An interesting recent development in cross-sports ownership emerged when Renault F1 team Boss Flavio Briatore and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone purchased English soccer club, Queens Park Rangers for 22m.
Briatore, who appears to be the lead partner in this new venture, described the purchase as "..a dream come true..", and says that he has a four-year plan to take the club into the Premier League. This is quite an ambitious target, as the club is currently languishing at the bottom of the Championship, one level below the Premiership. He has also been quoted as saying that he intends to bring his experience of running successful Formula One teams into English football: "I believe that Formula One, from the paddock to the hospitalities, can teach a couple of things to football.." he said.
So what might these things be? Well, I have recently heard rumours of a secret document that is being prepared for submission to the FA, with some rather radical proposals for changes to the rules of the game to reduce the amount of time that there is no action on the pitch, and to make it safer for both players and officials.
The first of these proposals is for substitutions. Under this proposal, there will be no need to stop the game, as when a team decides to make a substitution, a group of twenty assistants wearing crash helmets and team-coloured overalls will rush out from the dugout to the touchline. Half of them will remove the substitute's tracksuit, give him drinking water and check his boots, while the other half will dash onto the pitch, pick-up the player to be substituted and carry him to the sideline.
The fourth official's number board will be replaced by a lollipop stick which has the outgoing and incoming players' numbers on it. The fourth official will hold this stick in front of the substitute while he waits on the sideline, rotating it to show the referee the numbers of the players involved, then raise it to release the substitute onto the pitch when the team assistants carrying the outgoing player have reached the touchline.
The next proposal involves installing a crane at each ground to help speed-up the removal of injured players from the pitch without having to stop the game. When a player goes down with an injury, the crowd marshalls closest to the injured player will rush forward to the touchline and wave yellow flags to attract the crane-driver's attention. Then when the crane driver lowers a hook over the player, one of them will run onto the pitch to attach it to a special harness that each player will be wearing under his kit. The player will then be winched clear of the pitch and lowered into his team's dugout.
Once the injured player has been removed from the pitch, he can only receive treatment from his team in the dugout, and will be allowed to return to the game once he has recovered. However, if he receives any outside assistance from anybody other than his team staff, then he will not be able to rejoin the game at any point, or be substituted.
However, it would appear that more thought may need to be put into the first part of this proposal as there have been teething troubles in rehearsals when the crane-driver mistakenly removed a linesman who was flagging for offside.
The final proposal suggests that, in future, play should be suspended for safety purposes if it rains during a match. Once play is suspended, all 22 players will have to jog around the pitch in single file behind the fourth official until the sun comes out. The fourth official will carry his information board over his head, counting down the time left in the game. A minute before play is to resume, he will switch-off the board signaling to the players that they can warm-up in preparation for the restart.
The player who was in possession of the ball when play was suspended has to take the position immediately behind the fourth official and dribble the ball. When play resumes, the player occupying that position, and his team, has possession of the ball for the restart. If the player in possession of the ball has to leave the single-file for any reason, then he must pass the ball to the player immediately behind him, whether that player is a team-mate or not.
Players are allowed to change their boots during this safety period for ones more suitable to the changed conditions, but they must do this by leaving the single-file as it passes their dugout, and change their boots in the dugout. Only one player can change his boots at a time, so any others must jog on the spot at the entrance to the dugout until the dugout is clear. Once changed, a player can then sprint to catch-up and join the single-file at the back. However for safety reasons, they are not allowed to sprint whilst inside the line marking the edge of the technical area around the dugout.
Fans I have spoken to have had mixed feelings about these proposals, but were less concerned about them than they would be about Formula-One style pricing being introduced. Most feared that, in future, it could cost 25 to get into the ground to watch the game on a giant screen in a car park, with the occasional glimpse of the actual ball as it rose into the air above the stand, but anything up to 500 more to have a seat in the stand to be able to see some real action.