Sports Letters: Hype and glory

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The Independent Online
Sir: Despite the excessive hype of Sky Sports and assorted pundits with a vested interest, it is generally accepted that the quality of football these days is very poor. Various minor rule changes have been introduced (back-pass rule, etc), and others have been regularly mooted, but I feel these all miss the point.

The trouble with the modern game is largely that players have no time on the ball, owing to the tremendous general level of fitness. Players who have graced the game over the years, such as Stanley Matthews, Alex Young and more recently, George Best or Rodney Marsh, would today have no chance, as they would never have time to display their skills before being dispossessed or lured into a mistake. Survival of the fittest now rules. Clearly, players are not going to get less fit, so something else must be tried.

It should be remembered that when the rules of the game were drawn up, the average man was probably only around 5ft 6in tall at most. Diet was generally far less healthy than today, and body-builders and today's sophisticated fitness training techniques would have been unheard of. In other words, the rules were not formulated for today's player. There seem to me to be two possible antidotes for this. The first would be to make the pitch longer. This is possible for Sunday morning football, but is not practicable for grounds enclosed by spectator areas. I would plump for a more realistic alternative, namely to reduce the number of players to nine a side.

This would create the equivalent level of fitness per team as compared to that applicable when the rules were made. The game would automatically become more open, and once again there would be the chance for skilful players such as Ryan Giggs to have the impact on the game that they deserve, and that spectators want to see.

Yours faithfully,

D J GOWERS

Whitstable, Kent

9 November

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