Congratulations Leicester, But Here's How the Premier League Still Needs to Improve

04/05/2016 15:14

And they lived happily ever after. That's how most Fairy Tales end. And for Leicester City fans, the buzz from Monday night's season topping result will live on for generations. A truly Hollywood ending to a season which has many commentators running out of superlatives to describe it.

Sport at its best is thrillingly butt-clenching and unpredictable to the very end. But some moments from events at Stamford Bridge, highlighted the uglier elements which still plague our beloved game.

So this is an open letter to Richard Scudamore to ask that you consider some measures to ensure that the Premier League can remain one of the best in the world. Let's keep our premium sporting feast exactly that.

Support the help
Firstly we need to protect referees better. In the cauldron-like setting I thought Mark Clattenburg did a decent job. Too often players sprint in the face of officials after the slightest of touches; people in glass houses Diego Costa... Decisions need to be sacrosanct. It's worrying when the CORRECT award for a throw-in involves intimidation for linesmen; see Azpiliceuta's antics against Tottenham. It's not a new idea, but if a further 10 yards was added to every indiscretion, coupled with a booking, hopefully we'd see a dramatic reduction in the weekly bitching which currently goes on.

As a former referee, I can tell you that this normalising of abuse is filtering down to Sunday league matches. Circling the referee to put pressure on his/her future decision-making is a worrying reality. And when Glen Hoddle comes out, as he did recently on commentary for BT Sport, and encourages this behaviour as just part of modern football, it's not hard to see why kids as young as 12 are reenacting what they see every weekend!

Immediate sanctions
We need a quicker response to incidents from television replays using fourth officials. If they are monitoring proceedings with access to replays of off-the-ball incidents, then justice can be delivered quicker. It might not have prevented the growing poisonous atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge earlier this week but could have offered the rightful removal of Dembele. And to those who complain about slowing the game down, all of this could have taken place while the scrum on the pitch ensued. I believe that incidents which have been completely missed by the referee, can and should be dealt with in-game. We need to offer them more eyes which can ensure the proper running of the game. Oh and for the record there should be a financial punishment and limiting of squad size for the next game for a team that receives more than five yellows in one match too!

Kick it out
Hurling expletive abuse in someone's face is rightly considered unacceptable behaviour in most places, yet not in a football stadium. Appropriate punishments need to be handed to those in the crowd responsible. So when we see groups of men, old enough to be setting better examples, verbally assaulting Tottenham's Christen Eriksen at corners, we need to act. This was especially concerning, as just five minutes later a 10 year old, previously placid, joined in to feel part of that special football atmosphere. It has no place within the sport and needs to be kicked out and dealt with in the same way the Chelsea fans were found guilty of racially tormenting a man on the Paris metro.

You can't buy class
Next year the bottom club in the Premier League will receive £99m. Just for taking part in front of a potential worldwide audience of 4.7bn people. So much attention and the budgets to go with it. But the race to become the world's hottest property is coming at a cost.

Kicking off next season, the perimeter advertising which adorns the side of each club's pitch, will be based on your geo-location. That's right, a Japanese viewer will see different ads to those in Germany. But while this is great news for board chairmen in terms of maximising their assets, I feel a moving Picadilly Circus light show is not quite what fans deserve. The league needs to consider the potentially detrimental effect this is having on those who love watching their club week in week out. We are still in the infancy of this type of advertising too - Brits rightly bemoan American sports for advertisers regularly interupting the game, but if this continues we'll soon be in a worse position.

The adidas brand manager may like what he sees right now, but it's a increasingly risky path being taken. It's not hard to imagine a situation soon where the luminous pitch-side distractions cause fans to miss key incidents. "This goalline interruption was brought to you by Samsung" - expect a Twitter frenzy and supporter backlash when it this augmented reality hits.