What FIFA’s Potential Rule Changes Could Mean For Football

After it was announced on January 10th of this year that the FIFA World Cup would be expanded from 32 teams to a whopping 48, Marco Van Basten, FIFA’s Chief Technical Director and legend of the game has proposed several new changes that he would like to see the organization introduce.

The game of football has evolved in many ways over the past few years and most of FIFA’s latest introductions like goal-line technology or the new way of kicking off a football match by passing the ball backwards rather than forwards have been very positive changes. However, Marco Van Basten has outlined several proposals that he thinks will improve football, many of which are quite controversal and have immediately caught the attention of purists.

Here are some of the most noteworthy potential changes that FIFA’s Chief Technical director has outlined and what they could mean for the world’s greatest game.

Scrap Offside 

The least likely of the changes to actually occur, scrapping offside would mean the need for assistant referees would practically be obliterated. Van Basten believes that eliminating offside from the game would create more entertaining football and make it easier to watch for persons not accustomed to the laws of the game. The former Dutch World Cup star also stated that he believed “more goals would be scored” (Goal, 2017) if this rule change came into action and said “that’s what the fans want to see!” (Goal 2017). As long as football lives, offside will probably never be abolished, but for a second let’s entertain the idea and discuss what it would mean for football.

What it would mean for football – Strikers and defenders alike would have a whole new outlook on the game and would have to reform all of their strategies for how they play the game. Instead of defenders being taught at an early age to hold a line they would be taught how to actually properly defend while strikers who seem to come alive in the 18-yard box could hang out there the entire game. In addition, as previously mentioned the need for assistant referees would dramatically decrease as they would only be responsible for something your seven-year old nephew could do, signalling who the ball went off of last when it goes out-of-bounds.

Sorry Mr. Van Basten this is never going to happen.

Saying Goodbye to Yellow Cards 

Taking up a similar rule to the one imposed in ice hockey, a breach of the laws of the game that would normally incur a booking would instead result in a player being forced to sit on the sidelines and wait out a time penalty while their team plays a man down. Van Basten believes that this rule would stop the cynical types of fouls that you see in every game like when a player deliberately pulls another player back to stop a counter attack from occurring, or when a player goes to ground and makes a needless tackle. Van Basten didn’t go into detail about this one so it’s unclear what would happen if a player picked up two or three or four of these time penalties in one game but it is probably safe to assumethat this would work in the same way as yellow card do. Meaning if a player picked up two, the second would probably result in a sending off. Although it would be a crazy change, abolishing yellow cards might not be all that bad of an idea.

What it would mean for football – Although this would be an extremely radical change to the laws of the game it would probably be a positive one as players would now be less inclined to pick up needless yellow cards and would as a result make less fouls. This not only would help the game to flow but it would also create more goal scoring opportunities as again players would be far less willing to stop a break on the counter attack. It could also make for much more interesting football as a whole new set of tactics would have to be introduced. In hockey when a team is playing a man down a whole new strategy is developed for both teams. The team with the penalty goes on the “penalty kill” and practically abandons trying to score a goal as their main focus instead turns to just not conceding one, especially by trying to keep the puck in the opposition’s end. On the other side of the coin the team playing a man up goes on the “power play” and often introduces their best players on the ice all at once in an attempt to capitalize on their numbers advantage. So similarly a whole new set of strategies on how to defend against a team when you have eight and they have eleven or how to attack in a similar scenario would need to be introduced, making for some very interesting new tactics to the game.

Scrap Penalty Shootouts, Replace them with “Take-On Challenges” 

Marco Van Basten would like to say goodbye to penalty shootouts and hello to what he calls “take-on challenges”. I have always been a firm believer that the penalty shootout is a terrible way of deciding a football match. For example, Seattle Sounders won this year’s MLS Cup against Toronto FC despite not having a single shot on target in 120 minutes of action. This was simply because they had players that were better at taking penalty kicks; a cruel way of deciding such an important game. Penalty kicks aren’t something that even occurs in every football match so letting them be what decides the most critical football matches has never felt right. Marco Van Basten also agrees with this viewpoint and believes that introducing take-on’s at the end of the 90 minutes when two teams are deadlocked in a draw will be a good addition because it would put players in more of a “typical football situation”. The Dutchman’s idea is that instead of hitting a shot at a keeper from 12-yards out, the player will have eight seconds to score a goal after being given the ball from 25-metres out. The goalkeeper meanwhile would have to stay in his or her penalty area. Like penalty kicks, it would be a best out of five and if teams were tied after five rounds it would go to sudden death. This is another change that would be cool to see but is unlikely to occur.

What it would mean for football – Instead of your favourite teams going out of big tournaments in horrible, unjust circumstances this would potentially be a much more just way of ending a football match. It would allow for more creativity, skill and game knowledge on the behalf of both the attacker and the goalkeeper and wouldn’t just be a game of luck which can so often be the case with penalty shootouts. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the “rightful” winner of a football match will always triumph but it should eliminate the randomness of what is probably a very outdated way of ending a game.

Captain the Only One who can Speak to the Referee 

This is a rule that should have been introduced long ago. Instead of clamping down on any player who shows an extreme case of dissent like the Premier League has introduced this season, any player at all who speaks to the referee and is not the captain will be punished. This is a rule that has worked wonders in rugby and would put to an end the delay that is so often seen from players needlessly arguing with the referee over every little decision.

What it would mean for football – A much more respectful relationship between referees and players will occur. Referees will no longer hate their job quite as much and as a result of not being constantly swarmed by player opinions they will probably do a better job officiating matches. The game will also be allowed to flow much more readily as referees will no longer have to take such abuse and defenders will actually be focused on defending set pieces rather than arguing with the referee.

Remember this?

In PSG’s UEFA Champions League encounter with Chelsea in 2015, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was correctly sent off by referee Bjorn Kuipers for a two-footed tackle on Oscar. The referee immediately removed the card from his front pocket but could barely even raise it up in the air as any attempt to move his arm would hit a nearby Chelsea player and probably send them flopping to the ground like Ashley Young. The only way to combat this kind of deplorable behaviour from occurring is to have the captain be the only one who can talk to the referee. This would end the wrongful treatment of referees by players once and for all.

Overall Van Basten’s proposed rule changes are quite radical and many of them are unlikely to ever occur. But with all of them you can clearly see the thought process behind his ideas and understand that this is a man who wants to improve football. Whether or not any of these changes are ever going to come into action, Marco Van Basten has certainly created a very interesting debate and the future of football seems to be in good hands.

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