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Friday, 18 February, 2000, 12:01 GMT
Is football too violent?




Managers headbutted; officials verbally and physically abused; players out of control. Is this what the English Premiership has come to?

This weekend's outbreak of aggression and dissent has again led to calls for tougher penalties for players who over-step the mark.

Football has never been so popular yet its growing commercialisation is apparently forcing footballers to try increasingly underhand tactics in pursuit of victory.

Sin bins, a 10-yard penalty for dissent and video referees are all measures being discussed to try and stamp out bad behaviour.

But is dissent a part of the beautiful game? Will such measures turn football into a bland sport full of softies? Is the answer professional referees who would be better equipped to get a grip? Tell us what you think. HAVE YOUR SAY

If one's looking for sports related violence they need only to look at American Football (two players have recently been arrested for murder in separate cases). It is estimated that as many as 25% of the NFL players have been involved in criminal acts. From the perspective of a native of Los Angeles (the home of the drive-by shooting) and a life long Football fan (not the American version) I see Football as being extremely competitive and emotional and am grateful that I am finally able to see Premiership matches on regular basis.
Eric Cheren, USA



Football has always been a hard, rough game
Ed Bayley, USA (English)
Football has always been a hard, rough game, but the players in days of yore at least seemed to be better men. They dished out rough treatment but were prepared to receive the same treatment themselves without complaint and always accepted the finality of the referee's word if they overstepped the mark.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

If anyone who saw Gascoigne's elbowing of Boateng and says it was reckless but not deliberate are either blind, stupid or possibly both. Also engaged by Gascoigne to whitewash the event. It was one of the worst and make no mistake deliberate attempts to remove a player from the game I've ever seen in the years I've watched football. Gascoigne should be banned for life.
Dave Lazzari, Australia

Some of you go on about rugby league/union. If football were to be altered in such a way that the players weren't allowed to express their passion in the way that their fans would, it would lose some of its excitement. In football, you feel the fire in the players' bellies, but with rugby, the players are almost anonymous. Hence one of the reasons football is much better supported than rugby.
Chris, England



As in most other major sports football should be encouraging ex players to become refs.
Joe, UK
No I do not think football is any more violent now than at any other time and I have been watching football since the early sixties. Also this idea that Man U are getting special treatment is too laughable to be taken seriously.
As in most other major sports football should be encouraging ex players to become refs, I am sure that most of them will know how to deal with players know what is genuine and a con and get more respect from the players because of this.
Joe, UK

Football players have become film stars and the story is no longer the game but the star's behaviour. If this situation is to be corrected then the football authorities must take action against club management, it's the managers that pay players wages not the FA. Therefore the solution rests with club managers.
Ken Fawell, Norway

I belief the situation of verbal bullying and physical intimidation adopted by many professional players is unacceptable and needs to be stamped out.
The only player that should be able to approach the referee (unless invited to do so) should be the captain. Anyone else doing so should be yellow carded and if they do it again red carded If such a policy was enforced, the first couple of weeks would mean a high number of bookings but this would soon tail off as players began to see the consequences of their actions.
In addition any player involved in violent conduct should not only be sent off immediately but asked to leave the ground - just like any watching fan would be in the same circumstances.
Dave, England

The way the Dundee United players set about gifted Moroccan Hicham Zerouali in Sundays semi-final was nothing short of systematic. A two footed tackle in the first fifteen minutes right in front of the referee could have broken this man's legs. Nothing was done about it by the official. Players must not be allowed to perform cynical tackles such as this and go unpunished.
John, UK

If people think current football is violent they should watch a re-run of 70's matches, especially the 1970 FA cup final.
J Da Silva, UK

As a youngster playing football was great fun and everyone had their own star player to look up to. Now I pity young kids who week in week out must see our top players behaving like spoil, arrogant, ill mannered little brats. The English game, although now a brilliant advert for how to make money, has lost its way...I now watch Rugby!!
M. Pickles, UK



