Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
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God Bless Jimmy Hill
For the first time since 1970 something is missing
from British TV coverage of the World Cup. Actually
it is a someone. Jimmy Hill.
For those of you who know who he is, you are probably
not missing him too much, especially if you are in
Scotland, where old Mr Hill is a hate figure to rival
Longshanks, Kevin Keegan and David Beckham. But I
have to assume that most of you have never heard of
him, so here is a quick run down of his career.
Jimmy Hill started life much like all analysts - as a
professional player, and eventually graduated to
become manager then chairman of Coventry City. In the
late 1960s he moved into broadcasting, and for the
1970 World Cup he fronted ITV's coverage. In the mid
1970s he made the jump to the BBC, where he remained
until 1998, when his position as main analyst was
usurped by Alan Hansen. He currently works for Sky,
mainly doing interviews with old players that go out
at 11pm, but is occasionally wheeled out for the odd
He managed to make a niche for himself as a
'controversial' analyst, and during the 1970s and
1980s his 'marks out of ten' for the latest England
performance were widely respected. At the end of his
time at the BBC he became a caricature of himself,
playing up to the role of pantomime villain, and wore
a hideous array of bow ties. It was no surprise that
when a new generation of ex-players took over, he
So why on earth am I writing an article about him?
Well, first of all this is not really about Jimmy
Hill, but is more about one of his many ideas. Hill
was a football innovator, both during his playing and
managerial career, and also on TV. Famously, he
invented the format for the 'football panel' to
analyse games. In 1970 he hired three outspoken
players and one very outspoken coach to comment on
matches at the World Cup. 'Big deal', you say,' there
are millions of those today - every channel has one'.
True, but before 1970 they did not - certainly in the
UK - and the job of TV pundit today would not exist
Yet that was probably the least influential idea he
came up with. While at Coventry he designed, and
built, the first all-seater football stadium. Today
every ground that hosts a World Cup game must be
all-seater. Another result for Mr Hill.
But the reason I have for wanting to celebrate this
marginally obnoxious man is for his third, and most
important, innovation. Jimmy Hill 'invented' the idea
of three points for a win in football matches, and
managed to convince the English FA to pioneer it from
1981. It is now the accepted method used in all
league and group competitions in football worldwide,
having taken over from the old style two points for a
win in 1994.
Now I have no evidence that Hill actually invented the
scoring system - proving that you invented something
as simple as that would be very difficult. Moreover,
regardless of who invents something new, nothing will
change until someone in power champions it. And that
is exactly what Hill did. It changed the English
league. Whereas it was once common for the title to
be decided by one or two points, or even goal
difference, it is now the rarest of events, seen only
a handful of time since 1981.
Another rhetorical question: how can that be a good
thing? Well, under two points for a win there is
hardly any difference in reward for winning a game as
there is for drawing it. For instance, if Everton had
drawn all 42 league games they would get 42 points,
but Liverpool would still have to win 21 league games
to get 42 points - under three points for a win a team
would get 63 points for winning that number of games.
In other words, under two points for a win there was
no major incentive to go for the win, especially away
from home as one point could be won quite easily -
especially if you put ten men behind the ball all the
time. Three points for a win encourages teams to go
out and look for a win, and makes football more
exciting. In the 38 game Premiership, if you win 20
games, draw ten, and lose eight, you get 70 points,
because the 20 wins are made more important. A side
winning ten and drawing twenty would only get 50
points - that would leave the first side at the top of
the league, and the second one near the bottom, even
though they only lost 8 games. Brilliant, magic, but
what has this, or Jimmy Hill, got to do with the World
I am going to be controversial here, but I think that
so far this has been the most exciting World Cup we
have ever seen. Never before has it been conceivable
that after the first group stage, the current World
Champions and five former World Champions could be in
real danger of elimination, while 'no-hopers' like
South Africa, Costa Rica, Senegal and Mexico are in
with a massive chance of going through. France,
Uruguay, Argentina, Germany, England and Italy are all
in danger of catching the first plane home because of
three points for a win. Look at France for example.
Under three points for a win you simply cannot allow
your opponents to beat you if you want to qualify, but
if you manage to win the game your position becomes so
Another example: South Africa. They were in big
danger of losing to Paraguay in the first match, and
would have been three points behind, so they fought
back as hard as they could, got a draw, and were still
alive. Now they had a massive incentive to go out and
beat Slovenia, which they did, and now have four
points. Under two points for a win, they could have
settled for a boring nil-nil draw with Slovenia to get
a second point, then done the same in the final match.
Three points used to be enough for qualification -
Ireland and Holland in 1990 springs to mind - and more
often than not they came from terrible, boring draws.
Now I have no statistical evidence that proves that
World Cup games have become more attacking since 1994
- that sounds like a job for Peter Goldstein - but I
have a hunch that they have.
Another way they it has made the competition more
exciting is that one defeat means you are in big
trouble. Here we find Italy. We can argue all night
about the two disallowed goals - for what it is worth,
the first was a goal, the second was a foul and no
goal - but three points for a win has put Italy in big
trouble. Mexico's two wins have put them in pole
position, and a draw will send Italy home, especially
if Croatia can beat Ecuador like everyone else.
Argentina are in exactly the same position. Sweden
simply need one point to send the so-called favourites
back to Buenos Aries - providing of course England do
not let Nigeria beat them 2:0. Much more likely is
two draws, or even a narrow win for England and a 1:1
draw in the other game. It is the same result though:
bye, bye Argentina.
And that is why this World Cup has been so good so
far. It is a very open tournament, and while more of
the big teams have lost in the first round than is
usual, the points system compounds their errors to
generate a lot of excitement.
So as well as celebrating their great wins, the likes
of Japan, Korea, South Africa, Costa Rica, Senegal and
Mexico need to be thanking Jimmy Hill for getting such
a brilliant system up and running. And that is not
bad for a man with a horrible beard, massive chin and
really bad clothes.
Well done Mr Hill.
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