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.

It's always the same expression from the thrower. First comes disbelief. Then, the hurt. That's so unfair! How can you call something so trivial? Worse still is when you see professionals getting away with foul throws, time and time again. If foul throws - especially 'drop-ins' and one leg being conspicuously lifted off the floor - are being broadcast to millions every night, it's no wonder so many players are miffed when you pick them up on it on a Sunday afternoon.

So, here's my proposal. As ever, it's intended as a starting point for discussion, although I'm getting the impression that most people online really don't care much for discussing changes to the laws of the game, they'd far rather rage against referees for apparently world-changing mistakes. But pissing into an onrushing tidal wave has always been one of my dearest hobbies, so on we go.

Proposal: Allow players to lift one foot off the ground when taking a throw-in.
Reason: The current law is rarely if ever implemented at even the highest levels. It makes very little difference to the game as a whole whether players lift their feet or not.
Consequence: The law is no longer abused and ignored.

Note: Kick-ins have been experimented with in the past, but were unpopular. For me they're not a serious alternative because they wouldn't add anything to the game. What I like about the throw-in is the element of surprise - an alert team can grab the advantage of the no-offside rule and quickly catch an opponent unawares. When coaching (currently boys U14), I try and instil this all the time at practice, but by the time the game comes around, they've usually forgotten - players dawdle over to the ball, dither too long or give it to a team-mate to take, and after a few seconds the opponent has marked up all your free players. Nine out of ten times we lose possession immediately. 

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  1. Would like that to have eliminated flip throw-ins where the ball touches the ground, which seems like an unsporting technique to change the way a throw-in is taken. john

  2. Years ago a young player (U19) in the US asked me if he could take one like that. I said it was up to him. He took it and I immediately whistled for a foul throw - both feet off the ground (and high up in the air). Goodness knows how anyone would let that pass as legal.