The main problem with football refereeing is well known and documented. We need technology or more officials and FIFA won’t do it. And the game belongs to FIFA, not you, so forget about it.
But the main problem in football ethics and fair play, is different, and it occurred to me while watching some other popular sports recently. In football crime pays!
Every infringement in American football is punished by territory. Every foul in basketball is counted towards a sending off and most fouls lead to free throws. Infringements in rugby result in a big territorial shift and very often in a minor scoring opportunity – a field goal equal to about half a try.
Yellow cards or their equivalent in rugby, hand ball, ice hockey or water polo result in a timed sending off for a potion of the game. In all these sports it is very rare to see crime pay.
In football almost every infringement is useful. Any foul far enough from your goal is useful. Time to regroup and no real advantage to the opposition. Yellow cards usually benefit some future opponent of the infringing team, and not the team suffering the behavior. Time wasting is sometimes accounted for – but usually not in full.
Only two decisions in football are really meaningful – red cards and penalties. If you have a decent set-piece specialists, some free kicks become pretty useful. Maybe if we had more David Beckhams we’d see fewer fouls.
Football players don’t cheat because they are dishonest. They cheat because the came grossly encourages it. A player should foul in opposition territory immediately after losing the ball. The risk-reward calculations encourage a player to dive at any contact in the penalty box.
The history of the game teaches him that crime pays very generously.