During France 98, Jason Barry and I met to watch a match, and we made a list of rule changes that we thought were long overdue…and 12 years later, that list is still as relevant as is was back then. Unfortunately, until Sepp Blatter steps down and we can let technology help our footballing lives, as well as using common sense, we are resigned to having the added drama of human mistakes destroy the hopes of innocent teams…
And so, in no particular order, here are our suggestions for change…
1) If a player is injured and play is stopped for them to be stretchered off, then they should stay off for a minimum of 5 mins. That should stop some of the rolling around and simulation, which stops abruptly when the player is on the sideline.
2) Instead of the lottery of penalties, revert back to a revised version of the NASL’s run from the centre spot and score within 5 seconds. It takes a lot more skill from striker and goalie, and is more exciting for the spectators.
3) If a player prevents a free kick being taken quickly, stands in the way, throws the ball away, etc, then the free kick should be moved forward 10 yards as it is done in rugby. This rule was instituted very weakly and then dropped after very few referees enforced it.
4) Instead of offside starting from the half way line, draw a 33 yd line like the old NASL. This would open the game up more, and give the linesman an easier job. Hockey actually abandoned the offside rule altogether and it has done them no harm.
5) Professional fouls should be yellow carded as should gamesmanship, such as simulation intended to get an opposing player carded. This rule has been enacted to some degree.
6) A fourth referee at a video monitor. In the time it takes to argue and surround the referee, TV viewers have the seen the incident several times from several angles. As in rugby, the referee can instantly talk to the video judge to make the right call. This still hasn’t been done, but a 4th, 5th and 6th assistant have been experimentally added, as well as the possibility of technology being used to determine if a ball has crossed the goal line.
Overall, 4 world cups later, and very little has been done to remove the most irritating and detracting aspects of the most popular game in the world.