Following the annual general meeting of IFAB (International Advisory Board) a number of changes have been announced that will affect how the game is played globally next season.
IFAB, the body responsible for setting the laws of the game worldwide, is comprised of the four British Football Associations – they owe their position to their status as the founders of the modern game – plus FIFA.
And what they decide matters – their rulings have implications for the sport worldwide.
Here are some of the key changes announced:
FIFA have long been keen to tackle the issue of time-wasting in football matches.
This season, the average time that the ball has spent in play during Premier League matches is 55 minutes and three seconds, which is the lowest it has been in a decade.
FIFA attempted to address this during the Qatar World Cup, with stoppage time frequently reaching double digits, as referees were mandated to enforce the rules on time-wasting more strictly.
Now IFAB wants to see this applied worldwide, hoping to achieve some standardisation in terms of length of matches between leagues in different countries.
This could, initially, result in a lot longer matches, but, it is hoped in time, that the number of minutes played will eventually come down as players realise there is nothing to be gained from indulging in time-wasting tactics.
Another area that IFAB want to clamp down on is the use of gamesmanship by goalkeepers when facing penalties. A prime example of this came during the World Cup final itself, when Emi Martínez, in the Argentina goal, used a range of tactics to put off the French penalty takers. He was eventually booked, but he could argue that his behaviour worked. Both Kingsley Coman and Aurélien Tchoaméni missed their spot kicks.
However, in future, goalkeepers who resort to such tactics will receive an automatic yellow card immediately.
For those countries and leagues without the money or resources to afford full VAR technology, options will be explored for a VAR light. This will involve a model based on a video review system, using just one camera.
It has also been decided that better communication of VAR decisions to fans actually in the stadiums has been approved.
One of the frequent criticisms of VAR from those who actually attend games are that they are frequently left in the dark whilst incidents are reviewed by math officials sometimes sat hundreds of miles away.
Having been successfully trialled during the Club World Cup last month in Morocco, this will be implemented with effect for the under-20 World Cup, which this year will be played in Indonesia, starting in May.
Should that prove successful, a decision will be taken whether it should be applied to other FIFA tournaments, including this summer’s Women’s World Cup.
At the same time, another FIFA initiative from the World Cup, the use of semi-automated offsides, continues to be progressed. The aim in time is to adopt a largely autonomous system, although this remains an aspiration at this stage.
No temporary concussion substitutes
Despite lobbying from the Premier League and those campaigning for sports people with brain injuries, calls for temporary concussion substitutes have once again been rejected by FIFA.
They argue that more evidence is required before a definite decision can be taken as to their need, although the issue remains under review.
This will continue to be a contentious matter with some arguing that FIFA, despite their protestations to the contrary, are not prioritising player welfare.
Abuse of referees
Another area that IFAB is keen to clamp down on is abuse of referees by players and fans, with FIFA describing this as a “global problem.”
FIFA has begun a trial at grassroots level with referees wearing body cams, and it is intended that this could be expanded in the coming months.
Gianni Infantino believes this is an issue that needs to be addressed because a lot of young referees are leaving the game, fed up with the verbal, and, in some cases, physical abuse that they receive.
Players and managers at high-profile clubs bear some responsibility in this respect. Young players and parents, see how they behave and believe that translates into what is acceptable.
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