Football going metric?

Viewers of “Match of the Day” on 9 December had the unusual experience of hearing football commentary in metric. Was this an aberration or a straw in the wind? (asks Robin Paice)

There was an interesting exchange on “Match of the Day”

Three football pundits (Ray Stubbs, Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson) are discussing the “goal of the season” scored by Matthew Taylor for Portsmouth against Everton. Lawrenson is describing the volley, voice over an action replay: “straight as an arrow, like a rocket, dipping – here’s the measurement [screen shows 42 metres]. Similar thing at Sunderland last season, like an arrow, goalkeeper on his six yard box [sic] didn’t stand a chance [screen shows 39 metres], not quite so far but still a very good goal. He won’t score many better than that. 42 metres …

AS: By the way, I work in yards.

ML: [slightly condescending] It’s 42 lots of 39 inches.

AS: [to RS] Carry on then.

ML: It’s about 45 and a half yards, give or take.

RS: Have you just worked it out that quickly?

ML: No, I’ve been practising all day.

[All fall about laughing].

Football tends to be militantly imperial despite the fact that as the sport is relatively unknown in the USA, and despite the prominence of foreign players and managers in English and Scottish football, Britain and Ireland are the only countries in the world which still cling to expressions such as the “eighteen yard box” (meaning the penalty area). So it was encouraging, and perhaps we should thank Mark Lawrenson for introducing the footballing masses to the novelty of metric measurements – albeit it was treated somewhat light-heartedly – as though metres are not real measurements.

I would guess that the explanation for this unexpected foray into the world system was that the software used by the BBC in this instance was probably metric. It was easier to use it than try to amend it.

Anyway, thanks to Mark Lawrenson.

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