In Denmark, you must tell your opponent your tactics - or face a fine

Glen Ridersholm didn't take kindly to Copenhagen coach Jess Thorup not playing a player where he said he would...

4:00pm on Sunday 6th December 2020
Michael Yokhin

Prepare to be bewildered, because this is a weird story even by 2020 standards. It comes from Denmark, and it is truly hilarious.

It is a case of a coach who is angry at his opponent, because the exact tactical formation wasn't revealed to him before the game. He has even filed an official complaint to the FA about it, because apparently the law is on his side.

According to the rules, the opponents should have informed him of their tactics. They failed to do so, and thus – quite amusingly – are accused of cheating.

Danish league rules state, in paragraph 22.3: "The clubs must, as part of their electronic team card, announce the tactical starting lineup (e.g. 4-4-2), where the eleven starting players are classified according to their respective positions on the field".

The team card must be presented an hour before the kickoff, so the rivals must be informed in advance regarding the coach's tactical plan.

On Sunday, FC Copenhagen hosted the magnificently named SønderjyskE, and duly announced the tactical formation on their Twitter account. According to the post, the lions from the capital were deployed to play 3-5-2.

However, in reality Jens Stage was not positioned as a centre-back, but rather performed in defensive midfield alongside Zeca, while Peter Ankersen and former Everton and Sunderland man Bryan Oviedo were full-backs rather than wing-backs.

Thus, it turned out that the Copenhagen coach Jess Thorup played 4-4-2, "fooling" SønderjyskE coach Glen Ridersholm, who made some harsh comments after losing 3-1.

"It is up to Copenhagen how they act. We have been prepared for both 3-5-2 and 4-4-2, so it didn't bother us. We just made small adjustments. However, that is a sign of small club mentality on their part, if they choose to behave that way. They will probably have the money to pay the fine," Ridersholm stated in his post match interview.

Asked whether he would indeed report the incident to FA, SønderjyskE sporting manager Hans Jorgen Haysen responded positively: "I think it's in everyone's interests to point out rule violations to the relevant authorities. We will do it for the sake of principle".

Indeed, on Monday an official complaint has been made, and Copenhagen must now present their case if they don't want to be given a fine of 25,000 Danish krone (£3,000). Luckily, they can't be given a technical defeat – we should all thank the Danish FA for such generosity.

SønderjyskE boss Glen Ridersholm

Discussions are bound to be quite serious, because there is a precedent. In March, just before the Covid-19 crisis forced the league to be postponed, the FA Disciplinary Board had a lengthy meeting after the paragraph 22.3 rules were allegedly broken on a previous occasion.

That time Randers complained against Horsens for "fooling" them and publishing the wrong tactical pattern – even though Randers won. They claimed that Ayo Okosun played as a striker, while Horsens put him in midfield when publishing the tactical formation an hour before the fixture. According to Randers coach Thomas Thomasberg, that was unacceptable, and the club added videos to their reports, in order to highlight the fact that the player in question was indeed positioned up front.

Horsens had to defend themselves and explain the situation. "We had a game plan with two players switching positions, because one of them is better with the ball and the other is better when we are pressing", they stated.

Horsens also mentioned that the players changed their positions after the team scored, just six minutes after the starting whistle, changing the pattern significantly.

The board chose to acquit Horsens, and the protocol took no less than four pages.

"It must be assumed that Horsens gave the correct 11 names of the players and the starting formation was correctly set as 4-4-2. The fact that two players were placed differently during the game as opposed to their starting positions can be explained by changing circumstances during the game", the report stated.

In short, it is called "flexible tactics". They are absolutely integral to football, and it is farcical in the extreme that clubs have to defend themselves for making tactical changes during matches.

Obviously, coaches are allowed to change tactics even before the game starts, and they shouldn’t be forced to inform their opponents about the exact tactics. Paragraph 22.3 in the Danish FA rules is grotesque in the extreme, and they would be very wise to abolish it.

In the meantime, though, the spectacle is on. Copenhagen will have to waste everyone's time and explain why they cheated the respected SonderjyskE coach by playing Jens Stage in defence.

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