IFAB Proposes New Rules for Football (and I add a few of my own)

By Tim Todd

The International Football Association Board or IFAB is set to debate a set of new rules for football aimed forcing teams like Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers, Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace, Sam Allardyce’s English National Team, and any team managed by Jose Mourinho to play football against their opponent rather than playing against the clock.

There are only three things that a coach can manage during a game: space, the ball, and time. And it has become increasingly easy for coaches to manage time. Teams these days manage time as a tactic; simply kick the ball out of play, rotational fouling, and get a lot of restarts, take extra time on free kicks, have the keeper hold the ball, switch sides for his free kicks, and fake injury, then take your time during any restart. If you score a goal, double down on the time wasting.

As a result in the modern game it’s a damn fact that football matches see less than 60 minutes of actual ball in play. That’s being generous: Petr Cech revealed on Twitter that matches effectively only see 25 minutes of action per half. In the Champions League final, the showcase of modern football excellence, the ball was in play for only 56 minutes and 45 seconds. That was a game contested between two teams who wanted to play football.

Seeing this problem IFAB, the governing body which writes the laws of the game, wants to debate some changes to the rules. Changes that they think will speed the game up and make it more enjoyable.

The boldest proposal is a 60 minute game clock which would be stopped for any.. uhh.. stoppages (interruptions?). Throw ins, long free kicks, goal kicks, and the like would see the referee stop a clock on his wrist which would be linked to a clock in the stadium that all could see.

This seems practical at first glance. Teams who want to gather their teammates forward and try for a long free kick can still do so but they aren’t rewarded for taking their time. Player subs, which are supposed to add 30 seconds on to the game clock but never do, will be actually timed. And playing like you are fouled so that you can get treatment and kill the game would just see the clock stopped.

But I don’t know if it would stop teams from timewasting. Timewasting has two advantages, it kills the clock but it also kills an opponent’s momentum. And many teams use free kicks and corners as one of the few ways they generate shots. I suspect that if the clock is stopped, some teams will take even more time over the ball and we could see 50 or even 60 minute halfs.

Stopping the clock is not a disincentive for teams who want to stop the clock, added time is. If IFAB wants to punish time wasters it needs to instruct the referees to add on more time. And they know this, they have outlined that as a proposal which could be implemented without a change of the laws. Referees would just start accurately keeping track of stoppages for penalty kicks, goals, injuries, subs, and free kicks. Imagine Mourinho’s face if the referee added 12 minutes on to the first half of a game against Arsenal! He would be so angry that he might literally explode, which would make the game more enjoyable for all fans of football for the rest of human history. I am in favor of this change rather than a 60 minute game clock.

The “in between” proposal is to have the referees accurately track time in the last 5 minutes of the first half and the last 10 minutes of the second half. If they are going to go down the path of having a stop-watch-like timing mechanism, I’d like to see it deployed this way first.

The other “rules” change that I would implement to improve the flow of the game is to punish rotational fouling. We punish last man fouls and other professional fouls more harshly, so why not rotational fouling? Especially when targeted at one player. If yellow cards start flying early for rotational fouling you can guarantee that rotational fouling will stop.

IFAB is also proposing several minor changes which are intended to speed the game up: kicking the ball to yourself on free kicks and corners would be allowed (in other words, allowing the team with the ball to start the free kick with a dribble instead of a pass). I’m in favor of this. Forcing the keeper to take the goal kick on the same side as the ball went out of play: again this is just sensible. And allowing the keeper to kick a rolling ball rather than making them retake the free kick: uhh yeah, totally sensible.

And one last rule I would like to see changed is the absurd “advantage” rule. Referees don’t apply advantage the same across the board. They know which teams want to stop the game and which teams don’t and they play “advantage” in weird places. For example, Arsenal are often granted an advantage in their own final third after they are fouled, as a result they will sometimes turn the ball over and their “advantage” actually becomes the opponent’s advantage. If we are going to allow players to play a free kick to themselves we can stop giving “advantage” and just stop the ball at every foul. This will also make it clearer when teams are rotationally fouling and allow the referee to take corrective action,

I think simply enforcing the laws of the game already on the books would be a great way to fix the problem of time wasting and adding a few minor tweaks such as allowing players to take free kicks quickly, forcing keepers to stick to the six second rule, and

Here are three more controversial laws I’d like to see implemented:

Undercutting: when the ball is in the air and one player goes up to win the ball, their opponent will sometimes “make a back” and cause the player challenging for the ball to fall over him uncontrollably. This act of backing into or ramming an opponent in the air is insanely dangerous and I would go so far as to say it’s a red card offense. To describe what I mean in more clear terms: player A stands on the pitch, player B jumps to win a header, player A just stands there and doesn’t challenge for the ball – that would be a foul. Deliberately backing into the opponent in the air would be a red card. In basketball this is called “undercutting” and is the source of many playground fights. It is also punished as a foul in basketball and as a result we just don’t see it happen very often. But in football this happens all the time. How many times per game do we see a player lying on the ground after his defender undercut him? I see it at least once or twice a game and that’s too often for my taste.

