On March 3, 2012, the five members of IFAB — FIFA, The English Football Association, The Scottish Football Association, The Wales Football Association and the Irish Football Association — will meet to discuss and vote on a number of proposed changes to the Laws of the Game. Below we list and discuss some of the most important items on the IFAB’s agenda (the proposed changes to the current Laws of the Game are italicized):
1. Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct
A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences:
- denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick outside the penalty area.
- denying the opposing team a goal or a goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area).
- denying an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by holding or an offence committed from behind inside his own penalty area when he has no opportunity to play the ball.
The triple punishment (penalty kick + red card + player suspension) for a player who denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards his goal by an offence punishable by a penalty is widely considered to be too severe. A player would still receive a red card for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity outside of the penalty area as well as for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball, by holding or an offence committed from behind inside his own penalty area when he has no opportunity to play the ball. A penalty kick and a yellow card would be enough sanction for other offences that deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity committed by a defending player inside his own penalty area.
This is by far the most reaching (and controversial?) change to the current Laws of the Game. To begin with, we are not sure that we agree with the premise that the so-called triple punishment is “widely considered to be too severe.” We certainly do not think so. Also, in the past several years, FIFA and IFAB made concerted efforts to curb players’ fouls and misconduct and thereby allowing the more talented players to show-off their skills. FIFA proclaimed “zero tolerance towards wrongdoing.” It seems to us that this proposal is dialing back some of these efforts by being more lenient on those offenders who happen to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to players/teams inside the penalty area.
We believe that a denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, whether occurring inside or outside the penalty area, should be equally punishable because the effect of the offense is exactly the same in both cases; that is, the fouled player/team is denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. In addition, one could actually argue that the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity inside the penalty area should be more severely punished than the one occurring outside of the penalty area. After all, the scoring opportunity from within the penalty area will usually be superior (and more commonplace) simply by virtue of the player’s close proximity to the goal. We understand that, when the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity occurs inside the penalty area, the penalty-kick is more likely to ameliorate the wrong, because the wronged team has a very good chance of scoring from the penalty mark. But the scoring from the penalty mark should never be taken for granted. In any event, since the proposal was put forward by the FIFA task force Football 2014, we believe that it has a good chance of being approved by IFAB.
2. Law 8 – The Start and Restart of Play
The ball is dropped again:
If the ball enters the goal:
- if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal kick is awarded
- if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the teams’ own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opposing team
There have been a number of occasions where goals have been scored from “uncontested” dropped balls. This has put a great deal of pressure on the referee as he has to allow the goal to stand. We then have the unseemly situation where the opposition allows the team to score from the kick off without any players trying to stop them in order to rebalance the game.
This is obviously a significant alteration to the Laws of the Game. Currently, the referee must award a goal, if the ball is kicked directly into the opponent’s goal. We cannot imagine that the situation described above is something that occurs regularly and we wonder whether the proposal glosses over the fact that some dropped-balls are, in fact, contested.
3. Law 3 – The Numbers of Players
Proposed Text:If a named substitute enters the field of play instead of a named player at the start of the match and the referee is not informed of this change:
- the referee allows the named substitute to continue the match
- no disciplinary sanction is taken against the named substitute
- the number of permitted substitutes allowed by the offending team is not reduced
- the referee reports the incident to the appropriate authorities.
It is not rare that a substitution is made prior to the start of the match and after the referee has been informed of the names of the players and substitutes. This is normally due to an injury of a player during the warm-up. If the referee is informed of the substitution, this is permitted but it is necessary to clarify how to proceed if the referee is not informed of the change.
This proposal aims to add another provision to Law 3 dealing specifically with named substitutes entering the field of play prior to the start of the match. Interestingly, the new law would not require the referee to take any disciplinary sanction against the named substitute who entered the field of play without first informing the referee. However, the referee is required to report the “incident.”
4. Law 3 – The Numbers of Players
Up to a maximum of three substitutes may be used in any match played in an official competition organized under the auspices of FIFA, the confederations or the member associations. An additional fourth substitution may be used during extra time.
The FIFA Task Force Football 2014, the Medical Committee and the Football Committee support the proposal in order to maintain the technical level until the 120th minute and to protect the health of the players (as a means of preventing injuries).
The proposal aims to change the current law by allowing an additional fourth substitution during extra time. Obviously, this proposal would mainly affect only those games where the competition requires a winner at the end of the match. Thus, league matches would not be affected. But, for example, FIFA World Cup post-group phase matches would be affected.