding high politically in its efforts to make a break with the rest of the United Kingdom, continue the Brexit process by making a break from qualifying this time around.

In a league of its own

But financially as well as literally, England is in a league of its own. The Premiership continues to strengthen its economic prospects. This is rather strange, as its success is not matched by the performance of its international team, or of its Premiership big hitters. In recent years these have been Manchester United, joined by billionaire backed Chelsea, together with the Mancunian noisy neighbours City, and the well-heeled Gunners of Arsenal.

Even the iron rule of ‘big bucks rule’ broke down this season, with the thousand to one outsiders of Leicester winning the premiership. [Manager Claudio Ranieri pictured above.]

What is happening? Where will it all end?

Deloitte, a financial organization, takes a favourable view. The future is bright.

This is based on financial projections. As another commentator remarked,

Football is the global sport.  Interest is still growing. The Premiership is the hottest football franchise of all, with huge TV rights, sponsorship, and is increasingly attractive to all vut a few of the the top players.

As with the current EU debate, the argument could be contested, but it carries some weight. Football Premiership style is fast and exciting. It is also technically rather flaky, and more physically demanding than other top leagues such as those in Spain and Germany.  The recent results in the top team competition, The Champions League, confirm this point.

The Leadership Question

On the leadership front, the general position is that top clubs seek out the top international coaches.  Manchester City has moved to obtain Pep Guadiola to add the final piece to the jigsaw puzzle to become world beaters.

The response from Manchester United was to hire the self-styled special one Jose Mourinho to nullify any competitive advantage.

A great coach might be a necessary ingredient for success. Necessary but not sufficient.  And a coach may achieve great results with fewer resources than the competition.  Jurgen Klopp (now galvanizing Liverpool, and Mourinho started his rise to fame that way, as did Brian Clough a generation earlier, and arguably the great Sir Alex Ferguson, whose shadow Jose now has to step away from. Such a coach will attract and retain the key match winning players also needed.

 


Steve Cram: “We appoint the leaders we deserve”

November 12, 2015

Steve CramNearly ten years ago, the first Leaders We Deserve post was published. Steve Cram suggests its relevance to the current problems of international sporting institutions

Hours after the monumental Press Conference and publication of WADA’s report [9 October 2015] Steve Cram gave his views on the crisis in sports management globally. He was asked why the whole situation had been allowed to go on unchecked. He replied that he was over fifty years old and had been living with drug doping since he was a young (and world-beating) athlete. We are all involved, he added. Media, athletes, administrators … we appointed them, we get the leaders we deserve.

Steve Cram gave a video interview [10 October 2015] in which he elaborated on his earlier remarks:

Cram says “we are all to blame” for allowing people “not up to scratch” to get into powerful positions in world sport, but believes that IAAF president Lord Coe is the man to enact change within athletics.

For those interested, the ABOUT box on our home page traces the conversations with subscribers since the blog started in 2016 and introduces its basic ideas:

The concept behind the Blog’s title is that leadership can be treated as a social concept. We create our leaders, and to some degree build them up and destroy them. In that sense, we are responsible for the influence that leaders exercise over the rest of us. If we understand more about this, we may better understand and mediate the behaviour of leaders (In very early discussion thread, someone rightly pointed out the importance of clarifying ‘who are the ‘we’ in all this).

My previous studies had been mainly of business leaders, but I could see how there could be some similarities, and some differences, in the leadership stories in other fields, such as politics, military and sporting endeavours.

 


IAAF upstages FIFA as a case study of leadership challenges

November 9, 2015

IAAF

Move over FIFA, make way for the IAAF, which braced itself on Monday [9 November 2015] for an explosive independent report set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

UPDATES WILL BE PROVIDED REGULARLY AT THE END OF THE ORIGINAL POST

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George Osborne and Joe Root strengthen their cases as future national leaders

July 12, 2015

This week two leaders and their possible successors were tested. Alistair Cook opened the batting for England in Cardiff, and David Cameron started for the Government at Westminster

Here are my notes made at the time, [8th July 2015] which have been slightly edited for clarity purposes.

