Apparently I’m not the only one concerned with space

Man City getting ready for Stoke at the Etihad.

Happy 2013! It’s been a while since my last post, but I’m back. It’s been hard to post as I haven’t been able to justify taking the time to write with papers that need to be written, but as I am just about caught up on those papers I finally feel motivated to get back to the blog.

I am studying geography. Geography is all about space, but then so is soccer. Marcus’ coach is constantly talking about creating space and taking it away. While I’m interested in the fans and how they use space, Manchester City has given a far more practical treatment to off-field space in their recent home Premier League match against Stoke.

The picture shows Man City’s preparation for visiting Stoke, who are known to use long throw-ins. The crew in the photo are rearranging the advertising hoardings at the stadium to put them as close as they were allowed to place them to the sidelines of the field. It effectively prevents the run-ups needed for the long throws and forced Stoke to use more traditional methods of putting the ball in play.

How effective was it? Apparently, according to 101gg.com, Man City have used this approach against Stoke for the past three years. The long throw specialist for Stoke hasn’t actually played this season (Rory Delap), and the other player who does long throws (not sure who that is), wasn’t dressed for the game. Was he left out because of City’s ground preparations or was he off for another reason?

It is interesting that there is such variability in soccer field dimensions. In some ways it is a bit like baseball, with some basic ground rules (pardon the pun), and then it is up to the club to determine the field that best suits their needs. Soccer fields can vary in length and width within certain parameters so long as the boxes maintain their proper dimensions. It does give the sports some character as each stadium then has its own personality. Would Fenway Park be the same without the Green Monster, or Wrigley Field without the Ivy. In designing the Allianz Arena (home of Bayern Munich, 1860 Munich and the German National Team), Jacques Herzog hoped to replicate the feel of many of Archibald Leitch’s old stadium designs by extending the seating as close to the field of play as possible. Certainly in the case of Man City the field of play was not affected, just the area outside of play, so whatever small advantage Man City hoped to gain from this change was well within the rules of the game.

Of course with a team value of around £360 million more than Stoke, you could say that the advantage was already with Man City.

Probably the most dramatic effect of moving the hoardings was to make the advertising that much more visible to the television audience – much to the delight of sponsors. Right now I’m sure all the marketers are hoping that Stoke draws Man City in the next round of the FA Cup too.

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