How the Diego Costa incident reiterates the need to learn from Rugby

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The recent Chelsea v Arsenal match once again sparks huge debate on a number of aspects.

Debates that rugby fans were no doubt, having years ago but are no longer required to do so, as those game changing controversial moments are gripped up on the pitch, there and then, at the time when it really matters.

Isn't it about time the football governing bodies followed suit, instead of dealing with everything retrospectively, without really dealing with the route cause of the problem - human error?


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Moments before half-time, Diego Costa grabs the face of Laurent Koscielny and then swings an arm.

An act that in any football followers opinion (excluding some Chelsea fans) should warrant a straight red card. However, one can only assume that referee Mike Dean and his team didn't see it and allowed play to continue, but what happened next had huge repercussions, not only on the result but the match as a spectacle, a match that was watched by millions with more than 40,000 paying a significant amount of money to do so.

Costa's temper is allowed to boil and his ongoing feud with Gabriel continues, one can assume that Costa said something to Gabriel which provoked a reaction.

We are not talking about a George Foreman style haymaker to the jaw of Diego Costa, but the raising of a leg, more akin to a puppy offering a paw in exchange for a doggy treat. Nevertheless, it was in the direction of the opposition and for that he was shown a straight red. 

So, within the space of five minutes, Arsenal are a player down and Chelsea keep eleven, when on another day the roles could, and should, have been reversed. No doubt, the game had now taken a massive swing. 

Move the calendar on three days and the situation is looked at by FA HQ. They agree that Gabriel should not have walked, they also agree that Costa should have. But the damage had already been done.

Some say that Mike Dean should face action for his poor performance, maybe he should? But the bottom line is that he and his team are human and when humans are involved we should expect mistakes. 

This is where the Rugby chiefs have got it nailed.

During the England v Fiji match, Nikola Matawalu makes it to the line and the try is awarded. Up pops a replay on the big screen which shows the ball was dropped - "no try" says the referee. And we know that's what he said because, unlike football referees, he is miked up so that everything that goes on is open and transparent.

What is also apparent is that what the referee says, goes. There is no arguing, no back chat and the referee is often referred to as "sir".  Maybe if football referees wore a microphone, we would hear the petty arguing and whining by those feeling hard done by because the latest "foul" has caused a blemish on the top of their new illuminous pink boots. I'm sure they would think twice if they knew everything they said was being broadcast to millions.

Anyway, back to the rugby. The decision was made on the try, everyone can see why the decision was made, on with the game. How long did it take? Less time than if Doctor Carneiro had to come running onto the pitch to treat an injury that doesn't exist!

That moves us neatly on to the issue of feigning injury. A subject that infuriates football fans and provides that much-needed ammunition to rugby fans, supporting their theory that rugby is better than football.

"Footballers spend 90 minutes pretending they're injured, rugby players spend 80 minutes pretending they're not" - never a truer word spoken. Surely if that "bad tackle" was displayed on the big screen, even the biggest of prima donna's would think twice about embarrassing themselves?

Some will say the answer is more officials. The referee has a two assistants (previously called linesmen) and a fourth official who bases themselves in the technical area. Quite what their role is other than pacifying ranting management teams and lifting up an electronic board every now and again, who knows.

Of course, during European matches there are two further officials. Both of which patrol the goal line whilst holding a stick, apparently oblivious to anything other than if the ball crosses the goal line - a job which has already been satisfactorily taken over by technology.

Of course, supporters are not completely blameless in what's right and wrong with football. When did you last see two opposing football fans sit next to each other in the stand, swilling lager?Probably never, and the idea of applauding the opposition in appreciation of them completely out-playing the other team is quite frankly, absurd. 

The supporter thing comes down to footballing culture, it would take centuries to ever overcome that issue, but everything else is open to change. It is clear that the authorities recognise that some things can be done better.

The introduction of 'blue cards' in small sided games, resulting in a two-minute sin bin is a start, but why stop there? 

Football is crying out for video replays in order to get decisions right when they really matter, not three days later. There is far too much at stake to get these things wrong. The debate has rumbled on and on for years. Surely enough is enough?

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