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England v Australia Cricket Preview: Boycott v Morgan

February 13, 2015

Eoin Morgan

A day before the start of the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand Geoffrey Boycott provides a typically dismissive critique of the competence of the recently appointed England captain Eoin Morgan

Morgan, according to Boycott is “not as good a batsman as he thinks he is”, adding that maybe he is not even as good a batsman as other people think he is (excluding the prescient Boycott, naturally).

Why?

It is not difficult to come up with an explanation for Boycott’s remarks. Since retiring from Cricket, he has become a successful commentator known for his portrayal of a stereotype forthright Yorkshire man, never slow to articulate his opinions on the stupidity of others who might be tempted to offer alternative views.

This is probably a matter of calculated style, honed on the sports after-dinner circuit, where a certain kind of blokeish humour is almost obligatory. The exceptions are those with the languidness of the privileged classes who dominate Cricket’s elite, and who remain among Geoffrey’s bitterest targets for scorn and abuse.

I don’t think Boycott chooses a target just in order to be controversial. He is often making an intelligent point in his well-crafted remarks. He is more than intelligent enough to realize that he himself is now patronized in a tokenistic and school-boyish way by his fellow-commentators who tend to refer to him as ‘Sir’ Geoffrey.

The run maker

Geoffrey Boycott broke countless records as an England opening batsman. His self-obsession also explains why is ranked among the most inept of captains, although there is much competition for that title.

As a batsman, Boycott was seen as a consummate accumulator of runs, placing his own average above any other consideration. He was tolerated by players and public rather than liked, grudgingly accepted for the occasions when his self-obsession worked to the team’s advantage.

The Captain

Unsurprisingly, Boycott thought he would make a jolly good captain of the England cricket team, better than the public school oiks who always got the nod over him. Unfortunately, the temperament that helped him accumulate all those runs did not serve him well as captain.

To borrow from his own words, Geoffrey was not as good a captain as he thought he would be, and maybe not even as good a captain as other people thought he would be.

Notes:

 Top Image is of Eoin Morgan, from Wikipedia, looking disturbingly like former England captain Alistair Cook, seen here, also from Wikipedia.Alistair Cook


Deflate Gate: It’s just not cricket?

January 27, 2015

WG GraceIn the run-up to the Superbowl, New England Patriots stand accused of ball tampering. Cricket followers are also all too aware of the catalogue of dastardly tricks to claim a competitive advantage

American Football is shaken to the core by the discovery that match balls during a National Football League Game appeared to have been tampered with.

Shock horror. Accusations are made that The New England Patriots had deliberate deflated the balls. This gives more grip for a star quarterback like Tom Brady to make a winning throw. Cries of Deflate Gate are heard, followed by denials of wrong-doing from Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriot, Coach Belickick and players.

“It’s not Cricket”

On hearing the news, my first thought was the parallel with that most traditional sport of Cricket. Tales of ball-tampering to gain an advantage have periodically outraged the authorities, as bowlers are caught out doctoring the ball. “It’s not Cricket” is a cry which is used in England as a cultural short-hand for cheating in any walk of life. Playing cricket embodies a set of ancient and noble amateur values that are even more fiercely guarded as professionalism invades the sport.

The dilemma

The dilemma might be expressed as this: cheating in professional sport is unacceptable but necessary.

Staying with cricket, I can remember the various ways, some creative some crude, in which the bowler helps the cricket ball to spin, swerve, bounce so as to deceive the batsman. The captain of the England cricket team is regarded as the epitome of fair play, but one struggled once in recent times with accusations that he had led his team into play with a pocketful of dirt to scuff up the ball.

Dishing the dirt

A brilliant report for Hutchinson News [URL not available] starting with the NFL, goes on to dish more dirt on foul play in cricket (‘zipper gate’) rugby union, (‘Wilkigate’), Tennis (‘fluffigate’), and Baseball (‘spittigate’).

