New proposals by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) could reduce the duration of a match to change to 60 minutes from 90 with the clock stopped every time the ball goes out of play, and allow players to take a free kick or corner to themselves.
Other changes include permitting free kicks to be taken with a moving ball, penalties being given if a goalkeeper handles a backpass and a penalty goal being awarded in the instance of a goal line handball, a law similar to one already practiced in rugby union.
There are also ideas for teams whose players mob referees to be docked points and for defenders to be allowed to receive the ball from a goal kick within the penalty area.
A goal kick would follow a penalty kick, meaning there would be no opportunity for players to follow in and score from a rebound. This is proposed to stop the issue of encroachment, with the kick being given as missed if an attacking player encroaches and a retake being allowed if a defending player encroaches on a missed penalty.
IFAB says the “Fair Play!” document has three aims — to improve player behaviour and increase respect, to increase playing time and to increase fairness and attractiveness.
“Many people are very frustrated that a typical 90-minute match has fewer than 60 minutes of effective [actual] playing time i.e. when the ball is in play,” IFAB said. “The strategy proposes measures to reduce time-wasting and ‘speed up’ the game.”
IFAB said some of the proposals could be implemented immediately and require no law changes, while some are “ready for testing/experiments” and some are “for discussion”.
The document says match officials should be stricter on the rule which allows goalkeepers to hold the ball for six seconds. IFAB also suggests match officials should be stricter on time-keeping, stopping their watch from a penalty being awarded to the spot-kick being taken, from a goal being scored until the match resumes from the kick-off, and from the signal of a substitution to play restarting.
Former Premier League referee David Elleray, the technical director of IFAB, told The Times that the plan is “a radical document.”
“You could say that it is a quiet revolution aimed at getting football even better,” he said. “My starting point was to look at the laws and say ‘what are they for?’ and if there is no particular reason then would changing them make the game better.”
Allowing goalkeepers to pass the ball to defenders within the penalty area from a goal kick has already been trialled in European youth matches in order to test whether it would encourage more passing rather than a long kick upfield.
The use of video assistant referees (VARs) at the Under-20 World Cup was deemed a success, Elleray added.
“Overall the trials are going extremely well,” he said. “Out of 52 games in the Under-20 World Cup in Korea there were only 12 decisions which were decided by the VAR so it is not disrupting the game.
“Referees are saying to players at corners and free kicks ‘remember, the cameras are watching you.’ Players know they cannot get away with things such as violent conduct and bad tackles.”
IFAB is made up of world football’s governing body, FIFA, and the four British home football associations and is responsible for making the final decision on law changes. The “Play Fair!” document will be discussed at various meetings before decisions are taken on whether to develop ideas further or discard them.