Improving the Laws of the Game

Improving the Laws of the Game is can be great for football, but is always part of a public debate. Even referees don’t want the rules to change every season, which makes it sometimes more difficult to explain during football games. But I favour new experiments that make football quicker, more attractive and more fair.

That’s what De Correspondent, Voetbal in de Bollenstreek and Voetblah try to do with the Avant Garde Cup. I visited the experiment on November 11th where they tried to introduce new rules. The game was officiated by former Eredivisie referee Pieter Vink.

The ideas for improving the Laws of the Game:

  • the self-pass
  • the kick-in (instead of throw-in)
  • The alternative for the rules for penalty kicks

Below you’ll find more about these changes. Please comment below what your thoughts are or if you have new ideas.

Logo of the Avant Garde Cup 2.0

Logo of the Avant Garde Cup 2.0

1. The self-pass

The idea is that players are allowed to take every free kick immediately after the referee has whistled. The goal is to speed things up in the game, because waiting for a signal to start takes time. This new rule will give an advantage to the attacking team, which seems fair. My question is if this will help teams regain the option of a promising attack (that is stopped after a tactical foul for example)? But what does happen if you want to show a player a yellow or red card?

I also see a huge advantage for referees here, because players will have less time to moan about your decisions. They simply have to run back and defend and don’t have time to talk to you. That’s also how it works during the test match. In the first half players comment on a decision by Pieter Vink, but an opponent quickly dribbles the ball forward. Three defenders lost with some smart thinking.

Maurits Hendriks, who invented the self-pass in hockey, will be present as well during the game. It’s also a point of discussion for the next IFAB meetings.

Marco van Basten, FIFA Chief Officer for Technical Development, is also available and he is happy with this initiative. “Football is a conservative sport, but things are going the right way now”, he says to Dutch Referee Blog. “These innovations are good, it’s important for the game to test new things. To implement it in the football rules it can take up to two years, because IFAB thoroughly tests new things.” He notices that the game goes quicker. “We are used to players who will stand in front of the ball. Before that behavier is gone, it takes a while.”

Marco van Basten and me.

Marco van Basten and me.

YOUR INPUT NEEDED: What are your pro’s and cons for a self-pass? Share them below. I am working on more stories on Law changes and want to map out these three proposed changes more thorouhly. You can also e-mail on jan@dutchreferee.com.

2. The kick-in (instead of throw-in) 

Throw-ins happen a lot, but are not always very useful for the attacking team. The idea is that a kick-in will give more advantages towards the attacking teams. Because it gives them more options to pass it forward to a teammate. Throw-ins are easier to defend, which leads to losing the ball.

Although kicks give players more options, especially now they can actually dribble-in, players need to get used to this. At the first few kicks kicks are long. These are more difficult to defend than throws, but balls are not optimally used. In the beginning team-mates coach a lot. “You can dribble the bal in.” That helps. Even the goalkeeper starts dribbling the goal-kick in.

The best advantage of this new technique is shown during a corner kick. Dribbling the ball in gives the advantage that you can restart before the team has ten defenders in their box. That leads to a good goal.

3. The alternative penalty kick rule

A lot of things happen in the box, but not every foul is punished. Take a look at corner kicks or free kicks that swing in. Lots of holding, pushing, but as referee you can’t whistle for every foul.

Or can you?

The organisation of this game has an interesting proposal. A penalty kick will only be awarded if an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is denied. This can be in the penalty area, but also outside it. DOGSO lead to a penalty kick. Unfortunately nothing like this happened during the game, but below you’ll get an idea what it looks like.

But what to do with other foulse in the box? If you can give a normal free kick for such fouls, the organisation expects the number of penalty kicks will decrease. The expecatation: less small fouls on attackers, because the idea is that a referee will whistle quicker if he doesn’t have to give a penalty kick. And another expectation: the end of diving. Because the award will not be a penalty kick, but a normal free kick. If the reward is not that high, the organisation hopes this helps to ban it out.

Full explanation in Dutch about the proposed law changes.

Share your ideas

What are your pro’s and cons of these LOTG changess? Share them below or e-mail on jan@dutchreferee.com. I am working on more stories on law changes and want to map out these three proposed changes more thorouhly.

If you have other ideas, please let me know as well.

