Monday, 19 June 2017

Further changes proposed that could change the face of football

I've written a couple of times recently about changes being mooted that aim to improve the entertainment value and fairness of football (see "Will penalty shoot-out changes make any difference to England?" and "A game of four quarters?"). Now some more tweaks have been suggested, by Ifab - the International Football Association Board. Will these improve the game, make it worse, or have no effect whatsoever if they were brought in?

30 minute halves

This is the proposal that has attracted most of the headlines. The idea, counter-intuitively, is to increase the amount of playing time. The logic is that there are so many stoppages in play during two 45 minute halves that the clock should be stopped a lot more often than at present, for example when the ball goes out of play, waiting for a free-kick or penalty to be taken or when booking players. With the clock only ticking when the ball is in play, the idea is that game-time would be clear for everyone to see. We would then not be left wondering how long will be added on for stoppage time or go home feeling short-changed. It would also discourage time-wasting.

However, whilst all of this makes sense, why reduce the length of the half to 30 minutes. Ifab claims that there are only about 60 minutes of playing time in an average "90 minute" match at present, so 60 minutes of play outside of interruptions doesn't actually help does it? Perhaps two 40 minute halves would work.

Linking the stadium clock to the ref's watch

To complement the idea of the clock stopping every time there's a delay in play, the stadium clock could be linked to the ref's watch so we can all see when it's running and when it's not, and exactly how long is left. It works in rugby and other sports, and makes perfect sense for football.

In other words, no more Fergie time.

No follow-ups from penalties

If a penalty kick is saved, rather than the attacking team having the chance to follow-up the ref would blow his whistle and the defending team would take a goal-kick. The aim is to prevent encroachment into the penalty area, but surely it hands an advantage to the defending team, who, let's not forget, are supposed to be getting punished for an indiscretion. We want to see more goals, not fewer.

More relaxed corner, free-kick and goal-kick rules

Kick takers could pass to themselves and goal-kicks could be taken whilst the ball's still moving, to speed up the game and encourage attacking football. Seems to make sense.

Goals to be awarded if a handball on the line prevented one

I think most of us would support this. Ghana supporters certainly would, as a handball on the line by Uruguay's Luis Suarez in 2010 prevented them from becoming the first African World Cup semi-finalists. (Suarez was sent off for the offence, but Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty, much to Suarez's delight, and Uruguay went on the win on penalties.)

Ref's can only blow for half/full time when the ball goes out of play

Again, this already happens in rugby and it seems to work well, apart from when penalty after penalty is awarded at the end of a game. This happened in the controversial France v Wales Six Nations match in Paris earlier this year, which saw 20 minutes of time added on as the referee attempted to get a scrum properly taken.

It would however have stopped Clive Thomas from blowing up with a Brazil corner in the air, a split second before Zico put the ball in the next for what would have been a winning goal against Sweden in the 1978 World Cup.

Only captains to talk to the ref

One that football should definitely pinch from rugby. Nobody wants to see those all-to-common scenes of players surrounding and harassing referees, who, let's face it, aren't going to change their decision anyway.