After publication of my latest blog, which featured an analysis of the error made by one of the Assistant Referees at the end of the game between Sunderland AFC and Manchester City last weekend, I was contacted by a gentleman from Llantrisant, in south Wales. He was a representative from the Royal Mint, the government-owned company that manufactures coinage for Britain and many other countries. Very politely, he asked if I was aware of the efforts being made by the Royal Mint to prevent such errors as I had described.
In my surprise, I asked: "You think if you pay them more the ARs will get the calls right?"
"No, no, no, my dear chap! Not at all! Not at all! I'm talking about our new coin made for the 2012 Olympics. We're helping the chaps on the line with an explanation of offside."
"You're kidding, right?" said I, slipping into my American vernacular. But he wasn't, he really wasn't. Take a look at this . . .
This ever-such-a-nice-chap from the Mint continued his explanation.
"Well, you see. We'll have all those foreign chaps coming here to referee the games, not to mention some of our subjects from Wales and Scotland and Ireland, and so we thought to give them a bit of help, we would encourage the fellows in charge of the football to give the coins out so that the referee could get his lads together before the kick-off, and explain things to them. Of course, it won't work for all of them, will it? I mean that poor chap from Mali in the World Cup won't get it, will he? He barely knows which way to point."
"Yes," I agreed, "they should take the pea out of his whistle and make him an assessor."
Then I had to ask him how he, an Englishman, liked living in Llantrisant, only twenty-five miles from Swansea, where I grew up.
"Oh, it's a nice-enough little place. But do you know that some of the people there don't speak English at all? That's a bit backward, don't you think? I mean, they'll get left behind, won't they?"
"But not so far behind as that Assistant in Sunderland, boyo," I replied. And then, with a sigh, I hung up.