Offside: we either need to abandon offsides or at the very least roll it back to where it was a few years ago when players weren’t allowed to stand offside and interfere with play. This season, we have seen too many examples of players in an offside position, interfering with play, and yet the goal is allowed. I’m an Arsenal supporter and I’m not supposed to say this but Aaron Ramsey was offside and interfering with play for Arsenal’s first goal against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final. That goal shouldn’t have stood but the confusion over the laws of the game allowed it. One simple change would fix this: goals will be chalked off for any player in an offside position in the 18 yard box. Done. Or abandon offsides all together – which seems to be the direction we are headed. Scoring would go up!

Racism in the stands: This issue simply needs to be treated seriously. UEFA and FIFA need to crack down on clubs with racist fans so that the clubs will ban these racists from their stands. That means huge fines, playing games without spectators, points deductions, and barring clubs from playing in the Champions League or barring countries from the World Cup, Euros, and other tournaments. 5,000 Euro fines are not the solution to players being racially abused.  It’s a disgrace that this is still happening and the fact that FIFA, UEFA, and the various leagues don’t crack down on this makes me wonder if those governing bodies are racist as well?

Read all of IFAB’s suggested changes to the Laws of the game on their “Play Fair” web site.

What are your thoughts on IFAB’s suggested changes and mine? Sound off below.



  1. The time keeping would be the equivalent of a cultural revolution in football. I don’t know. I’d want to see it extensively trialed and I’d be worried about how to implement it at the amateur/youth levels. One thing FIFA deserves some credit for is trying to keep the game the same at the professional level as it is at the youth level. Hence the resistance to goal-line technologies. I’m not opposed to it per se, but need to see it in action. Changes to the game should be brought about slowly and cautiously. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    1. “Changes to the game should be brought about slowly and cautiously. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

      Says the guy with the Reagan poster by his name. Ah, you can always spot a true conservative 🙂

      But seriously, I don’t disagree that proposed changes should be carefully thought out and trialled, and that a lot of proposed changes would be terrible. But my response to your last line would be, “it is broke, and has been for years.” Not entirely broken, of course, but significantly, and time-wasting/stopping is a big part of the problem, I think.

      I haven’t thought through their proposals, or how best to tackle what is an admittedly tricky issue, but one quick, perhaps naive question:
      Other than the fact that it might make trouble for the TV companies because the games would get too long, what is the problem with keeping the games at 90 minutes AND adding the game clock that stops for stoppages??

      The point is, each team knows ahead of time: you get 90 minutes, exactly, of actual football to play, and nothing you guys can do on the pitch will change that. It wouldn’t prevent the deliberate stoppages to kill momentum, but I’ve always thought that wasting time in order to shrink the amount of time that the other team has to draw/win the game has always been the much greater of the two problems. As Tim says, Mourinho could stop momentum, but he’d know that doing so could result in 10+ additional minutes at the end of each half for his team to hang on and not concede.

      Of course, the game could stretch on too long, even for us viewers, but in that case they could tweak the rules to allow, e.g., for the clock to run for exactly (say) 15 seconds at goals kicks, etc, before the clock stops.

      What am I missing?

      1. The game is NOT broken. If it is, why are you watching? For every game where you show me a team (or teams) coached to waste time, kill the clock, play anti-football etc. I can show you ten where both teams came out to play and we were (usually) entertained.

        Refereeing on the other hand I believe is close to being broken, hence why I’d not want to add yet another thing to the referee’s task list.

        1. Refereeing is an essential part of the game, so in that sense, you and I agree that the game is broken.

          I think when we talk about the biggest games (e.g. world cups, latter stages of champions league, etc) caution and cynicism are the exception, not the norm. How many big finals and semifinals over the past 10-20 years have been deadly dull affairs blighted by overly negative tactics. Many, probably most.

          Stamping out time wasting of course would only go so far in addressing the problems, but it would be a good start.

      2. “Other than the fact that it might make trouble for the TV companies because the games would get too long, what is the problem with keeping the games at 90 minutes AND adding the game clock that stops for stoppages??”

        Player health maybe? Essentially making them play extra time every week would surely lead to some issues.