4 thoughts on “Improving the Laws of the Game

  1. I’ll go in order.
    1) Not a bad idea, but I’d be curious to see how it works out in practice. Will teams still have the option to request a ‘formal’ free kick with distance measuring, etc. if they want? (Obviously, this can clash with the 3rd idea too). Also, would this disincentivise defensive fouls, or would defenders still commit the foul to draw a 2-3 seconds more time? I think your point is a good one, re. the decrease in dissent (and also diving).
    2) Sure – I think FIFA has already tested this. Players can throw as far as they can kick, so no reason to use the hands. Only potential problem – if we assume the ball must be stationary as for free kicks etc., it might lead to problems at the end of games as one team is in a hurry to restart.
    3) I feel we are complicating the rules too much here. So now the referee must decide between 4 levels of sanction in the area (FK, Penalty, DOGSO+YC, DOGSO+RC)? And same outside the area? What would be the substantial legal difference between ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the area? It might cut down on diving (maybe…players dive for FKs all the time) but it will increase dissent tenfold. No for me.

  2. Self-passing: I don’t see why not. Speeds the game up without fundamentally changing the nature of the game.

    Kick-ins: I’m concerned this would turn every attacking throw in into an effective corner. Corners are messy enough as it is (and take a long time, slowing the game down). Would only potentially support this if it was combined with a rule that it has to be taken quickly and cannot be played along the ground, but honestly I think it’s more trouble than it is worth. I also disagree with the reasoning that it gives more advantage to the attacking team — I don’t see this as necessarily desirable. It’s not an offence to kick the ball out of play, it’s not something that needs to be punished with a restart that gives the team with the ball a massive advantage.

    DOGSOs and penalties: I’ve long thought that all DOGSO offences should be penalties, with no red cards except when the challenge is completely cynical and likely to affect the outcome of the game. Red cards should be reserved for acts that are violent, dangerous, or abusive, not for mere unsporting acts like a trip, a hold, a handball.

    The idea about removing penalties for non-DOGSO offences in the box — I can see how it follows logically from penalties for all DOGSO offences, but I’m a little more skeptical of this part. While it may reduce low-level offences like holding etc (I’m not 100% convinced of this) it would increase the severity of harder, riskier challenges that are more likely to cause injury and conflict. Unless a satisfactory compromise can be found (like penalty corners in hockey which are not as severe as a penalty) I’m not in favour of change here.

    Other ideas: Timing. My view is that “stoppage time” is an absurdity. Clocks should be stopped when there is a delay. As per rugby union, when the clock hits 45 or 90 minutes, there should be a public signal (a siren, etc) but the game should go on until the ball goes out for a throw-in, goal kick, or goal. The game should continue for free kicks, penalties corners, drop-balls.

    Outside interference: the referee should be given broad discretion to decide the restart according to what is appropriate and fair, up to and including awarding a goal. So if someone on the touchline catches the ball before it technically goes out (as can happen at lower levels when sidelines aren’t roped off), the referee just allows a throw-in. If a fan steps onto the field and brings down an attacker who is one-on-one with the goalkeeper, a penalty is awarded as that broadly represents the scoring opportunity that existed. If the ball is rolling into the goal and a substitute warming up steps on the field to save it, a goal should be awarded.

    Substitutions: a part of me says just throw in the towel and switch to rolling substitutions. But that’s pretty extreme. How about:
    1) Allow substitutes to enter the field immediately without waiting for the other player to leave. Speeds the game up, it’s not actually that hard to keep track of, you can still say the substitution isn’t complete until the departing player has left.
    2) Extra-time: each team is allowed one extra-time substitution regardless of how many they have used in normal time. The extra-time substitution can be a return substitution. Reasoning: encourages teams to plan for 90 minutes not 120. Play the 90 minutes as you normally would without holding off on tactical changes for extra time. “Use it or lose it” for the ordinary-time substitutions. (Possible further version of this: teams can start extra time with any 11 of the up to 14 players who were on the pitch in the 90 minutes. They can then make one further substitution at any point in extra time)

    • Correction on the throw-ins: I said “Would only potentially support this if it was combined with a rule that it has to be taken quickly and cannot be played along the ground,”

      I meant: “Would only potentially support this if it was combined with a rule that it has to be taken quickly and *can only* be played along the ground,

    • Oh, another one: penalties. There’s so many details on penalties — keeper movement, players entering the box, kicker’s runup etc — that a lot tends to get ignored by sheer necessity. A reform that would fix this:

      All players must be outside the box, keeper on their line etc as is currently the case. But only until the kicker takes a step. Once the kicker steps, everyone can go.

      The consequence of this is that we no longer need to worry about feinting in runups, keeper off their line, etc. They are responding to a clear prompt. The kicker will have to take a much shorter runup, so penalties will be a matter of finesse, not sheer power.

      This does, however, significantly shift the balance of power at penalties to the defence. In response I would propose to reduce distance to the penalty mark — maybe 10 yards, or whatever is determined experimentally to work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *