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Even refs apologise sometimes

A week or so ago, Premiership Football referees’ Chief, Mike Riley, apologised for a poor decision in the match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea, after Chelsea was awarded a controversial penalty.  By last Saturday a whole new plethora of dubious decisions were put under the football spotlight and the sage footballing philosopher, Garth Crooks, on BBCs Match of the Day was heard to say ‘the referee has got the toughest job on the field’.

Yes, refereeing is tough.

It’s tough refereeing markets too, and both the LME and MMTA have proved it by stumbling over the little matter of warehousing.  However, while a football ref does not aspire to be a footballer, it would appear that metal refs have higher ambitions.

Perhaps our present problems stem from our market origins.  The LME was the coalescence of a group of like-minded people, at the height of the Victorian era, who just appeared to enjoy codifying.  It is not a coincidence that the laws of metal trading were devised around the time as the laws of Football, Cricket and Golf.  My team, Everton Football Club, was founded in 1878, a year after the LME.

The LME, like the Football Association itself, with a laisez-faire attitude of high Victorian confidence, was empowered to govern an industry much as you would govern a sport.  Clubs and Associations in Britain were left alone to run their affairs.  So long as they followed the law, Government could rest easy, sub-contracting  the minutiae to others.

And that is how the LME (1877) and the much younger MMTA (1973) were run, with the users of the markets making up the rules or creating the laws to produce the most exquisite results.  Who could not think that the off-side rule in football and five minute rings, three-month contracts, backwardations and contangos, were not borne from the same genius?

But all is not well when the referees decisions are questioned, when there are appeals and reviews of decisions, when football or cricket match commentators spend the same length of time questioning the refs decisions as commentating on the ‘beautiful game’.

So let us just ponder for a moment what are rules for?  In the case of football, one of the basic rules is that, apart from throw-ins and goal-keeping, it is game essentially played with the feet and occasionally the head  (and I’m not necessarily thinking of intelligence here).  Our appreciation of the skill comes from this.  There is another game where arms are more important – and it is called Rugby, and another where a ball and stick are commonly used – Golf.  But who could imagine a game of football in which footballers suddenly decided that they had had enough of using their feet and ran the length of the pitch to perform a touch-down?

Well, on the LME and the MMTA you just saw it.  For reasons that are beyond the comprehension of this writer both organizations allowed their own rules to be skewed or broken.  The LME allowed a situation to occur in which almost all warehouse space (now that we know C. Steinweg-Handelsveem BV (1847) owns a trading company) is controlled by groups who, although  advertised as ‘LME approved warehouses’, at one and the same time somewhere within their group (some closer than others) have an interest in the outcome of price via trading.  The MMTAs Warehousing Criteria, Rule A states, ‘The company shall be neutral and not owned or associated with a Trading Company’ and yet the board decided to overlook C Steinweg, perhaps afraid to de-list its largest warehouse member.

So what are rules for? Those Victorian codifiers were people who wore two hats – but not at the same time.  With their trading hat they were ruthless business people and empire builders.  With their codifying hat they could see that beyond rules lay only chaos.  The tension between law and skill produces a wonderful game.  But without common rules, we are all losers – and even competitors can see this; even while steering a coach and horses or double-decker bus through them.

Our metals games all got less wonderful at the pitiable sight of the LME and MMTA dancing on the tips of separate pins – the LME with their Chinese walls, the MMTA suggesting that C Steinweg’s subsidiary, Raffemet, was somehow a ‘service company’ and not a trader.

But for markets to work to the benefit of all, they must be run on a level playing field with beautiful fully-mown parallel stripes of grass, and with referees who execute the laws of the game for the good of all.

Anthony Lipmann

24.11.13

Published 04/12/13 at: www.lord-copper.com