67 things EVERYBODY hates about modern football

FourFourTwo staff

Now, FFT doesn't want to go all Yer Da' on things – we'd much prefer to celebrate the game than go all Against Modern Football on you. 

But we're not robots. Who can't help but quietly seethe – or not so, if most living rooms are to be heard – about the trivial issues that litter matches and post-match drawl? Robots, we say.

Recently we asked the question on Twitter about what annoys you most about modern football... and we listened. Below are many of your (more reasonable) answers, plus dozens more that Team FFT have chucked in for good measure. 

Naturally, we begin with...

Nostalgia merchants

Yeah, football was loads better when carthorses could smash through the back of skilful players – and also that chain-smoking playmaker from your youth is far superior to modern, super-athletes. That’s definitely how all sport works.

The current state of the offside rule

When officials watch replays to learn if an attacker’s shoulder is offside at the precise moment a ball leaves his team-mate’s foot, you have to ask if we’ve lost sight of the rule’s purpose: stopping goal-hangers.

"Can I have your shirt?" signs

Pathetic, snivelling Oliver Twists with misspelled cardboard signs trying to guilt-trip your star player before the game has even kicked off. No you can’t, runts. He’s promised to swap it with the opposition full-back at half-time as they hug and laugh down the tunnel.

Kick-off times with no regards for away fans

We’ve all done the cross-country trip which starts before dawn or ends in the small hours. But the recent explosion of such occurrences has no excuse. Well, maybe one: TV money. Because you haven’t had enough of that, have you?

Getting booked for shirt off/celebrating with fans

It’s been law long enough now that it’s clear players can’t stop despite knowing they should; almost like it’s a spontaneous moment of pure, cathartic bliss. Let them have their fun you dusty old monsters.

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Pre-planned celebrations

Because nothing spoils that instant, shared, joyous goalscoring moment like your star striker waving away team-mates so he can don a full Deadpool costume and do a Fortnite dance by the corner flag.

People filming games they're at

Hundreds holding up phones in the vain hope they get a crap recording of a goal to ‘share’ later. Why, it’s almost as if everyone knowing you were at the game is more important to you than actually being there. Almost.

Fairytale cup ties being branded ‘lucrative’

League Two strugglers are drawn out of the hat to face Premier League gaz(prom)illionaires. Fans dream of an historic upset and inside toilets. Then the well-meaning but point-missing host immediately asks the manager or owner what this means for club finances, and it’s suddenly a little less special.

Clapping through a minute’s silence

Specifically: the necessity thereof, because adults can’t be trusted to stand quietly without someone booing (and being booed, making things worse). Applause supposedly celebrates life, but often resembles a half-hearted gesture of congratulations for dying, which is why we don’t do it on Remembrance Sunday.

Transfer deadline day hysteria

 

It is actually interesting; anyone calling this a day of administration is being willfully obtuse. We’re too in thrall to the yellow-tie brigade, however, who congratulated Fulham for spending £100m in one summer as if that itself was the aim. And look how that went.

Ronaldo vs Messi

A once-diverting discussion became football’s dullest debate when everyone was forced to pick a side. Worse, it’s become weaponised by weapons, as Twitter trolls research tax laws and Nevada statutes of limitations to defend one player or attack the other.

Goalkeepers holding onto the ball for too long

Blame referees, not goalkeepers, because the six-second rule does exist. In a satisfying but sadly rare exception in 2015, Bordeaux scored from an indirect free-kick which punished Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet – and even that was 20 seconds.

Unique shirts

We don’t expect Paul Pogba or Harry Kane to pretend they wash their kit between games. Does every fixture require a new one, though? That mythical No.9 shirt seems less mythical with a match date engraved below the crest.

Celebrity referees 

How we laughed when Jeff Winter asked in his 2006 autobiography if, after his final Anfield game, the Kop were applauding him and not their victorious players. What a fool! He had to ask? Mike Dean would know.

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Soccer Football - Premier League - AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle United - Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, Britain - March 16, 2019 Referee Mike Dean awards a penalty to Bournemouth Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Bans for two yellow cards

Suspensions for repeat offenders are necessary and red cards for two bookings in one game are… well, the rules. But is there any justification for banning someone because they picked up two yellows across five matches, à la Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies at Euro 2016? No, there is not. Stop it UEFA, you drones.  

