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The most pointless law in the game?

By Daniel Barr



Let’s first set the scene. Last Saturday, Southampton had no points going into their Premier League fixture against Aston Villa. Suddenly, after being a goal down at halftime, they equalise before summer signing Nathaniel Clyne, who had never played in this division, puts them in front and celebrates with the exultant  fans.

Wait a minute now, says the referee. Far too much excitement. Calm down. Yellow card.

This has got to be one of the most ludicrous rules in football. Okay technically the officials are applying the laws of the game. Law 12 states that; “While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive” and that a player shall receive a caution for “deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission.”

Of course the players know the rules. They’ve seen it happen plenty of times to know that if they were to jump into the crowd, remove their shirt or any other item of clothing, be too ‘excessive’ with their celebration, then they are going to suffer the consequences. No defence there, I agree.

But sometimes they just don’t really care. And who can blame them?

Try telling me that Sergio Aguero really cared that he was booked for ‘over celebrating’ his last-minute title-winning goal against QPR last season.

Some would argue that taking off your shirt and putting it back on takes too long. They would also argue that jumping into the crowd is dangerous and over excessive. But what about those cases when a goalkeeper will run the length of the field to join in goal celebrations? We never see him  being cautioned for taking too long to get back into position? Besides, have you ever seen a crowd turn angry when celebrating with a player? Maybe only if he jumped into the wrong end.

There are occasions when a caution may seem worthy , for instance when a player goes out of his way to incite anger. Emmanuel Adebayor was rightly cautioned for running the length of the field to celebrate in front of Arsenal fans when he scored for Manchester City.

And things can certainly get out of hand when one such caution can lead to a sending off. A famous example could be Arjen Robben in 2006 when he was dismissed after receiving his second yellow card for celebrating his winner against Sunderland. No sympathy here for being foolish enough to celebrate excessively when already in the book.

But killjoy is the word that springs to mind on the majority of occasions, as if the officials are trying to minimalize the amount of fun that players can have.

With laws in the game now going as far as to ensure players have the same coloured tape on as their socks, it may be time to re-evaluate the more important issue of  allowing  them a little more freedom to express themselves.