Sorry for the recent absence, but water + Macintosh = bad.
This weekend's Manchester United vs. Manchester City derby classic proved worth the all of the pre-match conversation. Not only has controversy surrounded the match outcome, the behavior of the players, but the conversation to follow the match as well.
For those who missed the outcome (recap here), United substitute Michael Owen scored in the 97th minute (some say 96') to edge out a 4-3 victory. Earlier in stoppage time, Craig Bellamy scored his second goal of the match (somewhere between 90:45 and 91:25). The issue that has arisen is why the match lasted for 97 minutes when the referee only showed that four minutes of stoppage time would be added.
Beside for the outcome of the match (I hate both teams anyways), this incident has stirred some conversation concerning the use of stoppage time and, perhaps, the addition of a fourth referee, as suggested by Manchester City manager Mark Hughes. As reported by ESPN, Hughes has alluded that he would support a policy similar to that of the rugby union: where the clock is paused for stoppages, rather than the addition of stoppage time following the completion of play.
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson commented that:
"That would move us away from football as we know it and into the realms of ice hockey and American Football."
"That [time-keeping system] suits America because the adverts come in every time there is a stoppage. I would be disappointed if football went down that route. Of course I have great sympathy for people like Mark Hughes. When you have played well and you think you have got a great result it is awful to lose a game in the last minute, whether that is the 89th or 98th."
"You just have to learn to live with it. I am of that very old school that believes referees must be given the right to referee the game and make decisions. It is not an exact science. For me, referees are the arbiters and we have to abide by their decision."
Perhaps what most separates football from American sports is the absence of a sponsor driven, endorsement riddled culture. While yes many of the premiere footballers today do have endorsement deals (Nike cleats, etc.), while yes football teams have a major jersey deal and, in some cases, secondary endorsements as well, while yes football pitches are often bordered by sponsorships, there is a significant difference between endorsement support of football(ers) and a commercial endorsement arrangement that changes the very nature of the sport.
Today, NFL games are divided into 12-minute quarters where commercial breaks occur after every score and after every possession change (with the exception of the 2 minute warning). DirectTV features a tape-delayed airing of NFL games where all "stoppages" are removed: what begins as a 3 1/2 hour death-march of testosterone and coaching, becomes 30 minutes of action.
On the other end, football is 90-100 minutes of action, nonstop, with a 15-20 minute break halfway through the match.
Is it possible that football's worldwide popularity is (partially) due to the ease of watching due to only a roughly two hour commitment?
While it's unlikely that we'll see any changes to the time-keeping system in the future, it's unquestionably improper to criticize the very system of the game. It's one thing to criticize an individual referee or an isolated incident, but it's entirely another to use inadequacies in the system as an excuse for a loss.
Ultimately, Mark Hughes is trying to blame the system of football for his team's loss, rather than the fact that his team let a last minute goal occur, when they should have had 9 men playing fullback/corner back at that point in the match anyways.
Hughes recently called on the media and football commuity for "less hysteria" in Manchester City stories (ESPN Here). Well, if he wants less hysteria then maybe a) he shouldn't have broken football ranks and spent so much offseason transfer fees that the FA had to enact a rule change, b) Emmauel Adebayor shouldn't have instigated violence amongst Arsenal fans, c) Bellamy shouldn't have punched a fan in the face, and d) Hughes should keep his mouth quiet in the media.
Quotes via ESPN