Does it matter?

Obviously it matters to those outraged or ostracized by a cheating scandal. And beyond the often pompous and self-righteous outbursts lurkc a cultural truth. Sport embodies ancient values of honestly and fairness that are tested by equally ancient human needs to win at all costs.

Update

In my research, I found the splendid image of W G Grace, an early heroic figure and superstar shown above. Gloucestershire archives tell of his blatant bad sportsmanship which seems to have been condoned.

See also the continued story of the NFL deflategate as Sunday’s Superbowl approaches.


Andy Murray v Yuri Bhambri : Cave-man tactics and their limitations in sport and maybe in business

January 19, 2015

Caveman

When a qualifier meets a top seeded tennis player, sometimes caveman tactics result. We review Andy Murray’s march with Yuri Bhambri, and consider the implications of all-out aggression in other sports and in business

The start of the Australian Open, the first major of the season. Somewhat against my better judgment, I get up in the small hours in the UK to see how Andy Murray is doing. His opponent, Yuki Bhambri, is a qualifier and ranked 317 in the world.

1st set

Half an hour into the match. Bhambri’s aggression is impressive. Murray breaks Bhambri’s serve but failed to capitalise, being broken himself, ringing the first set to a tense four games all. Murray then breaks and holds to take the set 6-4.

Both players are making excellent winners, but both are rather prone to unforced errors..

2nd set

Bhambri serves first and holds. A discordant but enthusiastic chant rises up from tee-shirted Murray supporters. In the next game, good defense from the Indian draws errors from Murray, but the Scot’s resolve helps him survive; 1-1.

Bhambri continues with his aggressive style of play and wins service after more winners and errors. Murray replies with a love game bringing it to 2-2. Bhambri is still the aggressor and seems to be benefiting from winning though three rounds of qualifiers Murray breaks, then holds, making it 5-3.

Take out the errors…

Minus a few errors from each game, the quality of the match is more suited to be a second week tie. An edited film would be misleading. The commentators suggest Bhambri is playing like a top fifty player.

Defend Rally Attack

Murray continues to plays rather defensively with flashes of brilliance. I remember the coaching maxim: Defend Rally Attack. Murray too inclined to defend and Rally; Bhambri too inclined to go from defend to attack. This is evident again as Murray moves to 40-15. In returning, the all out attack opens up court, higher risk [one attacking return forces Murray to attack not rally, and he hits winner down the line. Murray wins serve reasonably easily and takes the set.

0nce the pattern is seen, it becomes clearer. Bhambri does not rally enough. I think of chess. All-out attack is the weaker player’s weapon which too often accelerates defeat, although the infrequent wins reinforces the pattern of ‘cave man’ play. [which suggests another idea: the infrequent upsets against seeds more obvious in first rounds, more chances for the cave man play to succeed.

Third set

A good example in first game of third set, when Bhambri grabs an ad point then a net point for him wins game and a break. Murray continues to rally and wait for errors. The pattern for me seems to persist but Bhambri wins and extends lead to 4-1. Murray wins own serve. 4-2. Pattern persists, and Murray breaks back. 4-4 and eventually into tie break.

Prediction for tie break

My prediction is that failure to Defend Rally Attack more dangerous in the tie break Murray goes to 5-2 then 6-2 and 6-3 but two then Murray closes it out as Bahmrhi ballons out a return.

Murray’s verdict

Opponent is a junior world champion, but injury explains his low ranking.

Notes

Caveman chess was a popular term among British chess players to refer to violent attacks often unsound but always unsettling.

Rather than show an image of one ‘caveman’ chess player I had in mind, I choose the image from Wikipedia Commons.

Also thanks to Conor for helping in the editing process.


