Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Nelsen: I fear for the game
RYAN Nelsen fears football is in danger of becoming a non-contact sport if referees continue to act as passion killers.
Blackburn Rovers' New Zealand international was one of EIGHT players who entered referee Mark Clattenburg's notebook during the goalless draw at Reading on Saturday.
On top of booking five Rovers players and three from Reading, the card-happy Clattenburg also dismissed the Royals' Czech midfielder, Marek Matejovsky, during a game that was always fiercely competitive, but never dirty.
Afterwards, rival managers Steve Coppell and Mark Hughes stood united in their assessment of the Tyne and Wear official, accusing Clattenburg of being too quick to dole out bookings.
Now Nelsen has entered the debate, claiming he fears for the future of football because the people running the game are threatening to kill it as a spectacle.
Referring to Clattenburg's handling of the Reading match, the Rovers skipper, who was harshly booked following a first half tangle with Royals keeper Marcus Hahnemann, said: "I don't know where that (all the cards) came from, because there wasn't a dirty or malicious tackle in the match.
"But that's where the game is going now.
"I think they've got to look at these red and yellow cards, and the punishments afterwards, because you can do practically nothing and end up with a ban.
"I thought the red card the lad from Reading got was extremely harsh, and he'll now get suspended for that, and maybe even a fine from his club.
"I just think the game's getting so much tougher now because you can't do anything, and if we are not careful it could become a non-contact sport.
"If that was to happen then it would be very disappointing, because that's half the fun of it.
"That's why you play the game because of the speed and the power, and there's going to be clashes of bodies, especially when the athletes are getting stronger and faster.
"I really think in a few years' time they'll have to really seriously look at the disciplinary side of things, and what happens when people get these yellow cards, because, at the moment, it's just so tough."
Although Nelsen felt hard-done-by at the Madejski Stadium, he believes it is ultimately the guardians of the game, and not the referees themselves, who are threatening to change the face of the sport forever, because they insist on officials sticking to the letter of the law rather than applying commonsense.
"Referees are massively under pressure at the moment, and I'm not blaming them," said the Rovers skipper, who is one of only two Premier League players to have been sent off twice this season.
"I think it's so hard for them now because they're under the microscope, and I feel really sorry for them, because they've been put in this position where they have to give them (bookings), so they are backed into a corner as well.
"I can understand people wanting to clean up the game, and they want to provide an image where bad tackles don't happen.
"They want a nice, clean image because footballers are meant to be role models.
"But it's a professional game, and a professional sport, and there's a massive amount on the line, so players are going to play with passion.
"In a few years' time, they are going to have to find a balance because, at the moment, it's starting to get a bit silly."
Being an old-fashioned defender, who relishes a physical tussle, Nelsen recoils at the thought of seeing tackling outlawed, because he believes it's an essential part of the game, and something ultimately the fans want to see.
But, because everything is scrutinised to the nth degree these days, which means there is less and less margin for error, he believes a good, honest challenge could soon become a thing of the past, unless the powers-that-be change their thinking.
"It will get to the stage where players will become scared to make a decent tackle," added the 30-year-old.
"The crowd wants the game to go on because the game is all about passion, and that's why the Premier League is the best in the world.
"If you take that passion out of it then you are taking some of the fun out of the game as well."