Panel show

12 Jan

Every once in a while, a genius in the field comes along.  James Prescott Joule turned the laws of thermodynamics on their head.  Colonel Sanders reinvented the chicken.  I believe it’s now my turn to stand on the shoulder of giants.  In the words of Tony Blair, I feel the hand of history creeping up Cherie’s blouse.

One of football’s perennial ills reared its head last week.  On 59 minutes of the Arsenal v Newcastle game, Gabriel rose for a free-kick only to find his progress halted by Dan Burn yanking on his shirt.  It was naughty.  Arsenal should have had a penalty but none was forthcoming.

Shirt-pulling in the box is hardly newsworthy stuff, of course.  But for some reason, like the presence of James Corden on television, it’s just unthinkingly accepted.  We can’t seem to contemplate a better existence.

It made little difference to Arsenal’s frustrations, which were as palpable as they were understandable.  Gabriel took to Twitter to express his annoyance.  Arteta nearly took off on the sidelines.  North London hackles were all over the shop and rightly so; Andy Madley’s oversight had likely cost Arsenal two vital points.  Points that could prove crucial in Arsenal’s first title-challenge in nearly two decades.  This wasn’t an ex-royal casually bragging about gunning down Afghans; this was serious stuff.

———

So what can be done?  Footballing authorities don’t seem capable of tackling the problem.  And appealing to the honour of premier league defenders is unlikely to bear much fruit; those unscrupulous garment-shaggers will stop at nothing.  As ever, it falls to critically and commercially unsuccessful bloggers to find a solution.  Thankfully, Too Good is on hand to rid the English game of this affliction.

Before I dive in, let me just say this: the first thing they do to geniuses is laugh at them.  Edison, Columbus, Wilbur and his brother.  Even Elon Musk – a man literally in the midst of arranging space tourism – takes his fair share of jibes.  I’m conscious I risk sacrificing myself at the altar of ridicule here.

Nevertheless, here’s the plan:

Instead of a one-piece football shirt, the shirt is divided up into velcro panels.  

Those sneaky defenders want the shirt off your back?  Fine, give it to them.  Let’s see how dry Madley’s whistle stays when Dan Burn is literally left holding a piece of Gooner jersey.  The smoking gun of precision engineering has just guaranteed a penalty.

I defer to Too Good’s extensive R&D team on the exact structure of the shirt.  Basically, however many panels and whatever strength velcro provides the most compelling evidence that a shirt has been pulled.  Weak enough to detach when a defender grabs it; strong enough to survive a few ground slides and incidental body checks.

If it sounds daft, ask yourself this: given a repeat of the situation the other night, which shirt do you think Arteta would prefer Gabriel have on?  I think we both know the answer.  Had it maintained the eight-point gap between Arsenal and City, Mikel would have stitched the velcro on himself.

———

There’ll be naysayers, of course.  There always is.  They’ll contend that if you gave one such penalty you’d have to give twenty a game.  This argument is disingenuous.  If any type of foul went habitually unpunished in football then of course there would be a lot of them.  How do you think Mourinho made a career?  The only reason why there isn’t is because they do go habitually punished.  You won’t end up with twenty penalties a game; you’ll just end up with a lot less shirt-pulling.

Face facts.  The day they started putting dye in leisure centre swimming pools was the day we all stopped pissing in them.  Only die-hard attention-seekers continued to weave intricate patterns in the deep end.  The rest of us packed it in.  Give the referee incontrovertible evidence that a shirt has been pulled and the practice will stop overnight.  

Moreover – and here’s the real beauty of it – shirt-pulling will now have little or no effect anyway.  With detachable panels, you’ll be free to leap like a salmon while the defender is left cradling a little polyester patch.  Bosh, one-nil.  Wheel away celebrating like a human jigsaw.

———

There you have it.  The next great leap forward in world football.  I’m off down the patent office to register Velcro Assistant Referee technology.  

Velcro first took the world by storm in 1957.  We’ve been fastening shoes, securing coat lapels and hurling midgets at inflatable dartboards with the stuff ever since.  Time for those clever little hooks and loops to take centre-stage once more.

You can follow Too Good for the English Game on Twitter (@_SonnyPike) or subscribe by clicking the “Follow” button on this page.

An exhibitionist about to wreak havoc.

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