Transfers made for #brand purposes

Player loans between affiliated clubs was just the start. Midfielder Mix Diskerud was an MLS outcast when Manchester City snapped him up – a transfer officially announced by Umbro. Currently on loan in South Korea, he’s contracted to City until 2022.

Ball boys playing the fool

FFT is generally glad children don’t work up chimneys any more, but we pity the manager who, with no possible recourse to violence, watches a prepubescent jobsworth mock him and knowing he has to just take it.

FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley

 

Admittedly, lower-league clubs deserve reward for reaching the last four when English football’s inequality means only two of the last 54 finalists were playing outside the top flight. On the other hand: ‘booking a ticket to Wembley’ by winning a quarter-final is just inherently wrong.

Club media capping up certain words

Stop capitalising the word ‘club’ in all forms of communication (including speech) – and worst of all, ‘coach’. You’re not Prince, you monsters.

Throwing pints in fan zones

Absolute scenes. 100% bits. Incontrovertible limbs. Last year’s World Cup was when pint-chucking took off – literally. But when this was happening after England went 5-0 up against Panama with a bloody penalty, it became clear that a wonderfully irrational moment of paid-seven-fifty-for-this-but-who-cares freedom had been supplanted by damp attention-seeking. Shame.

Players covering their mouths when talking

Mainly because they’re never saying anything worth hearing anyway. We want to believe it’s some genius tactical strategy, but it’s clearly just comparing Instagram followers to decide who gets to smash the next free-kick into the wall.

The section of Wembley that's empty from the 45th-55th minutes every game

The most atmosphere-draining part of the Nu Wembley Experience is those acres of empty cushions. Being in Wembley’s innards is like hanging out in a soulless aircraft hanger. Why endure it when actual football is on?

FFP in the Football League

FFP is designed to stop fiscal doping. While we all agree it’s been a huge success reining in PSG and Manchester City, it’s had a detrimental effect on the Football League, where erratic fines and the impact of parachute payments have created a boom-or-bust culture.

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Scandalous agent fees

So you’ve convinced a prodigiously talented player that you, and only you, can cut a deal with some super-club to give him a whopping contract. Well done on that con trick, but why is it the clubs who have to cough up the eye-watering fee?

Players not celebrating against old clubs they played twice for

No. Calm down. Do a sad face. Nobody touch me. Apparently it’s not OK for me to be a goalscoring legend to one set of fans, I must also appear a noble, wounded hero to the others. Berk.

Kicking ball out for trivial injuries

Bonus points for when a footballer does this while their side is leading purely to delay the game (whereas they’d played on when a team-mate’s leg fell off in the first half). Oh wait! This is the only times teams do it. Bonus points all around!

Players trying to gain a 1mm advantage in corner quadrants 

Place the ball down. Do it again. Do it again. Got to be on that precise sod of earth; the one infinitesimally nearer the goal. There! Done it. Now: wallop the ball into the first defender.

Fan TV channels

Man like self-publicising after the game, bruv. All the 20-20 hindsight you need innit, creating ‘content’ only enjoyed by rival fans basking in their pained idiocy of vloggers moaning incoherently. Rancid.

Social channels dedicated to single players

Having a favourite footballer is good. Great, even. A soft spot. A player you’ve always rated. Creating @CR0naldo777977, having meltdowns, endless arguments with people you don’t know and replying to every message from your hero is not good. Seek help.

A**hole owners 

They come in all shapes, from low-key b******s to ‘the full Oyston’. But from leveraged buyout merchants to soft-power sportwashers, there’s too many appalling examples about. Except that Huddersfield guy. He seems OK.

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“Bottled it”

Finish second? Lost a final? Must be a bottler, the new reductive term for anyone good not quite good enough. Slack-jawed schadenfreude with a superiority complex, it’s about as mature and intelligent as saying “cowardy custard”.

Managed social media accounts

Neutered comment. Vanilla advertising. Homogenised bonhomie. Carefully cultivated commercial capitalisation. Sanitised parings from the pristine fingernails of the privileged. The communicational equivalent of chlorinated chicken.

Goal music

Scoring goals is the fundamental point of football; it shouldn’t need the blue pill of organised fun. If your team’s scored you should be too busily engaged in orgasmic ecstasy to join in with the chanting equivalent of line-dancing to a post-ironic reclaimed '70s circle-jerk.