Players' agents "talk up" their clients to the extent that a player believes himself to be far more gifted and valuable than is often the case.
Simon Goldstone, UK
Liverpool were absolutely filthy during their glory days of the late 70s/early 80s; the violence of the great Leeds side under Don Revie is legendary. Football has not become any more violent since these times, but petulance and dissent amongst players, often combined with intimidation of officials have become a tediously common spectacle.
This should probably come as no surprise. The vast wages and stratospheric public profiles of the top players means that any decision that goes against a player might compromise his future value and pay-packet. Players' agents "talk up" their clients to the extent that a player believes himself to be far more gifted and valuable than is often the case. So no wonder these prima donnas react badly when part-time amateur referees try to pull rank!
Simon Goldstone, UK

Adopt the 10 metre rule for dissent from Rugby Union, and the 'on report' system from rugby league. Then come down hard on offenders.
Simon Hooker, England

If Alex Ferguson or Martin Edwards read this, perhaps they will tell me why their players are exempt from punishment? One rule for them and strict interpretation for everyone else I suspect.
Mike Taylor, UK

I think that football is definitely too violent. But there is a distinct reason why this is so. The money involved in football today is absolutely preposterous. Players and clubs alike are becoming very gluttonous. The players know that their performance will decide their financial situation. Basically, people will do anything for money, footballers included.
Yilmaz Mamedy, United Kingdom



The FA knows what players are earning, hit them in the pocket and they will think twice before acting irresponsibly.
B. Touhey, Cayman Islands
Players who behave poorly by swearing at the referee, using pushing and shoving other players and generally bringing the game into to disrepute should not only be banned for several games but they should be sufficiently fined so that they actually lose something. The FA knows what players are earning, hit them in the pocket and they will think twice before acting irresponsibly.
B. Touhey, Cayman Islands

I think the footballers should be playing football instead of fighting on the pitch. They are supposed to be setting a good example to younger people.
Elspeth Young, UK

Only the captain should be allowed to approach the referee. Any show of dissent by the rest of players should be punished by a red card and the player banned for four matches. Also the manager should be held responsible for the lack of discipline in his players and stop making trivial excuses for them.
Joe Lane, England





What is so special about Manchester United?
Mike Yap, Malaysia
Why did the English FA not charge Manchester United or its manager Alex Ferguson? Especially after what he said about the referee wanting to send his captain Keane off too eagerly? Isn't that showing disrespect to the authorities? What is he suggesting here? The FA should haul him up for an explanation. What is so special about Manchester United?
Mike Yap, Malaysia

Perhaps the FA needs to look at a reporting system similar to the National Rugby League in Australia. His assistants report incidents not necessarily picked up by the referee and the matter is formally referred to a tribunal. It has the power to review videotapes and reports and then impose fines/suspensions. I suspect that crowds around referees will diminish if greeted by the prospect of behaviour going 'on report' to a powerful and representative tribunal, hopefully dominated by ex-players with the best interests of the game at heart.
Jim Devine, Australia

The problem is the players have become too big headed, and believe they are above the law. The FA should crack down hard and the refs should stop being lenient and start booking the players again
Brian, Belgium



Maybe the new edict from the F.A., to book less players is backfiring because it is too lenient?
Ian Clarke, UK
We see Chelsea, Wimbledon, Leeds and Tottenham all facing charges following the weekends games for the violence that occurred during and after these games, and letters sent to all clubs about decent and arguing with referees. Whilst I agree that acts like these are bad for the game, I can't help feeling that this is a reaction to the change in refereeing in recent weeks. It's almost as if the players are letting of pent up frustration after several years of being booked or sent off for minor offences. Maybe the new edict from the F.A., to book less players is backfiring because it is too lenient?
Ian Clarke, UK

Manchester United, the most arrogant club in the UK and probably the world have got away with punishment again. Are MUFC above the rules? All clubs involved in misbehaviour should be punished. Alex Ferguson should stop talking rubbish about Roy Keane and start acting responsibly.
Mark, UK

Football gets too much hype, there is clearly too much pressure, which few can handle; hence the violence. Perhaps if TV exposure for football were handed to other sports where we generally do well, football would realise that NOT everyone is interested in it and the "players" and clubs would not have such a high opinion of themselves. The National news also regularly seems to be taking second place behind football. Surely that can't be right?
Phil W, UK



