Thursday, June 25, 2020

It’s just not cricket

Here in the civilised world we have an expression of "it's just not cricket". Which has nothing to do with actual cricket (Ace has uttered a sigh of relief as I know he's not a fan).

It's a bit hard to describe the true meaning of this expression but it essentially means that something just isn't right. Not that it's necessarily illegal, immoral or even against any rules but it's just not right. An example would be taking a fine Trappist Belgian beer and diluting it with lemonade, putting pineapple on a pizza or, to quote a blogger who has recently celebrated his 2 millionth page visit, putting mayonnaise on a hotdog (congratulations Rob on the number of views, an achievement I can only dream about). 

But what isn't cricket I hear you ask? Well, football isn't. Not at the moment it isn't anyway. Now anyone who has read my ramblings for a while probably knows that I like my sports and my first love is football - the English sort with the round ball although I am a fan of what the Americans call football as well. And football is back - there's been none played in England since the start of March but I never got desperate enough to have watched the Belarusian Premier League which was the only league to have remained playing in Europe over the last few months. 

If things had gone to plan we would be sat here watching the European Championships where England would be sure to hype themselves up before crashing out to some lowly underdogs (it happened last time around where we lost to Iceland who have a population of 360,000!). But because everything has been on hiatus for the last few months we're now resuming the season with 9 games to go, plus the culmination of domestic and European Cups with the national tournament postponed until next year. 

I don't hold out much hope for my team in the league (even less so given we've now lost our first 2 games since the restart) - we were bottom of the Premier League at the enforced break and looked set to be relegated (I'm pretty sanguine about this to be honest as we are effectively a yo-yo club bouncing around the top 2 divisions) but I was more excited about the FA Cup. Just before the break we'd won entry into the 1/4 finals of the competition and we are 2 games away from the final - an achievement we've never managed in our club's 118 year history so every fan held out a small bit of hope that maybe this would be our year to win some silverware. Being part of an FA Cup final crowd is an amazing experience (I've been once before but as a neutral being hosted by a corporate client but I want to do it as a fan) but there's no hope of that happening. Not because the odds are stacked against us but because all games are being held behind closed doors with no fans in attendance. 

To me this is wrong - most sports are about the fans. I'm not naive enough to say the fans pay the players' wages or that the fans should have a large say in the running of clubs but without fans then sports are essentially meaningless. Even watching on TV is different with no fans in attendance - it's like a kickabout in the park being televised for all the enjoyment I'm getting out of it. There have already been 3 goalless games in the opening 14 Premier League matches (a small sample size I know but the long term average is around 8% of games remain goalless) so it's as if the players know that without the fans they don't need to care as much as well. I can't even imagine the apathy I'll feel if we manage to make it to the FA Cup final and there is no one in the stadium celebrating, no spontaneous acts of joy or beers shared with strangers after the game celebrating a win or commiserating a loss. It will be like it's just not happened, so it may as well not be happening. It's just not cricket! Talking of which, the cricket season is starting soon and I'm more than happy watching that on TV, with or without crowds in the stadium. 

What about US sports though? Are these going to be the same with empty or mostly empty stadiums? 


  1. I've watched more Bundesliga, La Liga, and Serie A in the last month than ever before. Madrid vs Barca race to the top sputtered with Barca drawing twice. Napoli winning Coppa Italia was a nice surprise. And in Bundesliga, there is only one word for the creme de la creme, Bayern.

    I agree that live sports are way less enjoyable without fans. I've been debating about writing a post/rant on VAR. I guess I never realized how cruel VAR can be because I hadn't watch so much soccer in such a condensed amount of time for a few years. But, time and time again, VAR has taken the joy out of a nice or spectacular goal. I was 100% for VAR to be utilized before top leagues had it. After all, two goals that come to mind right now that VAR would have easily fixed were Dzeko's goal in 2014 WC vs Nigeria and Lampard's goal in 2010 WC vs Germany . But what VAR is overturning now are 50/50 judgement calls and millimeter offsides. And to add insult to injury, fans can't truly celebrate a fantastic goal as it happens. They have to sit there and wait for a nerd on a computer to verify it.

    No fans and delayed VAR decisions on many goals is turning futbol into something less enjoyable BUT still better than cricket :)

    1. The biggest problem with VAR is how it’s utilised - it should be used to overturn a clear and obvious error. Where it takes 3 minutes of checking to decide that someone’s nose is offside isn’t clear and obvious but this is an instance where there’s obviously been an error - watch from 40 seconds in But VAR can’t overrule Hawkeye (the system used to check if the ball is over the line) so it’s just being used wrongly - it also can’t check whether a goalkeeper is off his line if he saves a penalty but can check for defensive encroachment at the same penalty - utterly bonkers!

      What I think it’s good at though is deterring players from making obvious dives in the penalty area - all decisions are referred so it’s effectively pointless to try to falsely win a penalty.

      This is where they could learn from cricket though - whenever a decision is reviewed there’s an option called “umpire’s call” in that it’s too close to overturn and whatever decision the onfield umpire made is the one they go with.

      Article here which you might find amusing

    2. I got a kick (pun intended) out of that BBC article. Saltair FC has a nice ring to it. The rooftop stadium rendering for the fake club was funny since in Belgrade they actually built and use one