No Swearing in Soccer Matches is a Welcome Movie

Published: 13th February 2015 08:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th February 2015 08:30 AM   |  A+A-

According to Paul Simpson, the club's assistant manager, there is a simple explanation behind Derby County's successful campaign in the Championship this season: his boss, Steve McClaren, has banned swearing. No more effing and jeffing on the touchline, no more cursing and bad-mouthing on the pitch, no more turning the dressing room air 50 shades of blue: bad language is out at the iPro Stadium. Or whatever Pride Park is called these days.

"We have realised that when you swear at people, it doesn't get the reaction you want," said Simpson this week.

Yelling abuse at a referee or linesman, he believed, rarely produces a positive outcome. Neither, as psychological ploys go, is unleashing an entire lexicon of filth at the fourth official likely to get him to change his mind.

"We try not to swear if we possibly can," he added. "And we certainly don't use foul and abusive language in the technical area when we are talking to officials - which seems to be the common trend."

Simpson was not merely being prissy. He reckoned that the use of ripe invective has a negative effect on performance, largely because it demonstrates a lack of control. The best decisions, he believed, come when a player or coach is in control. If you cannot maintain discipline over your tongue, then what chance have you of controlling the rest of your emotions?

What has helped Derby this season, he argued, has been the

all-pervading sense of calm that exudes from the manager, standing in his technical area with an enigmatic smile, refusing under any circumstance to get worked up, his language measured, appropriate and business like. Even if he cannot open his brolly properly.

Which is an interesting diversion from what is common practice in the game. On Wednesday night at the Hawthorns, at one point you could hear up in the stands exactly what Garry Monk, the Swansea manager, was yelling in the direction of a linesman. And it was not something you would say to your granny.

Monk is not unusual in responding to the pressure of his position by using language as a release valve for his emotions. You don't need to be a lip reader to see players and managers using the most unhinged terminology on every edition of Match of the Day as a matter of course.

This is nothing new in the game. Industrial terminology has been in popular use for generations. One renowned former manager - a predecessor of McClaren's at Derby, as it happens - was incapable of stringing two sentences together without sounding as if he were scripted by Malcolm Tucker, the potty-mouthed spin doctor in The Thick of It. So pungent was this old school boss's vocabulary he used one particular word as noun, verb, adjective and pronoun to the point where his players routinely referred to him by it as a nickname. To them he was simply... well, let's just say no one at Derby these days would call McClaren that.

Indeed so ingrained is bad language in the fabric of the game that I was told recently by a contact of an incident at his 12-year-old son's birthday party. The lad had invited a dozen or so friends over, some of whom played rugby, some football. So it was decided by the host that they would have half an hour of each. And he tossed a coin

to determine that they would play football first. "Oh great," said one of the rugby lads. "That means we can swear."

The irony of that tale is that the man who told me is a senior official at the Football Association.

Simpson's point, however, is not just a moral one. He and McClaren are not seeking to set an example. Nor are they hoping to educate the wider public in the manner Brian Clough did down the road at Nottingham Forest in the Eighties when he appealed to the denizens of the Trent End not to use swear words in their chants. The Derby coaches are doing it because they reckon that not swearing makes them coach better and the players play better.

On its own, a swearing ban is not going to turn bad players into good. But in the battle for marginal gain that is elite sport, Simpson suggested McClaren, in his insistence that calmness improves decision making and not swearing improves calmness, might have found one.

You have to hope he is right. Because if the manager fails to deliver the urgent requirement to lift the club into the freshly enriched Premier League, you imagine the language in the boardroom, as directors react to the frustrations of not getting their hands on the ever-growing television bounty, is likely to be unsuitable for repetition in a national newspaper.

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