One can have little sympathy for Gascoigne after his actions.
Nigel Beckett, Germany
I like the physical side of the British game, but anyone who smashes his forearm into another player's face the way Gascoigne did should be banned from playing for a few months in my opinion. Boateng was lucky not to end up with a broken nose, or worse. One can have little sympathy for Gascoigne after his actions.
Nigel Beckett, Germany

Certain managers should give it a rest. Most people are fed-up with managers defending idiotic, overvalued and under-skilled players. The same managers who defend players when they commit needless violent fouls are the ones who won't release players for national games...what is their agenda? Oh yeah, it's making buckets of cash at the expense of the fans.
Richard, UK

This sort of thing does not happen in Rugby as asserted in an earlier comment. This is because dissent towards the Ref is rewarded with penalties and bans. If only football had taken this approach years ago, we wouldn't be having this debate now.
Anton Zimmermann, UK



In all of the commotion of the last few days, why is it Manchester United have not been charged for anything.
Andy Blackett, England
In all of the commotion of the last few days, why is it Manchester United have not been charged for anything. Everybody is talking about a new respect for referee's etc, and this whole situation was brought to light by the Utd team again being too big for their boots. Surely they should face some sort of punishment as well, this is a joke if they get off the hook. To me it seems like the FA feel they owe Utd something as they played in that sham tournament in Brazil, it's almost as if they carry a get out of jail free card. I don't think anyone can argue this point, Manchester Utd should be punished as well, if they don't then the inconsistency has still not gone away. Too many fans will look at this as one rule for them another for the rest. I'm sorry but those players deserve it and I can't believe they have got off the hook.
Andy Blackett, England

Injuries are at the rate of nearly 100% in American football (the NFL, not high school), but no one truly familiar with the sport calls it violent - since it does not demonstrate (as boxing) or promote violence. Children often get hurt when they play their "harmless" games in the yard. Anything can hurt - depending upon the way you handle it.
Andrej, Russia

Easy, change the rule to the Rugby rule where only the captain should be allowed to have dialogue with the Referee when such incidents occur. What I can't understand is why managers let their players run as fast as they can 40 yards to get to the referee after a dispute when they don't do that when they've got the ball, surely this is a waste of energy which could be used when the ball is in play, after all, how many times do you see the referee change their decisions?
Alan Peart, England



Do the players not just reflect a trend e.g. road rage whereby young males in particular are actually expected to become violent as a means of expressing themselves?
Andrew, UK
Do the players not just reflect a trend e.g. road rage whereby young males in particular are actually expected to become violent as a means of expressing themselves? Just about every action film shows violence to be the first, best and most manly way to resolve conflicts.
Andrew, UK

The referee should remain the authority during play, but with video evidence available it is crazy not to allow them the benefit of hindsight. Genuinely questionable situations, decisions and bookings could be reviewed and overturned by the referee at half and full time, diminishing the injustice of any given situation both during and after the game, and replacing dissent with a legitimate means of protest. No need to interrupt the flow of the game, or let injustices go uncorrected.
Steve, UK

The main problem about violence in football comes from the referees. They have to be firmer. Ronaldo it's an example. At 24, the once best player in the world is done with the game, after 3 or 4 surgeries.
Marcelo Teixeira, Brazil

I think that Paul Gascoigne must learn to control himself on the football field. Not only was it a disgraceful tackle but one which the referee did not punish him for, I think that the referees of the present game must be able to handle the game better.
Martin, England



The problem is that referees are also human and they need the support of players to achieve a balance on the pitch.
Peter Rogers, Chile
Simply put no. A referee has the power and authority to stamp out violence as and when it occurs. The problem is that referees are also human and they need the support of players to achieve a balance on the pitch. While there remains such large rewards available to players - like the ludicrous amount of money paid to a hired thug such as Roy Keane - the problem will remain. Maybe it is time to put a long-term salary package in place for players which will also give value to a long suffering and abused majority, the fans.
Peter Rogers, Chile

