Players diving in theater-like fashion inside the penalty box attempting to confuse referees into awarding them a penalty kick should be immediately red carded and suspended for two matches. Consequently, the team committing such an offense inside the penalty box would be required to play with a man down for the rest of the match and would also be subject to a penalty kick. Furthermore, diving in other sections of the field would result in immediate expulsion from the match. Such flagrant and farcical acting makes a mockery of the rules of the game. Therefore, rigorous penalties should be enforced. These rules would convince players to think twice before engaging in such unsportsmanlike behavior.
The offside rule
The offside rule in football is probably the most difficult to enforce with precision and one that is greatly under-appreciated. The rule needs to be reformed, yet not completely abolished as some suggest. Without the rule the whole tactical element of the game would be turned upside down and the game would be played in a completely different fashion. Moreover, goal hangers, positioning themselves deep down field in close proximity to the opposition’s goal, would be potentially commonplace in a completely stretched-out pitch
Reforms to the rule would include the creation of a newly demarcated attacking zone at both ends of the field. A dotted line would be drawn in between the midfield line and the top of the penalty box. The offside region (attacking zone) would be the space in between the goal line and the newly created dotted line. Limiting the offside area would create more open space in the field of play and potentially lead to more goals being scored.
The yellow/red card booking system of the game requires adjustment. There are three categories of fouls in soccer depending partly on whether the offense is careless, reckless or the result of using excessive force.
Ambiguity reigns in the way different referees make use of the yellow card and interpret a play involving a foul. The application and use of the yellow card should be abolished.
A different system in which a certain number of accumulated team fouls would lead to a given player being sent off for an extended amount of time is worth consideration. For example, every time a team commits five fouls they would be punished by the removal of one player off the field for 10 minutes and have to defend a penalty kick against them.
All match play fouls and other offenses meriting a yellow card would just count toward the accumulated collective team foul number. The current criteria in place for red card offenses would just continue to be applied in the new system.
Forcing teams to play a man down for 10 minutes every time they commit five fouls collectively would go along way in addressing the issue of excessive stop of play due to fouling and the problem of lack of space that characterizes modern football. No matter what rule you have in place fouls will always be committed. With the new rule teams more than likely would always play parts of the match with a man down since the lower threshold of five collective fouls would always be met. The proposed change would open up space in the pitch more frequently over the course of a game and the brilliance of individual play would once again reign.
The rule is a win-win situation since hypothetically even if a team did not commit any fouls the game would still benefit since there would be less stoppage time and brilliance of individual play would be less targeted physically. Committing fouls would surely turn out to be a huge liability if some of these changes were implemented.
Technology/Instant replay: A philosophical issue
The use of instant replay has been debated over the last several years. It is one that has to be approached with much caution and deliberation since making use of it would fundamentally destroy the philosophical essence of the beautiful game.
Daily living and football play are characterized by a continuous stream of potentially fateful events that cannot be turned back and where there is no reversal of fortunes. To disrupt this essential philosophical dynamic of the game is unnatural, nonhuman and defies the omnipotence of God. It’s a recourse that we do not have in life and we should not have in match play. A football match – just as life – draws on competing themes such as justice, injustice, victory, defeat, happiness, sadness, tragedy and exhilaration. The complexity and drama surrounding such powerful emotional concepts gives the game a mystical and magical aura. The lure and mystery of the unknown is a central element at the core of daily living and of play in football. The outcome of a game is uncertain and that constant state of unpredictability is what makes football so dramatic, captivating and the passion of the masses.
The excessive use of instant replay, as in other sports such as American football, would be a shot to the heart of soccer, disruptive to the fluid nature of the game and lead to a monotonous character that is prevalent in every other sport that abuses such recourse. American football is characterized by multiple set plays interspersed with a series of stoppage intervals and is not played in a fluid continuous fashion. The concept of instant replay is surely more transferable and less disruptive to the nature of American football than to the fluid nature of soccer.
Bill Shankly, the legendary Scottish manager, once said, “Football is a much more serious matter than life and death.” It is about time that FIFA takes a closer look at the laws governing the beautiful game. The fact that football’s governing body has been extremely conservative and slow to act in pushing for significant changes is unacceptable and at times puts the game to shame. The archaic laws of the game now in place have not advanced concomitantly with the changing physiological capacity of the players and for that the beauty of the sport has taken a beating. Someone high up in the echelons of the football power structure should heed the call for change and usher the game to a new frontier.
Ricardo Guerra is an Exercise Physiologist. He has a Masters of Science in Sports Physiology from the Liverpool John Moores University. He has worked with several clubs and teams in the Middle East and Europe, including the Egyptian and Qatari national teams. The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.