Wednesday, September 06, 2006

BALL - MISSING IN ACTION

Owing to the proverbial circumstances beyond my control I was not in attendance at the recent controversial Bohemians and Drogheda game at Liam Carroll Park. In fact, the aforementioned uncontrollable circumstances even prevented me from seeing the game live on TG4; but my untrustworthy old Sky Plus box got it's act together and I watched the game on Saturday.

As with most live eL games one feels slightly embarrassed as the camera pans across the wide open spaces, with weeds growing up through the terracing and not so much as a curious pigeon occupying the concrete desert. But we've learned to cope with such ignominy.

In defence of our beloved game we can always point to the quality and excitement; the ever improving fitness and skill levels; the characters - for no occasion in Ireland is complete without a character. And we can privately pat ourselves on the back for the support we have offered in the realisation of such achievements. to quote the greatest backslappers of them all -'lots done, more to do.'

But as I watched the game one thing constantly grated, a minor yet important detail.
There were regularly inordinate delays in retrieving errant passes and goal attempts as well as panicked clearances from the surrounding vantage points. There was a ball person [PC Police edit} behind each goal as far as I could see, I'm definitely open to correction on this; but they didn't appear to have a ball with them at all times.It seems to be the case that only the 4th official has a spare ball, but we won't delve any further into that particular sack.

What's the problem with having a dozen or so kids dotted around the ground with a spare ball at their feet? The delays were ridiculous and if we did happen to hook a stray Premiership fan their attention span would be exhausted as soon as the ball flew into an empty part of the ground.

OK, there may be insurance issues with having kids standing in these deserted areas, but if the 12 ball persons each have a ball to lob in as necessary there is no urgency attatched to retrieving the balls which fly into no man's land - and a comely steward could pick it up at his leisure.

Nothing innovative there! It's my specialist subject. As a sop to local schoolboy clubs, scout groups, youth clubs etc. Kids can be brought in, meet the players, packet of stale Tayto and a bottle of warm lemonade with a straw and everybody's happy.

Failing that, we could use sacked managers, players in dispute or injured players. Clubs could introduce some sort of scheme along the lines of the community employment schemes. They're paying the players anyway so why not make them work gathering balls instead of freezing their toes off on the bench. Didn't make training on Thursday? Ballboy on Saturday. A bit too lippy to the gaffer? Ballboy on Saturday.

OK, I'm getting stupid now. But this is not a difficult problem to solve and it would speed our games up considerably. Stoppages are the bane of football fans, unnecessary ones even more so. Let's cut it out.

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