The conduct of players recently has been disgraceful, a certain Manchester premiership club being the worst. Both children and other countries admire British football, and these clowns should know better. The FA should take a tougher stance... Either that or give linesmen and referee's boxing gloves to punch the day lights out of the likes of Yap Stam!
Paul, UK

The argument used all the time to justify the behaviour of footballers today is that football is a passionate game played by people with a desire to win. So are other sports. Once the referee has made a decision it is accepted, rightly or wrongly. Any dissent is immediately penalised. These other sports don't suffer, they are actually improved by the players respecting the referees. People don't want to see the passion removed from football, they want to see the dissent removed.
Mark, UK

If football were a sport, rather than an entertainment business, rules of fair play might be relevant. The problem is holding up players as ideals for the rest of us to follow, rather than recognising them for the overpaid thugs they are. The only way to eliminate the yob element would be to remove the financial incentive to violence that attracts the greedy yob element to what is supposed to be a game.
James H, UK

The last round of scandal to hit the game of football about the violence on the pitch is a disgrace to the game. Yes it is a physical game but the referees must take a firm control of games.
Andrew, UK

I detest football at this level. It is no longer a game or a sport, but merely a business.
Giles Clark, GB

Lessons could be learned from Rugby League. The players refer to the referee as 'sir'. The referee wears a microphone. You simply do not hear swearing at a referee in a rugby league game. It is the lack of respect for the game officials (more often than not exemplified by the Manchester United players) that causes a lot of the problems. Referees are not perfect but are expected to be. Players have to learn to accept the referees decision as final, whether they agree with it or not. Either that or limited use of action replay cameras will have to be introduced.
Gareth Thomas, England

Football is a game of passion, just because a few incidents happened on the same weekend there has been a big reaction. I feel that the FA is going over the top because the day players stop fighting with everything they have for their team is the day I get rid of my season ticket.
Phil Harrison, UK

The sooner the league crack down on prima donnas like Roy Keane and Beckham the better. I referee juniors in Alice Springs and they see this behaviour from so called stars and copy it. Only thing is, here we send them off straight away unlike the protected ones in Premier league.
Neil MacAuslan, Australia



How can you simply tell them to stop if cheating appears to increase your changes of winning?
Anton McCoy, UK
The problem is that we see players cheating, fouling and getting away with it. Diving for a penalty, pretending to get caught so a player gets booked, fouling a key opposition player so they don't threaten your team. All bad things, but they work.
This will probably remain the case until some form of television reply or post match incident system is used, player will continue. How can you simply tell them to stop if cheating appears to increase your changes of winning?
Anton McCoy, UK

Consistency is the key for referees. If they stick to the rules and laws of the game there wouldn't be half the trouble. For example, swearing is a red card offence yet we see it all the time. The 10 yards rule (like Rugby) is a good idea and should be implemented.
Also the so-called assistant referees or linesmen do very little to help, they rarely take any ownership and when they do make a decision invariably they get it wrong. In a nutshell stick to the rules and you won't have a problem.
Chris Sharman, England

Clubs that receive a certain level of red and yellow cards within a set period of time should have league points taken away from them. Or if it is a cup match, they should forfeit their place.
Malcolm, England



Professional footballers should remember that they are icons among young people, they have a duty to champion sportsmanship and fair play.
Stuart Townsend, UK
Professional footballers should remember that they are icons among young people, they have a duty to champion sportsmanship and fair play. Referees already command little respect and the continuation of this mob like behaviour can only do the beautiful game more harm.
Stuart Townsend, UK

A 4th point should be available to award at the discretion of the referee at the end of each game. It would be based purely on fair play and sportsmanship.
Kevin Reardon, England



There is no need to change the rules but there IS a need to ENFORCE the rules.
Mike Barton, England
There are suggestions of docking points and moving players back ten metres. There is no need as the refs, right now, have it within their power to quell this sort of behaviour. They seem to have made the choice to allow a great deal of dissent but at the same time hand out cards for minor offences.
After the Leeds/Spurs fiasco how many cards were shown. The ref should have used his discretion and picked out four or five players and sent them off. He chose to do nothing! What sort of message does that send out? Now the sanction will be that two rich clubs will be fined half a good player's weekly wage. There is no need to change the rules but there IS a need to ENFORCE the rules.
Mike Barton, England

