Imagine that you are playing a football game.

Your opponent kicks the ball towards your goal and it goes wide of the goalpost.  The referee indicates that it is a goal.  He explains that the corner flags constitute goalposts and it is a goal if the ball crosses the line anywhere between the two corner flags which are now deemed to be the ‘outer goalposts’.  After some furious arguments your team relents and accepts the decision.

Score 1-0 (in favour of your opponent)

Your team now attacks the opponent’s end of the field and your striker kicks the ball out near the corner flag. Under the rule as explained earlier, you think that it should be a goal.  Your team claims that it is a goal. The referee states that although the corner flags constitute the goalposts, to score a goal the player must display an intention to hit the ball into the net and the ball must in fact be closer to the central goalposts as opposed to the ‘corner goalposts’ when it crosses the line. After much noise making, your team accepts the ruling.

Score 1-0 (in favour of your opponent)

Now the opposing team attacks your goal and your goalkeeper picks up the ball. He kicks the ball and it ricochets off your opponents’ striker and goes into the back of the net. The referee asks the striker whether he intended the ball to end at the back of the net. The striker acknowledged that he did. You argue that intention must be construed objectively because the referee said that the player must ‘display an intention’ and clearly the player did not even kick the ball as the ball simply bounced off the player.  The referee ruled that a subjective intention is sufficient.  So long as the player said that he intended, the referee would not ask further.  In any event, a striker chooses to stand in the vicinity of the goalkeeper in the hope that he can pounce on a loose ball.  Therefore, even objectively, he would have intended to hit the ball into the net by merely standing where he was.

Score 2-0 (in favour of your opponent)

Your team is now fully charged up and determined to mount a come back despite the way the game has gone.  You mount wave after wave of attacks.  Meanwhile, the Football Association announces that one of your players has been suspended with immediate effect because of his excessive protests against the previous 2 decisions of the referee.  The suspension order is served at the field and you are down to 10 men and the terms of the order is that there will be no substitution available until the end of the match.  Your players are frustrated but they soldier on. humpty

Your opponent’s central defender has the ball inside his penalty area.  Your striker tries to tackle the ball off him. The ball rolls and crosses the goal line just outside the left ‘central goalpost’.  It doesn’t go into the back of the net.  Your team claims that it is a goal.  Your striker says that he intended to kick the ball into the net.  Based on the referee’s earlier decisions, your team claims that it is a goal if the ball crosses the line between the two corner flags (the corner goalposts), is outside the two central goalposts but is nearer the central goalpost than the corner goalpost and the player displays an intention to hit the ball into the net and that this must be merely a subjective intention.  The referee agrees with all the assertions except that he now states that the intention must be assessed objectively.  Your team is furious now as the referee said earlier that it was subjective intention.

The referee clarified that if the ball had gone between the two central goalposts and into the back of the net, then the intention is to assessed subjectively.  If the ball had merely crossed the line outside of the central goalposts, then the intention requirement must be assessed objectively.  It does not matter that your player intended subjectively.  The earlier ruling of the referee had to be distinguished as now the ball had crossed the line at a different location.  For this purpose, the question is whether a reasonable spectator would consider that the player intended.  The referee then went on to decide that there was no intention.

Your fans are incensed and they start posting negative comments on their facebook and some post youtube videos questioning the referee’s decisions.  The Football Association has passed urgent rules to prevent your fans from posting online.  A few of your fans have been whisked away and made to stand behind a blue gate.

Your team focuses all its efforts and manages to score a goal right between the two central goalposts.  It is a clear, clean strike from your player.  The referee confers with the linesman.  The crowd is chanting ‘referee kayu. referee kayu.”  The goal is awarded to your team.

Score 2-1

At the 89th minute, your player is brought down in the penalty box through a vicious tackle to the groin.  The referee was right in front of the players and saw what happened.  He points to the penalty spot.  Your striker takes the kick and buries it into the back of the net.  Your opponents’ captain moves intimidatingly towards the referee.  The referee ignores it allows the goal.  It’s all level now.

Score 2-2

And it is the final whistle.

The Football Association’s Council has a meeting the next day and makes a ruling that penalties are outlawed from the rules of the game.  The rule is backdated to the start of the last match.  The FA then declares that the scoreline of the match is 2-1 in your opponent’s favour.

You and your fans feel that this is unfair.  Your opponent’s supporters say it is all in accordance with the rules.

(What does it mean, therefore, to play according to rules?  If the rule means whatever the decision-maker wants it to mean, are we playing according to rules? If the rule can be changed after the fact, are we playing according to rules?  If the rules give too much discretion to the decision-maker, are we really playing according to rules?)