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 BBC's 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
laissez-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 referee’s 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 ref’s
decisions as commentating on the ‘beautiful game’.
Why Have Rules?
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 a 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 MMTA’s 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
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.
Level Playing Field
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.
This article is written by Anthony Lipmann. All views expressed are entirely his own.