IFAB Rule Changes to Improve Football too Drastic?

Referee Neil Swarbrick during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge, London, England on 21 May 2017. (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

IFAB (International Football Association Board) have come up with a list of ideas to improve the beautiful game.  Here we take a look at the ideas and discuss whether IFAB rule changes are too drastic.

IFAB Provide 5 Ideas to Improve Football

IFAB proposal: Two periods of 30 minutes, with the clock stopped whenever the ball goes out of play.

At first look, this might seem a rather drastic measure.  On closer inspection we only get around 60 minutes of actual game time anyway.  According to Opta (the official media data partner of the Premier League), Arsenal saw the most actual game play, with an average of 58.10 minutes per match.  What needs to be looked into is the actual effect this could have on the finish time of matches and the affect it could have on fans.  Will we end up with a situation like the NFL, where games could go on for hours with only a very rough finish time?  The fans have to be considered. They will have trains to catch, and some may have hundreds of miles to travel home.

Some will argue that watching a team set up for corners, free kicks etc, is all part of the game.  So why should the time be stopped for that?  Others will argue that so called time wasting needs to be stamped out, while some will call it clever game management.  This needs to be thought about long and hard before any decisions are made.

IFAB proposal: Players can dribble straight from a free-kick, as well as goal-kicks and corners, to “encourage attacking play as the player who is fouled can stop the ball and then immediately continue their dribble/attacking move”.

This might not be as big of a change as we may think.  How often do we see a team take a quick free kick to take advantage of the opposing team not being ready to defend it?  Are we likely to start seeing goalkeepers running the ball up the field?  This is highly unlikely.  It would be interesting to see the affect this could have on the game. This could be an easy quite an easy law change, which then begs the question, does the game need it?

IFAB proposal: The referee can award a goal if a player stops a goal being scored by handling on or close to the goal line.

First reaction to this is a positive one.  The main purpose of football is to score, don’t score you don’t win.  The last thing you want, what is going to be a certain goal, stopped by some cheating.  Implementing this though won’t be as easy as people might think.  Currently we have the debate whether the hand ball was deliberate or not, and was the arm/hand in a natural position?  If we look back to the 2010 world cup, when Luis Suarez saved a certain goal for Ghana, there would have been very few arguments had a goal been awarded there.  But what if a defender is only 2 yards away from the striker and the ball hits his hand?  If a player can’t react in time, at the moment any hand ball claims are waved away.  Implementing this could change how handball is looked at across the whole pitch, and not just on the goal line

IFAB proposal: To stop encroachment into the area, when a penalty kick is either scored or missed/saved, players can no longer follow up to score

This seems the strangest of all the proposals, and the least necessary.  If players do encroach into the penalty area, it has very little, if any effect, on the outcome of the penalty kick.  Penalty kicks should be one of the easiest situations for a referee to manage, and he has his assistant to help.  The assistant needs to make sure the goalkeeper stays on his line, and the referee needs to make sure nobody enters the box before the kick is taken.  If that fails, it’s only a matter of time before the referee will be able to consult with VAR (video assistant referee) if he/she needs further support.

IFAB proposal: Referees can only blow for half-time or full-time when the ball goes out of play.

Is this groundbreaking, or indeed will it make any difference to how teams approach the end of a game?  Well it might. If it’s introduced as things stand, with no countdown clock and only the referee knows how long is left, then is there even a point to this?  Instead of the team who is happiest with the current score, trying to run down the clock by keeping the ball near the oppositions corner flag.  Are we just going to see them kicking it out repeatedly when they think the time is up?  Smart players do this already, and kick it up to row z as they say.  Is this the most pointless of the proposals?


When IFAB look at these proposals, the most important thing is they remember the fans.  Everyone wants a fair game and a fair result, but it’s the beautiful game as it is.  While beauty needs a helping hand now and then, it doesn’t require major surgery.  If you think it does, then maybe you are following the wrong sport.

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