Turns out this week was a bit of a big one in the world of football officiating.
No, I’m not taking about refereeing duo Kevin Friend and Anthony Taylor flying off to “Av it large” in Marbella for a stag do.
I’m talking about Green Cards… and not the type that Donald Trump wants to take away from anyone “a bit funny looking…. ok?”.
In an event that is 100% guaranteed to pop up in a pub quiz sports round at some point in your life; football experienced its first ever Green Card this week during a Serie B match between Virtus Entella and Vecenza.
In an incentive introduced at the beginning of this season, referee’s in the Italian second tier have now added to their armoury of red and yellow cards, a very special green version that can be waved in the wake of extreme good sportsmanship. On this occasion it was awarded to a Vicenza player who admitted no opposition player had touched the ball when that his team had been incorrectly awarded a corner kick. The cards add up throughout the season and count towards Team fair-play points as well as the leading player being awarded a “special prize” at the end of the season. It’s a bit like the Generation Game but without Bruce Forsyth’s chin.
It’s all well and good encouraging footballers not to behave like absolute d***s for a change but it could have a negative impact on the game if it was introduced over here. You might remember that back in the 2015/16 season West Ham clinched itself a place in the Europa League in the most glorious way possible… topping the fair play league. (Forget Champions League glory or that Arsenal-esque fourth place finish THIS is the victory that the fans really crave). For that little collection of mid-table teams the FairPlay league could be their best and only chance for European Football. Why bother going to all that effort of scoring goals, defending corners and actually trying to win games to improve your league position when you could win yourself a tour around the four corners of Europe by just being really, really nice.
Could we see football teams adopting “be nice” rules and going all out to grab a green card? The likes of Stoke City and Southampton could boost their Euro chances by making a few little changes to improve their image: they could give the opposition striker a little cheer of encouragement when one on one with your keeper; hand the opponents dug-out little mid-game notes with tactical hints and tips; and if they really wanted to go all out in being nice, never sign John Terry. Little things could make a big difference.
We’ve got red cards and yellow cards already; green cards are creeping into the game and FIFA are currently discussing the concept of orange cards. Pretty soon the average referee’s pocket is going to start looking like the greetings card section of WH Smith. Why not go all out and introduce “get well soon” cards for injured players, “sorry for your loss’ cards when a player gets sent off and “with sympathy” cards whenever Wayne Rooney fails to get any game time for Manchester United.
Sadly, the green card itself is “virtual” so we are never likely to see referee’s frantically fumbling around for the right piece of paper. Given the mental capacity of your average top flight footballer now days that is probably not a bad thing. They struggle enough trying to string an original sentence together in a post match interview. The look on Harry Kane’s face as he tries to comprehend the implications of a mid-game green card would probably result in him losing the power to stand for several minutes.
Referee’s have enough to think about already. They often struggle to show cards to the right players let alone pick the right cards so I can’t see the idea of adding to confusion catching on. The incentive probably won’t arrive on these shores and it’ll forever be filed under “
interesting statistic” and “ good pub quiz questions”… so get it memorised.
Green Card, Referring P*** Ups and more are all discussed by Jim in this week’s satirical football podcast On The Left Side.
Check it out here: