“Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” – Proverbs
In my first year of secondary school, gym classes were given over to Highland dancing lessons in the weeks prior to the Xmas party. As physical education in my school was divided by gender, this meant that twice a week we’d have to hold hands with another boy while perfecting the Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow, and, of course, the Gay Gordons.
We hated it.
Our PE teacher was a no-nonsense ex-military rugby man, and I’m sure he hated it too. So when one of the hardest kids in school clowned around a bit too much one day, he snapped. He hauled him into the middle of the room and belted both of his teenage hands, and then belted them again, and again, and again, until this hard-as-nails kid was standing in a school gymnasium in front of dozens of his petrified peers, bawling his 12-year-old eyes out.
I was glad when they tossed the tawse out of Scotland’s schools, and I still am – but I think that Scottish football should introduce corporal punishment. I think it’s a ‘belter’ of an idea that would revolutionise Scottish football.
Forget about players and managers getting fines and touchline bans for bad behaviour. Instead, people would get belted, in the centre circle, just before their next game. Garry O’Connor caught simulating? There’d be no simulating the tears rolling down his cheeks when he gets the strap in full view of the Easter Road faithful the next Saturday.
Television audience numbers would go through the roof, nationally and internationally. Neil Lennon sent off in the Ibrox tunnel, to go sit in a back room at Ibrox watching the second half on video? Bo-ring! Neil Lennon getting “six of the best” in front of 50,000 crazed Old Firm fans at half-time? Spectacular. (Lennon himself might even prefer it – after all, he’d be back in the dugout for the second half.)
Attendances would go up too. St Mirren v Caley Thistle in a meaningless end-of-season fixture? Meh. St Mirren v Caley Thistle in a meaningless end-of-season fixture with Terry Butcher getting caned before the match because he called the referee a muppet the previous week? Sold out!
Referees would love it as well: they’d get to do the belting, of course. Finally a purpose for the fourth official! Many refs probably miss the old leather strap, so many of them being schoolteachers from Monday to Friday.
It might even solve the sectarian problem. Haul some of the FTP brigade out of the stands, get my gym teacher out of retirement, and they’ll be whispering Hail Marys soon enough.
The downside? The American Psychological Association claims corporal punishment is “violent and unnecessary.” Well, so’s Scottish football, so I say it’s a perfect pairing.
And perhaps there should be lesser punishments for minor crimes. Call a ref a “criminal” in a press conference? Naughty step for the next game. Dissent on the pitch? Five-minute time out in the quiet corner. Our managers and footballers often behave like children, so let’s treat them accordingly.
Forget the McLeish report, this might just be the shock the system needs. After all, Scotland’s schools stopped producing talented footballers in the 1980’s. And when was corporal punishment banned?
That’s right. The 1980’s.