In a World Cup dogged by controversy, English referee Howard Webb has launched the latest salvo with his savage criticism of the official World Cup match ball plinth that referees daintily pick the Jabulani up from at the start of each match. “For the referees it’s proving a nightmare,”. he was overheard telling anyone who would listen at a FIFA official cocktail party in Bloemfontein. “This new plinth is so light and flyaway – why, it’s like one of those plinths you get for 50p in the newsagents”.
Between mouthfuls of springbok canapes, Webb added: “It’s not just me making a big song and dance about it, for once, it is also terrible for the referee’s assistants, because they have to sort of…walk around it. That’s very difficult when you’re holding a colourful flag”.
The bulk of the criticism stems from concerns over the plinth’s stability, with several officials having already fallen foul of its unpredictable trajectory. The Englishman is not alone in voicing his concerns about the plinth, with Italian ref Roberto Rosetti also joining in the criticism. “Usually you get used to the flight of the plinth after a few training sessions, but in this case every touch comes with the unknown. And splinters, such terrible splinters”.
Manufacturers Adidas have sought to quell the negative response, with a vigorous defence of their creation. A statement released yesterday read:
“The World Cup plinth has been designed using cutting edge technology and is formed from a single block of wood. It has been through an extensive testing process, during which a man was employed to pick up a ball from it 1000 times a day. The man’s name was George. More importantly the plinth was found to be more consistent than all previous plinths: 99% of the time it will remain exactly where you leave it.
In fact, it is our plinthiest plinth to date”.
FIFA have insisted that there are no problems with the plinth, adding that it has been available for use by the referee squads since February, more than enough time for officials to accustom themselves to its particular nuances. Though they did admit that the altitude of some of the Stadia may be causing it to move erratically. Though this can be solved by wedging a bit of folded cardboard underneath one corner. No, not that one – the other one. There. Wooah!
There. Now it is level.
However not all of the referees have been so forceful in their condemnation of the plinth. Brazil’s Carlos Simon fails to see what all of the fuss is about, rebuking Webb’s claims as “tired excuses”, instead insisting that any referee truly at the top of his game should be able to adapt. “If you can referee with a match ball plinth made of scrunched up newspaper in a Rio slum, you can referee with any plinth”.