Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Sport: Broken rules

There’s a whole new sporting year coming up and Michael Burgess casts a cynical eye over rules that irritate and frustrate us and which need to change

The IAAF should get shot of the jumping the gun rule. Photo / AP
The IAAF should get shot of the jumping the gun rule. Photo / AP

1. No more NRL golden point - Sure, it can add some artificial drama and the broadcasters love it but watching two weary teams in a drop goal duel has lost its appeal, if it ever had any. It seems pointless, as it is for the unlucky loser. It also puts undue pressure on the referees who seem reluctant to blow a game-deciding penalty. The golden point fixes a problem that didn't exist. There were never many draws in an NRL season and they tended to be thrilling matches that didn't deserve a loser. In contrast, how many golden point matches in the last decade have been truly memorable?

2. The mandatory FIFA stretcher - It's bad enough when football players fling themselves to the ground like they have taken a sniper's bullet. It's worse when the television replay reveals that they were not even touched. But it is downright embarrassing when they spring to their feet, only to be forced onto a FIFA stretcher and carried off the field.

3. Netball's no penalty penalties - There are many issues with netball rules but one of the most glaring is the lack of any sense of cumulative penalties in the sport.

Inmost other team sports, repeat infringements are punished, eventually, by a spell out of the action. Netball has no such deterrent; players, especially defenders, can infringe with impunity, knowing there are no consequences. In the ANZ Championship last season, some players racked up almost 40 penalties in a single match. It's a blight on the game. Netball umpires need to send offenders to the sidelines (similar to a sin bin in rugby or league), which would severely weaken a team and make them think twice about continuing such a pattern in the rest of the game.

4. Reduce rugby substitutions - In less than 18 months, Beauden Barrett has accumulated 16 test caps for the All Blacks. That means that Barrett has already played more tests than Grant Batty (15),Murray Pierce (14), Waka Nathan (14), Alex Wyllie (11), Grahame Thorne (10) and George Nepia (9) did in their whole careers. By the end of June next year, the Taranaki youngster could move ahead of Steve Pokere (18), Wayne Smith (17) and David Kirk (17). Barrett has started just two games and played a total of just 36minutes in six other matches but his inflated total is a symptom of modern test rugby,where coaches change more than half their team in the final quarter.Rugby has specialised positions - especially in the front row - and hence needs more replacements than league (four on the interchange bench) and football (three). But the current eight is too many. It creates a whole lot of artificial test caps and makes some test matches farcical, as coaches throw substitutes on like confetti. The system also tends to favour the big nations over the lesser countries, who might be able to match up with their 1st XVs but can't compete with the strong benches of the major teams.

The Fifa substitute rule is a real carry-on. Photo / AP
The Fifa substitute rule is a real carry-on. Photo / AP

5. Three players per team in beach volleyball - Forget the bikinis and blaring music, the way to make beach volleyball actually watchable would be to add one person per team. At the moment it is incredibly predictable. There is no room for tactics, strategy nor deception because the opposition knows where the ball is going . There is plenty of room on the court for a third player and it would add much more strategy - and appeal - to the contest.

6. NRL obstruction and stripping the ball - The NRL has shown itself to be pro-active and highly effective in refining the rules of the game, constantly looking to make improvements to the sport. But the obstruction rule remains a blight on the sport, as too often a perfectly good try is annulled on suspicion that maybe a defender might have got there.

Something also needs to be done to discourage raking of the ball. It can be hard for referees to decide if a ball has been illegally pilfered or it is just a loose carry but it is time for repeat offenders to spend time in the sin bin. No one - fans, coaches, media- enjoys the frustration of watching a replay which reveals that a lost ball was in fact "yanked out" by the opposition team. And what about a limit on the amount of time'trainers' can spend on the field ...

7. The NRL quarterback kneel - One of the best things about watching sport is the drama of the last few minutes or seconds, as teams fight for the win. It is best seen in basketball but also happens in football, league and rugby. But NFL often kills the moment by allowing the quarterback in possession to drop to their knee, which kills the play,while the clock usually ticks on. The opposition are powerless to do anything about it, which is soul-destroying for the fans.

8. Golf score cards - Imagine the scene. Lydia Ko wins the British Open next year but doesn't lift the trophy, disqualified because she signed the wrong scorecard. Or signed a card with one less - or one more stroke - on it. It's the most archaic rule in sport. It worked well in the days of Bobby Jones, as there needed to be an element of professional honesty and conduct. But today television cameras follow a player's every move, as do a plethora of rules officials and a legion of fans. There is real time internet live scoring and massive scoreboards throughout the course, plus millions watching on television. There is surely no chance of a golfer being credited with the wrong score. Sure, if someone erred they can be fined but disqualification from the tournament is way over the top, especially at the major events.

9. Athletics false starts - It happened in 1996 with Linford Christie, almost happened in 2012 and could happen in 2016. Imagine an Olympic 100mfinal without one of the top contenders, like Usain Bolt, because of a false start. The sport is about the athletes, not the officials, and we all expect these men and women to get the best possible time. Losing your chance at glory after one false start is completely draconian. Surely there is another way.

Beauden Barrett's bench appearances should be capped. Photo / Getty Images
Beauden Barrett's bench appearances should be capped. Photo / Getty Images

10. Fifa's World Cup seeding system - The biggest sporting event of next year has already been sullied somewhat by Fifa's bizarre seeding rules. The top seeds were based solely on the world rankings in October, meaning that Switzerland, Belgium, and Colombia were seeded while Italy and the Netherlands were not. More than six months out it has already damaged the integrity of the tournament. Having uneven groups is part of the luck of the draw but 2014 will be the most unbalanced World Cup of all time as some of the strongest teams are together in the early stages.

Look at Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia) and Group D (Italy, England, Uruguay and Costa Rica) compared with Group E (Switzerland, France Honduras and Ecuador) or Group C (Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece).

Both Italy and Holland have incredible pedigrees - Italy have won four World Cups and haven't lost a qualifier for seven years; Holland have been in three finals. But FIFA's quirky ranking system penalises teams who play against weaker sides. It meant that ultimately Holland's friendly against Indonesia earlier this year and Italy's match with San Marino probably cost them a seeded place while Switzerland managed to 'game' the system by limiting their amount of friendly games in 2013. Being seeded - which allows you to avoid the other top teams in the group stages - has proved historically crucial; the last unseeded team to lift the World Cup was Argentina in 1986.

11. Intentional walks in baseball - In this year's World Series, St Louis basically avoided Boston's David Ortiz. The big-hitting Ortiz was still the series MVP, batting at .688 but the sight of various Cardinals pitchers throwing the ball metres wide of Big Papi seemed wrong. It's a bit like being able to bowl endless wides or no balls at a star batsman in cricket with little punishment. Everybody wants to see the classic contest between bat and ball - and the practice of intentional walks needs to be banned or limited.

12. Rugby's driving maul - The inability to pull down a driving maul is one of the IRB's more unusual - and stupid - rules. With the ball safely locked at the back of a phalanx of players, the opposition team is unable to pull down the rolling wedge but they also can't get near the ball. If a player was running in open play, with a team-mate obstructing would-be tacklers, that would be illegal - but the maul absolves that.

13. Basketball time-outs - Everybody enjoys a dramatic conclusion to a sporting contest but it can get farcical in basketball, where the last two minutes can stretch on for 20. The constant, deliberate fouling to stop the clock by the trailing team just gets boring and the allocation of two time-outs per team within the last two minutes is overkill.

- Herald on Sunday

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