There is just no incentive for these prima-donna Premiership 'players' to respect authority or conform to normal standards of sportsmanship or behaviour. They simply believe that they are untouchable GODS and referees are merely minor annoyances. This is enforced by the ridiculous adulation they receive from the fans and the 'funny money' salaries they get paid.
Derek, UK



It is purely because football is NOT so violent anymore that people wet their pants when any wee bits of violence occur.
Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland
What a daft question to ask. It is purely because football is NOT so violent anymore that people wet their pants when any wee bits of violence occur. This sort of thing goes on all the time in Rugby and numerous other sports such as Ice Hockey.
While I am not condoning violence, it is silly to ask the question "are clubs out of control." I'd say it's a little premature, considering wars have developed out of football matches in South America.
Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland

I don't know if there's a thing as a justified injury, but perhaps the example of how Gascoigne brought injury on himself through his violent act against Boateng can serve to show that you pay a heavy price for your acts.
Examples or measures must be said. We need managers and chairmen to show that they do not approve of player violence. Fines and suspensions are not enough.
Jens, Denmark

Someone has to defend the players for once. Money has nothing to do with violence on the pitch, because it is even worse in the lowest divisions where no money is involved (and almost nobody gets to see it).
The crowd can boo and insult a player for 90 minutes, but when he shows them his finger (Di canio) he is the bad guy. The referee can deny you 3 penalties in 30 minutes (Di canio), but when you tell him he is a fool or on the take (there are only two options), you are no good and should be punished severely.
Eddy, Belgium

Football hooliganism is clearly out of control. Verbal abuse directed at referees, riots at games, players trying to kill each other have become all too common. Those who turn football into a violent life-and-death struggle are giving it a bad name. There is NO excuse for violence, it will achieve nothing in the end.
Jeff, USA



If players could be sent of for 2-5 minutes to cool off, it would be more beneficial to the sport and could make for more entertaining matches.
Mark Thompson, Britain
I think that the FA and FIFA should think about introducing a SIN BIN. This could be used in situations where a RED card is not justified. I.e. two slightly mistimed tackles. If players could be sent of for 2 or 5 minutes to cool off, it would be more beneficial to the sport and could make for more entertaining matches.
Mark Thompson, Britain

After so many discipline points collected by the members of a team, the club should be deducted 1 point in the league table. Then let them explain their behaviour to the club's shareholders and fans when a European place has been missed for want of lack of respect.
S Lewis, UK



The referees in the Premier League are too egotistical and consider themselves more important than the laws of the game.
Tristan Abbott-Coates, UK
The match between Leeds and Spurs at the weekend simply highlighted the referee's inability to take control of the match. How Bowyer got away with a double-footed challenge to a player's thigh right in front of the referee is amazing and the stamping incident towards the end of the match made you wonder what would have had to have happened in the match to warrant a red card.
The referees in the Premier League are too egotistical and consider themselves more important than the laws of the game. At this rate they'll be letting players get away with the most hideous tackles imaginable but sending them off if they dare to question an offside.
Tristan Abbott-Coates, UK

Footballers should get on with playing football instead of throwing themselves to the ground everytime someone tackles them. Nothing more than a bunch of play acting girls!
Ian Carroll, UK

Why not use the carrot instead of the stick? For example, at certain pre-defined parts of the season (quarterly for example) the team with the best disciplinary record in each league could be award bonus points for fair play.
James, France



More men seem to be reacting violently to stressful situations today compared to past times.
Robert Gray, Italy
How a man reacts when he is irritated, upset or angered has less to do with where he happens to be at the time, e.g. in a car, on a football field, and more to do with what makes him the man he is.
More men seem to be reacting violently to stressful situations today compared to past times and there are connections made to the modern family breakdown, indiscipline at schools etc..etc..but the fact remains that calm, composed players are remembered with more respect than the fiery hotheads.
Robert Gray, Italy