People filming themselves at games

There’s a reason the seats point toward the pitch. You’re not the star of the show here, no matter how many inspirational slogans you’ve painted on your kitchen wall. And if in years to come you can’t remember that you went to match: maybe it was rubbish.

Price of football shirts

In what other world would you pay £64.95 for an eyesore T-shirt featuring a giant sponsor’s logo, that’s somewhere below ‘hair shirt’ on the comfort scale and becomes obsolete after 12 months? They should be paying us to wear this stuff.

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Tabloid 'stories' that aren't stories

In the old days, there were entertaining fabrications. Now, we just get the boring bits of the internet regurgitated into “content”. Raheem Sterling in Poundland; Raheem Sterling buying his mum a house; Raheem Sterling's dirty car. Wait, there's a theme here...

Ticket prices

Justice Taylor suggested a £6 ceiling should suffice. Fat chance. “Progress” allowed us to be squeezed like lemons till the pips squeak. Be careful, football: finance is finite, and our entertainment options have never been broader.

Half-and-half scarves 

Not so much kicking a cripple as haranguing a happy idiot, but come on. A scarf is the physical carrier of the tribal emblem under which we march into figurative battle. It shouldn’t have the other lot’s badge on it. Even if it’s a final.

Soccer Football - Copa Libertadores Final - Second Leg - River Plate v Boca Juniors - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - December 9, 2018 Merchandise including half-and-half scarves on sale outside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Paul Hanna

Players feigning injury

The footballing equivalent of blue-badge abusers, these mardy sods roll about until they either con the ref or waste enough time. Some might suggest convicted feigners should be inflicted with an equal injury. We just suggest they grow up.

Time wasting

Oi! I’ve paid good money here, mate! Even when it’s your own team doing it, you should be racked by twin fears: one, the death of joy; two, the chance they might lose it and the opposition will score a goal applauded in heaven.

Inaccuracy of stoppage time

Time is money. In most games the ball is out of play for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes; don’t deprive us of our last knockings, the final sip of the drink, the concluding mouthful of ice cream. Extend our fun. And count all the substitutions, dammit.

Lack of appetite for safe standing

For tragic reasons, a generation has grown up without knowing the joy of (safe) terracing. The atmosphere. The conversations. The flexibility. The connection to a tradition. We can do this. We should do this. Pop down the pyramid, try it, and live a little. Stretch your legs.

Away kits being worn for contractual reasons

Back in the day, West Ham’s change kit might go unseen for most of the season. Now we get carefully choreographed release schedules and a “first chance to see”. It’s nonsense, and it’s designed to bilk us. Our club, our badge, our colours.

United in festa al Parco dei PrincipiI Red Devils vincono 3-1 e volano ai quarti. Altra delusione per Buffon che comunque dovrebbe rinnovare con i parigini.

A 'respect' campaign that doesn't work

We want passion in football, but passion doesn’t have to be a spittled-flecked oral assault on a referee for giving the other team a decision which you know was right anyway. We’re with Half Man Half Biscuit: “Wouldn’t it be fun if they gave the ref a gun?”

Clubs stockpiling young players

(A mere snapshot from Chelsea's batch of 53 current loanees) 

Talent-farming will always happen, but there’s something particularly sad about the hopes of youngsters being cultivated and then cropped for purely financial gain. It’s capitalism gone mad, and our children are the victims.

Daft sponsorship deals

Manchester United have official partners for digital transformation, global lubricant and fuel retail, coffee, hotel loyalty, mattresses and pillows, logistics, music, spirits, wine, tyres, medical systems, electrical styling, denim, ‘vision’ and paint. They have a paint partner.

The EFL Trophy in its current guise

Some of the ideas and intentions were good, but their ham-fisted application and tin-eared explanation have led to a widespread revolt through the fans’ greatest underused strength: withdrawal of support.

UEFA’s fines for racism

Many things are hyperbolised as offensive. Racism actually is offensive, and so is UEFA’s half-arsed wrist-slapping for some of the vilest filth ruining our game. The money’s there. Confiscate it and give it to suitable charities.

Not using VAR properly

TV couldn’t wait to introduce it. Now it’s the gift that keeps giving. Badly applied, poorly explained and ill-defined, it’s threatening to ruin the single greatest thing that gets us all watching: the post-goal moment of ecstasy.

