Authored by Mike Lynch, Faith-Based Advocacy Group Chair

Coaches love gamers and they deplore cheaters, or at least they should if they are true to competitive sport and the coaching profession. But, where is the line between gamer and cheater on Tactical Fouling? Before we dive into this specific situation, allow me to ponder a bit.

If a player didn’t inject a banned performance enhancement but did inject a performance enhancement that is just not on the banned list yet, is that a gamer or a cheater? Another player didn’t take a banned substance but they do have a full time nutritionist and chef which clearly makes a difference over other players without similar resources, is that player a gamer or a cheater? Both situations are allowable and increase your physical performance, so what’s the issue?

The answer is what the little person on your shoulder whispering into your ear is telling you. And did I mention the little person on your shoulder whispering into your ear is your conscious formed over time first by your parents, siblings and extended family or whomever is around lots of the time in your younger years, then by your peers who wield tremendous power and influence starting quite early, perhaps even younger and longer than we realize and then finally, by your teachers, coaches, bosses, pastors, and other leaders/mentors in your life (pray, they were raised with strong values).

Regardless, the summary influencers upon us coaches and our players are either building gamers or cheaters reminding me of the old tale of the two metaphorical wolves inside each person with the dominating one being the one that is fed more. Don’t we want to be the Coach that feeds the gamer inside our players? Without escalating into a 64K’ debate on moral relativism, can we all find common behaviors we must recognize and call out between sport gamers and cheaters? I think we can and we must not only for the good of ourselves and our players long term competitive growth potential but also for the future viability of our great game.

Didn’t the Super League decision feel wrong or at least, not quite right, as soon as it was announced yet the 12 original clubs were all in, until the outcry took over (sadly, I believe the financial greed drove the original decision and will be only a matter of time before a similar proposal, though garnished differently, will emerge). When we witnessed another EPL day full of tactical fouling, didn’t a whisper at least and a scream at most, say this is wrong? Ironically, while the broadcasters were lamenting and lambasting the Super League club presidents, they were neutral at best and supportive at worst for the tactical foul assaults taking place killing one goalscoring opportunity after another all day long.

A tactical foul only occurs when caught out of position and the player deliberately stops the game to cheat the opponent out of their opportunity they just created. Can you imagine a game where everyone was playing on a yellow card? The game would be null of tactical fouls and/or playing with likely 9v9 or something, unless the referee didn’t have the courage to make the calls.

I think the fans and the game deserve better. They deserve to see good defending. They deserve to see teams rewarded for their good attacking. At least in Basketball, deliberate fouls are punished with possible fouling out of the game, plus the Bonus which leaves a direct negative consequence placed on the offending team. Short term, behaviors will immediately change when greater negative consequences are immediately placed on the perpetrator and their team. Long term, increasing the consequences for deliberate fouling to stop a possible goalscoring opportunity will lead to more goals, more attacks, more exciting plays, all good for the game. We need this in soccer.

The time is now for Tactical Foul sin bins, automatic free kicks from the penalty arc, etc to not only stop the nonsense but to save our great game and to practice sport properly directed.