Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Letter to IFAB, Part Four - The 35-yard-line

I'm including parts four to six of my Letter to the International Football Association Board as they all involve the (re-)introduction of the 35-yard-line. No, don't close the page - there is plenty to discuss here. It is certainly worth experimenting with a 35-yard line because it has the potential to radically improve the game in the following areas: offside, corner kicks, penalty kicks, and as a game-decider in cup ties.

How to end blatant encroachment
like this - use a 35-yard line.
FIFA technical director Marco van Basten's recently suggested law changes included using 35-yard line shootouts rather than spot-kicks to settle drawn cup ties. Unfortunately, it was dismissed without thought by most commentators simply because it was lumped in with van Basten's wacky idea to abolish offside.

Penalty shootout deciders are retained solely on the grounds that there's "no better alternative", yet actually testing out another method is barely considered. It's a shame, because penalties are more a test of nerve than skill, while the 35-yard shootout demands dribbling, shooting and technical abilities, and gives the goalkeeper a 50% chance of making a save. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Letter to IFAB, Part Three - Allow one foot off the ground at throw-ins

Throw-ins are a thorough pain in the arse for referees. Players get annoyed if you call them, thinking you're being petty. Opposing players get annoyed if you don't call them, thinking that you are either lax, biased or don't know the laws. In the back of your mind you're always thinking, "This is one of those stupid laws that doesn't really affect the game either way - why not just let them hurl, punt or use a giant catapult to put the ball back into play?"

Getting away with foul throws at least since
 1963 (pic: unknown, via Sulgrave FC)
It's amazing how many players don't know the throw-in law. "What did I do wrong?" they whine after dropping the ball in, spiking the ball, standing half a foot inside the touchline, or lifting one or both legs half a yard off the floor as they throw. With very young players, I usually show them how to throw properly then let them take it again (note to coaches - you're welcome, though a five-minute session at training should put this right). At around the U13-U15 level, I tell them what they did wrong and allow a re-take. From that age level upwards I shout a quick critique, then the throw goes the other way, as per the laws.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Letter to IFAB, Part Two - Allow a subbed player to re-enter the game

My letter to IFAB made the following proposal on substitutions. More flexibility in this area seems a logical progression given current squad sizes, the increased number of players allowed on the bench, and the physical demands of the modern game.

Demonstration by numbers -
liberalise the substitution laws now!
The rule already exists in amateur games at the lower levels of the German amateur game (where all substituted players may return to the game), and in the US college game - any subbed player may return to the game once in each half. That's a little over the top because it can make for too many stoppages, but most coaches don't use it excessively for the obvious reason that it's too disruptive to a team's rhythm.

The German FA recently made another move in this direction, with immediate effect, stipulating that in all men's and women's FA cup games teams may use a fourth substitute during extra-time. This will

Monday, 9 January 2017

Letter to IFAB, Part One - Abolish the yellow-red card

Last year in the course of a Twitter exchange, the International Football Association Board - Fifa's sub-committee that every year examines and then tweaks the Laws of the Game - invited anyone who was interested enough to send them suggestions for amending the way that football is arbitrated. I could have written a book, but instead I focused on a handful of my more radical notions.

The dynamic IFAB Committee, possibly
 looking unimpressed with my proposals
IFAB's Technical Director David Elleray courteously wrote back to say, "Thank you for your comprehensive list of suggestions – The IFAB Technical Sub-Committee is currently reviewing the Laws of the Game and we will bear in mind your suggestions. They will also be potentially discussed in our future revision of the Laws of the Game strategy."

I'm not holding my breath, so before my revolutionary manifesto ends up in a Z├╝rich waste-paper basket I'll present my ideas here for discussion. Please bear in mind that these are ideas to kick-start a dialogue, not a blueprint that I would impose on football if I was suddenly elected Fifa president.

However, I do think that we need to be constantly looking at ways to make football a game that is