Punishment for denying goal-scoring opportunities may change

Linesman CC CottonIJoe2

Arsenal supporter and blogger Vic Crescit reports on the annual general meeting of football’s playing law-makers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), hosted by the Irish Football Association near Belfast recently...

Yes to changing the so-called “triple punishment” where a foul prevents a clear goal scoring opportunity was the biggest decision to come out of the IFAB AGM held at a posh hotel near Belfast last weekend.

Football’s playing law-makers including the execrable FIFA president Sepp Blatter, his running dog FIFA secretary-general Jérôme Valcke and Football Association of Thailand president Worawi Makudi, currently under investigation following allegations of corruption, together with representatives of the Football Association (FA), Football Association of Wales (FAW), Irish Football Association (IFA) and Scottish Football Association (SFA) met to discuss proposals to amend the beautiful game’s playing laws.

The one change definitely agreed was to reduce the so-called “triple punishment” where a foul is awarded inside the penalty area where in the opinion of the referee a “denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity” – or “DOGSO” in IFAB jargon – is prevented. A penalty kick is awarded, the offending player sent off, subsequently receiving an automatic suspension.

Rather than follow the UEFA proposal to caution the offending player instead of dismissing them,  IFAB decided to ask FIFA to urgently amend the disciplinary rules which bind all 208 of FIFA’s member national associations so that there can be some discretion in the automatic suspension part of the punishment. The aim is to get FIFA’s internal machinery to put a proposal to the FIFA executive committee meeting later this month to be approved for debate and decision at this year’s FIFA congress to be held in Zurich this May. If those deadlines are met the change could come into force next season.

Such speed in IFAB decisions is stunning, especially as a decision in this case requires approval of the FIFA congress to change its disciplinary rules.  IFAB usually has two speeds – glacial and full stop. I tend to think that’s a good thing when considering changes to the game’s playing laws. Careful consideration and trial is good. Rugby union has got itself into a vicious cycle of constant tinkering with the scrummaging laws. The intent is good, to stop scrums collapsing. This is dangerous and slows down the game. The outcome of constant changes is however predictable. Confused referees, players and supporters.

Getting back to this year the IFAB decided not to give the Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) permission to continue experiments with TV replays. The Dutch had wanted to their equivalent to the FA Cup. One of the reasons cited – according to Jérôme Valcke was that FIFA hadn’t seen the findings of the Dutch study thus far unlike the FA, IFA, FAW and FAW.

Suggestions emerged later that this wasn’t for want of trying on the Dutch Football Federation’s part. According to off the record sources they had tried several times to fix up an appointment with the brass at the FIFA Bunker in Zürich. KNVB is a little bit out of the way in Zeist, a small town of some 62,000 souls in the centre of the Netherlands near Utrecht. It’s not on Mars however. I know who I tend to believe.

Anyway the whole vexed issue of TV replays will now be referred to the IFAB’s newly created consultative machinery for a report to the next IFAB AGM to take place in Wales next year. I have my concerns about the use of TV replays in football. However you can’t be a little bit pregnant. Goal line technology is now here for all FIFA competitions (it made its debut in the 2012 Club World Cup in Japan) and in the Premier League. The list of sports – some with a fraction of the resources available at the elite level in football gets ever longer – rugby union, rugby league, cricket, hockey, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, tennis, American football, Canadian football, NASCAR stock car racing and speedway all use video replay technology to support their referees and umpires. Some even allow teams to challenge the ruling on the field. Cricket is just one example.

What mustn’t be sacrificed is the flowing nature of football. I can’t believe that there isn’t a way to incorporate instant replay in such a way that the referee on the field is still firmly in charge and the flow of the game isn’t broken up. We’ll see.

IFAB kicked long on a proposal to allow a fourth substitute in games that go into extra time. This will be looked at again next year. IFAB did agree to allow so-called “return substitutions” in so-called “recreational football” after successful experiments in England and Scotland. In England the scheme – which allows a player substituted to return to the game in a so-called “return substitution” – was tried out n leagues at Level 11 (town, city and county leagues) and below. There was a notable increase in participation apparently.

We all know from pre-season friendlies that too many substitutions can completely disrupt any rhythm rusty players might have developed. That said football at the recreational league level is there for the benefit and enjoyment of players. The crowds tend to be of the “two men and a dog” variety so fair enough in my view.

A proposal made by the United States Soccer Federation to permit the option in elite leagues and competitions for the fourth official to keep time under the control of the referee signalling when to start and stop the clock was firmly booted into touch with no explanation why. The proposed change just seemed common sense to me. Elite rugby league has had an off-field timekeeper under the control of the referee for decades. The USSF wasn’t proposing any change to the criteria for adding on time. This would have been restricted to injury, substitutions and other breaks in play at the referee’s discretion such as unauthorised people on the park, etc, exactly as now.

The only change would have been the fourth official would start and stop a clock visible to players, officials and spectators under the control of the referee. It just seemed common sense to me, but what do I know?

As ever in professional football the one group of people in the game whose opinion isn’t sought is that of us – the supporters. With the new consultative machinery that’s been established by the IFAB the game’s administrators reveal once again their contempt and indifference for the people that pay the bills – us. 

Thanks to CottonIJoe for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under CC license.