One very realistic and relatively simple measure that could be taken would be to modify the red card rule which sends a player off while leaving the penalised team a player short. The resulting one player lack virtually ruins the remainder of the match, the unbalance of which is a formidable obstacle to overcome. Why not allow a substitute? What's the harm?
The red carded player has to leave anyway, another player enters thereby preserving the match's competitiveness and most importantly, referees do not feel in any way apprehensive about issuing a red card! Only the ill behaved player suffers which is what it should be and will lead to a much shorter tolerance for increasing violence in the game.
Peter A. Daignault, Hong Kong

The idea of a sin bin is great. It would give the ref a little more power without having to send the player off altogether. They should give the ref the same powers as the ref in a rugby match.
Andrew, England



Gazza should have been sent off not carried off. It spoils the game and sends the wrong signals to young players all over the world.
Clive, Israel
A prime example of how players think they can get away with anything is last night's game, Aston Villa v Middlesbough. Refs have to make a stand now and not tolerate any more so called professional fouls. Gazza should have been sent off not carried off. It spoils the game and sends the wrong signals to young players all over the world.
Clive, Israel

The way Leeds and spurs played against each other will have an effect on youngsters in the game ie trainees and young supporters seeing such bad play on the pitch
John Bannister, Scotland



The lack of discipline currently shown the football pitch is disgusting
Martin, UK
The lack of discipline currently shown the football pitch is disgusting. The prima-donna behaviour of some of the top players is reprehensible and sets a terrible example to any youngsters who are watching. The first thing we should do is prevent the intimidation of referees by players, this circling and hectoring of them must be stamped out.At times referees do make mistakes but a simple 'Are you sure ref?' by a player should be enough, any more should be considered bookable.
Martin, UK

Dissent seems to be the intent of wannabe "superstars". I remember John MacEnroe and his tennis antics. True he may have had ability but by bringing his antics to light he found that he could up the stakes for his performances off the court. Similarly, players are looking for endorsements off the field and their on-field reputations will garner them this. It's the play hard - win hard attitude and if you can't take it then outta-my-way.
Keith, US



Footballers are better marshalled than they ever have been
Rob, England
Footballers are better marshalled than they ever have been. However their behaviour and that of their managers should be forced to be as submissive as rugby union and league players. Red cards for each and every one who verbally abuses the referee and linesmen.
Rob, England

Football could take lessons from other sports where there is a zero-tolerance of dissent and bad behaviour. I'm all for the ten-yard penalty rule for dissent which has all but eradicated dissent in rugby. Referees should be given more clout to deal with the thugs of the game. They are often a lonely figure in the park having to make the correct split-second decisions while dealing with barrages of physical and verbal abuse from players and fans alike.
Rob Docherty, England

You guys gone sissy over there? Your soccer (football) is world class, supreme! Don't change a thing. Have you seen our sport? Hockey too violent for you guys?
Collin, Canada

The sooner a sin-bin is brought into use, the better. At present, referees in international and European matches have the problem of the language barrier which prevents them from giving final warnings to players. So to demonstrate their authority, referees wave a card at the offending player. The introduction of a sin-bin will give referees the chance to tell a player "this is your last chance - once more and your off!" in a language which cannot be misunderstood. It will also provide a cooling-off period for the player to calm down. And let's see it in the Premiership from next season - these matches which end up with 10 or nine men on one team almost always end up as a poor spectacle for the paying public who demand something better for the huge amount they pay to watch live football.
Steve West, UK

I don't watch football, but the players behave like spoilt children on and off the pitch. The amounts of money paid for kicking a ball are obscene. If they like the game so much they should be prepared to play for less money, and the old excuse of earning enough money for when their career ends is so weak as to be laughable. Most go on as TV commentators and managers and they can always get another job, everyone else manages. As for discipline on the pitch, the amount of money involved means it is no longer a sport but a business and therefore business pressures apply. Perhaps if for every argument with the officials a goal was awarded to the opposition or points taken off the team's league total, it would concentrate the players mind on what they are there to do. Bring back "the referee's decision is final, right or wrong" and stop playing like a bunch of under-fives!!
R. Wooodward, UK



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