With blatant shirt-pulling, illegal arm-locks and quicksilver shoves in the back now the regulation last line of defence in the Premier League, FA Director of Football Sir Trevor Brooking, reckons it's time to consider a partial merger with Rugby Union.
Brooking, who scored 10 GCEs in the tough days before kids studied Goal Line Technology, believes English football is now at a technical crossroads. “Technically speaking, we're not as good as Spain,” he suggests. “In another technical sense, the Italians and the Germans are technically so far ahead of us that if you mix that with the technical brilliance of the Brazilians and Argentinians we'll be lucky if we ever again make the last 16 in the World Cup.”
Nicknamed 'The Professor', Barking born Brooking is arguing for widespread changes to the laws of tackling. “Basically, if Britain is ever to rejoin the world elite, we need to legalise what we're good at and allow for lots more physical violence,” he says. “Football gets itself a bad name when kids see star players breaking the rules behind the ref's back. So the only solution is to change the rules.”
Brooking believes superstar Premier League footballers will only evolve into 'fit for purpose' role-models and potential World Cup winners once they are legally allowed to 'go-low'. “All these nightmare 'studs-up' tackles - bodies writhing in agony, war zone oxygen masks, anxious stretcher-bearers and referees wielding angry red cards – they would all be things of the past once we allow defenders to go for the legs, head first,” he argues.
Sat behind his old school desk in the glittering Trophy Room of his Billericay bungalow, Sir Trevor, an honorary PhD from Essex University, explains how rugby tackles - often referred to as 'hits' - are medically far safer to execute than their football equivalents. “That's why rugby players are often seen as gentleman whilst footballers are widely regarded as childish, spoilt, mega-rich, unsporting yobs,” he sighs.
“And let's face it, at the end of the day British diving has never been as accomplished as our foreign counterparts. I mean, going forward from the Olympics and looking at the wider picture, football is a game of two halves. So how can anyone compare a beautiful Cristiano Ronaldo Oscar-winning swallow dive to the average Ashley Young belly-flop in the pouring rain of Old Trafford?”
Thankfully Brooking stops short of offering support for the fearsome and highly illegal rugby union 'spear' tackle. “I hope I never live to see the day when Nemanja Vidic picks up Theo Walcott, turns him upside down and drops him on his head,” he says. “Now that simply 'aint cricket”