‘Getting in the room’

November 10, 2014

A new report puts pressure on football authorities and clubs to address discrimination in leadership appointments

The report is to be presented to MPs and Sports Minister Helen Grant today [10th November, 2014]. It gives clear evidence of institutional discrimination in the appointment to senior level positions in the 92 clubs of the football league.

According to the study, Of 532 top coaching positions, 19 were help by members of the black and ethnic minority [BME] communities. This 3.4% is from a representation of 25% of players of BME backgrounds.

The report was prepared by Dr Stephen Bradbury of Loughborough University, and funded by Football against Racism in Europe [FARE].


The language of institutionalized discrimination

The language of instructiionalized  discrimination is for some people contentious. It is better than the blunter term racism, and permits examination in terms of conscious and unconscious factors and consequences

Pressure on the Football authorities

The report adds pressure to the Football League and its chairman Greg Clarke. The FA is ‘looking into’ issues of diversity in appointments. It has also been criticized for delays in examining measures such as the Rooney Rule .

The Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule has nothing to do with Wayne Rooney, England’s football team captain. It was introduced into America’s NFA by Dan Rooney, anti-discrimination campaigner and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers

‘Getting in the room’

The remark was not the title of report, but it might have been. One qualified coach who has not reached interview short-lists was reported as saying he was not looking for favours, just an opportunity of getting in the room.

To be continued


Sporting leadership and the new CSR of Corporate Sporting Responsibilities

August 18, 2014

Sepp BlatterSporting participants, coaches and administrators face a set of overlapping challenges which collectively could be described as Corporate Sporting Responsibilities

Take a look at these recent sporting stories.

Drug cheating in sport

Drug cheating continues to plague a range of sports since the monumental fall from grace of Lance Armstrong.

In cycling, of the nine fastest sprinters in history only two , the Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Nesta Carther, have not been found guilty of contravening the sport’s drug regulations.

Corrupt practices

Administrative bodies have been accused of various corrupt practices in the award of major global sporting events.

Qatar’s award by FIFA of the 2022 World Cup has defied rational explanations in failure to take into account the health dangers of extreme temperatures later conceded as requiring serious concerns. Corruption accusations have been backed by commercial sponsors calling for release of results of an internal investigation.

Further accusations have been levelled against FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter. A Government committee in the UK was told that the Football Association would not be ‘wasting its time bidding’ for the World Cup as long as Blatter remains in post.

The Olympic Movement has repeatedly found its idealistic vision at odds with harsh political and financial realities. The recent Winter Olympics at Sochi began with demonstrations against Russia’s recently tightened discriminatory laws. These are said to be contrary to P6, the anti-discrimination proposition in the Olympic Charter.

During the games, accusations of bias were made against a judge whose score elevated a Russian figure-skater to gold medal status.

Corporate sporting responsibilities

Coaching of young athletes has also come under serious criticism.

In researching coaching leadership, I came across an article on a website dedicated to sporting excellence. It suggested widespread coaching abuse of young athletes by bullying coaches obsessed with winning. This chimed which some of my personal observations of amateur coaches including over-zealous touch-line parents.

The article drew my attention to the broader responsibilities of sports coaches and administrators to address the issues and dilemmas outlined in the examples above. The parallels with the emergence of the Corporate Social Responsibilities movement were too tempting to resist.

This sporting life

Any efforts to rescue sport would have to deal with criticisms made by the sociologist Lasch, nearly fifty years ago. Lasch, in The Lonely Crowd, wrote a classic analysis of the development of a culture of narcissism. In a chapter on The degradation of sport he describes how the athlete was increasingly becoming an entertainer, open to being bought and sold in what he describes as in “antagonistic cooperation” to teammates.

Perhaps a movement is required, a new form of CSR, whose principles will be incorporated into sporting charters and declarations. Participants are likely to be leaders in such a movement. Athletes have already stood up in many demonstrations against perceived injustices when administrators have taken a more cautious approach.

More importantly it may, like the original CSR, find expression in the beliefs and actions of a future generation of administrators, coaches, and sports players at all levels of excellence.