I’m going to tell you a tale, let me set the scene….
So there’s this Key Cup football match; Reds v Blues. The game is being marshalled by a new type of “Costs” Referee (a person who has either never played football or retired many years previously and probably played rugby) whose mandate is simple – football is too expensive, make it cheaper.
The owner of the Reds is a billionaire and the owner of the Blues runs a local supermarket. The Red’s owner actually has 15 teams around the world so isn’t particularly bothered about this game. The Blue’s owner has one team and everything rides on this result. The Reds in fact poached the Blues best player at the start of the season so the teams are not friendly. The winner will earn £25,000.00 and the total cost of the match (wages, bills, maintenance, tax etc) is £50,000.00.
Normally at the beginning of the game each coach sets out for his team, the chosen tactics. The teams then take the field and play the game within the confines of rules intended to encourage fair but exciting play, with the ultimate aim of winning. The referee ensures no foul play and enforces any rules.
Now imagine if, when the coaches are handing out their instructions, this “Costs” Referee insists they all sit in the same room to hear each other’s tactics (to make it all fair). Then he says to the Reds, “Oh no, you don’t need a goalkeeper and I think 8 outfield players is fine”. Then to the Blues, “Oh no, you don’t need 11 players. You can do fine with 9 but you can keep your goalkeeper”.
To both he says, “no substitutes!”
Both coaches, with 10 years grassroots coaching experience behind them, take issue with these decisions. One has spent millions on his team – he can’t just bench them. The other explains that this match is worth more to them that the cost of this single game. Their standing could be improved, sponsorship deals could happen; a replay would be lucrative!
“No” says the Ref, fondly remembering playing rugby for 5 years before retiring a decade earlier, “no normal person would spend £50,000.00 to win £25,000.00. Not only is my decision final but count yourself lucky you got your team sheets in on time – had they been late you’d have been playing with coaching staff only!”
Then imagine the teams jog out, only to find that the Ref has decided that the goals are too large; both have been halved. The lines of the pitch have also been narrowed to make it only 20 feet wide. When the coaches query why this is happening, the Ref responds, “Well, this game will cost £50,000.00 to proceed; the maximum amount the winners will make at the end of it is £25,000.00. By removing 11 players I bring the costs down to £30,000.00 in saved play bonuses. I then restrict the wear and tear on the grass, thus saving grounds-keeping charges and saving another £5,000.00. Consequently, you may now play a proportionate game”
“And the goals?” The Ref shrugs, “I don’t like them”.
So, the game will be played at proportionate cost but the joy has been taken out of it and it is unlikely to be very competitive.
What both teams needed was an Assistant Coach who was able to calmly explain to the Ref that, to compromise, 9 players each is fair; both sides need a goalkeeper and, whilst the grounds man’s health may suffer, the rules really don’t allow the pitch to be narrowed by more than a few feet. Oh and the goal size has been fine since 1863.
In the interest of a fair and fun game the inevitable costs of playing the game may well eclipse the reward – but then that’s not always the point of playing the game, is it?