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. 

Replacing penalties with shootouts wasn't actually one of my proposals, but I do think it's worth a try. Here are the remainder of my ideas to the doubtless fascinated sitting members at IFAB:

Proposal: The introduction of a 35-yard offside line, as used in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s.
Reason: The intensity and speed of the modern game means it is often compacted into too small an area.
How it will work: Attacking players can only be judged offside in the 35-yard area in front of their opponent's goal.
Consequences: A more open, less hectic style of football that will stretch the game; less pressure on refereeing teams (fewer offside calls to make), especially at game's lower levels where there are no ARs; fewer stoppages for offside, and thus a reduction in negative play.

Is it love, or is it just another corner?
Proposal: Limiting the number of players in the penalty area at corner kicks to three per team.
Reason: To end the ridiculous farce of multiple fouls committed in scrums at every corner kick. One or even more referees can not possibly see all the offences being simultaneously committed.
How it will work: Only three players per team allowed in the penalty area as the corner kick is taken. To prevent encroachment, all other players must be behind a 35-yard line until the kick is taken. Attacking team will have option to take a quick corner (rule is waived), or to ask the referee for a re-start (rule is enforced).
Consequences: Less foul play, more excitement and open play at corner kicks. More advantage for the attacking team from a corner kick - defending team's goalkeeper will count as one of the three permitted defenders.
Downside: Potential for time-wasting.

Proposal: Use a 35-yard line to end encroachment at penalty kicks
Reason: There is blatant encroachment at almost every penalty kick, and it is rarely punished.
How it will work: All players bar the penalty-taker and the goalkeeper must stand behind a 35-yard line at penalty kicks. But they may move forward as soon as the referee blows his or her whistle for the kick to be taken.
Consequence: No penalty area encroachment; less chance of unsporting hesitation when penalty taker runs up to ball; more excitement.

Enough theory. Next week the season re-starts, so this blog will get back to where it belongs: in a world of whiny wingers, gobby goalies and sweary psychos. 

You can support this blog by buying Ian Plenderleith's latest book, The Quiet Fanhere.

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