Spitting in sports could be on its way out

Spitting in sports could become a thing of the pastSpitting in sports is about as common as the goal celebration in football. It’s long been part of the furniture, but perhaps that’s all about to change.

As respective governing bodies and industry big-wigs have now reached agreements to resume live sport, it’s pertinent to figure out what shape it might take.

One interesting aside to come out of these talks is a potential ban on spitting in sports. It’s a welcome consideration to an act which should have been phased out years ago.

Spitting annoys and intrigues me in equal measure. I’ve often wondered why, as a really base level thing, it has never been pulled up on.

In this age of Covid-19, moves are now being made across sports, such as football and cricket, to stop these emissions.

For example, why do footballers spit?

In some quarters there is believed to be a reason why sports competitors, notably footballers, spit on the field of play. But this is just a convenient crutch to hide behind. It comes from grassroots all the way up, so to suggest it’s just elite athletes is naive.

Take indoor sports for example. You don’t see Ronnie O’Sullivan pausing mid-break to coat the Crucible in his saliva. The referee would have something to say I’m sure. He’d almost certainly face a fine in the aftermath. In football, the referee would likely be joining in.

Of course, as the national sport in the UK, football is where spitting is seen most.

The issue has naturally bled into general society. Kids play youth football and fling out the phlegm on occasion. It’s because they’ve seen their ‘heroes’ do it on television.

Footballer-turned-pundit Jamie Carragher even showed his skills off from a car window in 2018.

Reflex action

Spitting often appears to be a routine reflex action to being fouled. Players get up, have a spit and get on with the game.

Statistics released in 2017 showed the relatively small amount of minutes the ball is actually in play during a Premier League match. With the magic number being 59 minutes, this therefore equates to 31 minutes (plus a little extra) amount of spitting time when the ball is off the field.

Now it’s clearly not exclusive to football. I’ve dodged it while taking part in running events as well.

The majority of people will move to the side and aim their trajectory of spittle downwards to (relative) safety.

However, there are some who don’t even look behind before letting go and are then surprised when the wind catches it and it drifts back into another runner.

Late, half-arsed apologies just don’t cut it. And the annoyance levels of runners affected by this will surely rise in the Covid-19 era.

The only time I’ve ever felt need to spit anywhere in public is on very rare occasions when I’ve inadvertently eaten a fly. Even then it went into my tissue.

Surely these sportspeople can’t all be swallowing insects?! They’d be like a bunch of starlings sating themselves in a feeding frenzy.

Infamous example of spitting in sports

It’s odd the issue of spitting has been passed over for decades. One of the most public acts came from Frank Rijkaard on Rudi Voller in the 1990 World Cup.

I remember it distinctly from watching as a youngster. Real-time television images didn’t pick it up. It wasn’t until the favoured slo-mo replay showed just what Rijkaard had put in his Germany counterparts’ hair-do.

So news that an end could be in sight for the spitters should be welcomed by all.

As something which only serves to drag sports’ reputation down, it’s a move that can’t come quickly enough.

Image by Nick Looy from Pixabay

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