FILE PHOTO: FIFA VAR Refereeing Project Leader Roberto Rosetti (top) demonstrates a video operation room (VOR), a facility of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system which will be rolled out for the first time at a World Cup, in Moscow, Russia June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

Lazy punditry

“He’s finished it really well.” Thanks mate, we can see that. Tell us what we don’t know. No really, tell us what only you, who played at the highest level, can bring to the conversation which is more perceptive than the fat-arsed bloke at the end of the bar.

Sleeve sponsors

It’s hard to be a hero when you’re a walking ad-hoarding, every square inch of your upper body plastered with logos. Rwanda’s president paid £30m for his country’s name to grace the bulging biceps of the Arsenal squad.

Disregarding xG because you don't understand it

It’s not a perfect metric, neither wholly qualitative nor quantitative. But most of those who deride it do so because they don’t understand it and don’t like change. Anger comes from fear: in this case, it’s that the world is passing you by, Graeme.

Richard Keys

Painfully behind the times, fading into obscurity, yet oblivious to his obsolescence, Keys tries desperately hard with his Year 9 IT project of a blog. Alas, he and Andy Gray are more irrelevant than irreverent.

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Post-match interviews with players

These used to be dull because players were knackered, untalkative and not particularly illuminating. Now they’re almost always dull because players are untalkative, not particularly illuminating and have been media-trained to say nothing. Forget it.

'Looking for a foul' being acceptable

The deliberately trailed leg is football’s equivalent of the ambulance chaser, the spam email, the scammer who robs your granny or the vampire at the window. Being invited in by the unwary is not a justification for s**thousery. Stop endorsing it.  

A 48-team World Cup (even if it hasn't happened yet)

When heads were last counted, FIFA had 211 member countries. If almost a quarter of them qualify, it’s less an elite competition and more a bloated beanfeast. And that’s before we get into the maths of three-team groups: does nobody remember the Disgrace of Gijon?

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group D - Nigeria vs Argentina - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 26, 2018 Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Sergio Perez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Indecipherable shirt sponsors 

SportPesa. Laba360. Dafabet. FXPro. ManBetX. aap3. 12BET. 138.com. Fun88. M88. 188BET. 818.com. 888sport. One of those is made up, but do you even know which? Whatever happened to good old-fashioned sponsors like Nobo and Broxap? Oh.

Players whose careers consist of endless loans

Boo the clubs for stockpiling kids, but at some point players have to get off the pot. Todd Kane has been at Chelsea since under-8 level. He’s never appeared for the first team but has had eight different loan clubs. He’s 25. It’s time, Todd.  

Undisclosed transfer fees

Spoilsports. Don’t give us excuses about invasion of privacy, avoidance of tax, evasion of pressure. We want to know our entertainers’ pricetag because we the fans helped pay for them, whether by tickets, TV deals or your endless merchandising opportunities. Your spend might be net; ours is gross.

Lazy journalism

Hot takes. Selective memories. Unacknowledged U-turns. Confirmation bias. Unfettered bias. Social-media recycling. Misleading headlines. Controversy-stoking. Fatuous space-filling. Not only can journalism be better than this, it must.

Sponsorship of corners, throw-ins etc

“Goal! Make sure you ‘score’ with Lynx Africa!” “This corner was brought to you by Alf’s Garage – right around the corner!” “This water break is sponsored by AquaFleecer – like a tap, but more expensive!” “Our pitch-invasion partner is Rentokil!”

Late substitutions

 

You say: ‘a time-honoured way of running down the clock’. We say: Phil Foden has played 139 minutes across 15 Premier League appearances. Won’t somebody think of the statistics?

Betting adverts

An increased emphasis on gambling responsibly is welcome. Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of betting ads, before and during a match, totally undermines it. And that’s before you consider the morally grey area of news outlets having associated bookmakers. Luckily, next season it won’t be so prevalent.

Stoke City flags at half-mast outside the stadium  Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Punditry has-beens blocking new talent's path

This isn’t ageism, but meritocracy. There are Proper Football Men who are now stealing a living at the expense of people who are more interesting and intelligent, not to mention less bitter and outdated. Rejuvenation is required.

Misuse of stats

Pointless statistics run amok – their first Boxing Day away win since 2007! – but far worse is the deliberately misleading statistic, (ab)used to make a point.

Banter accounts

These serve two terrible purposes: stopping debate and starting fights. One particularly pernicious betting company tweeted last September: “Celtic 1-0 Rangers – a disappointing result, but a huge day out for a small club like Rangers.” Why are you here, exactly?