        1. Fair enough.

          I guess what I’m unclear about is, if the average top flight game only involves a little under 60 minutes, then how much of that is natural due to the inevitable time it takes to throw/kick the ball back in, etc, and how much of that is down to time stopping/wasting tactics?

          I guess I’m worried that keeping to a strict 60 minutes is still too short, as there’s more than 2-3 minutes of a typical game that is properly wasted, in which case, by capping the games at 60 minutes, the laws would effectively be doing the time wasters’ jobs for them (assuming that shortening games, rather than just breaking up momentum, is a chief motivation for the wasters).

          Rugby has 40 minute halves. That seems closer to the right time, but admittedly I’m just going with my gut here, rather than empirical evidence.

          Another option is not to literally stop the clock every time the ball goes out of play, but rather have a set maximum amount of time you allow for every kind of stoppage, and then stop the clock when the players take longer than that (e.g. 10 seconds for thrown ins, 15 for goal kicks, 30 for corners, etc). This might be overly complicated, but with the help of technology and a guy whose sole job is to do this, I don’t think it’d be impossible.

          Anyway, the general thrust behind the solution should work. Killing momentum would still be an issue, but even that wouldn’t be so bad, I think, since a big part of the momentum-killing is the psychological blow to the attacking team of knowing that their time to score is continually being eaten away by the other team’s time-wasting. That panic wouldn’t have to set in any more.

  2. “I’m an Arsenal supporter and I’m not supposed to say this but Aaron Ramsey was offside and interfering with play for Arsenal’s first goal against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.”

    Thanks for saying this aloud, Tim. You’re right and you’re supposed to say this. We’d have expected nothing else from you.

    And despite the suggested improvements, I suspect the refs would err and would it be fair to allow a team to challenge a maximum of 3 refereeing decisions per match and ask for live video analysis? Other games allow it and wouldn’t this be a natural and logical progression of managing a football match in this era?

    1. What about instead of VAR, we just put multiple referees on the field at the same time. It works in basketball and football (american).

      I think half of the mistakes refs make is because they are trying to keep up with these lightning quick athletes and so they miss things. Put one ref in one half and one in the other, and I bet they’d get more things right.

      1. i think some refs are corrupt and video refereeing leaves them nowhere to hide.

  3. If a player needs treatment they should be immediately stretchered off the field. If they are really hurt they can signal for a replacement right away. If not, there is an incentive to get back out as fast as possible. There was one tournament where they did this (USA 94) and it was great.

  4. The offside rule has gotten over complicated. It was complicated enough. (Ever tried explaining it to a soccer Mom?). It is a necessary rule, I think. Otherwise the midfield will get bypassed with a hoof up field to some goal hanger (that’s what we called them in England back in the day. Probably still do). It will be boring. I think if the guy is offside, regardless of whether he touches the ball or not, then he’s offside.

    1. It would mean more goals though. Inverting the Pyramid discuss how they thought the offside rule would increase scoring and instead had the opposite effect.

      Can you imagine? No more compressed midfield, no more high lines… teams would park a monster (Andy Carrol, Didier Drogba) deep in the other end to win long balls, midfields would soar up in support… it would be a really really dramatic change.

      1. I like the idea of a dramatically more attacking game, though the crazy idea I like better than doing away with offsides is to just make the goals a few inches bigger in every direction. Simple and effective: how many shots currently hit the woodwork? With the change, all or most of those would be goals (obviously, you wouldn’t want to make it too easy to score, so to get the balance right you’d have to increase the size only slightly).
        Shots from distance would get be rewarded more, which would have the effect of defenses needing to come further out to block said shots, which (I’m hoping!) would lead to space in behind for teams to attack.

        I know this is never going to happen, but it’s my pet solution.

      1. I was going to say the same, but I have the sneaking suspicion that the origin of that phrase may be a reference to basketball, i.e. sitting under the net waiting to pick low-hanging fruit.

  5. Thanks Tim! I’ve actually wanted to have the clock stopped whenever the play stops for years now. Though I wouldn’t have the ref on the field keep track, I’d give that duty to the fourth official. I’ll admit, when I first heard the phrase “60-minute game”, I reflexively dismissed it. But if we actually are looking at around 25 minutes of actual game play per half, then maybe we’ll wind up with more bang for our buck. In terms of how to decrease time wasting when the ball’s stopped, I see no reason why the six second rule couldn’t remain. Think of it like a shot clock. You’ve x amount of time to get the ball back into play, or you get penalised. It won’t stop everything, of course, but it seems to me to be a step in the right direction.

    I’m of two minds about the dribbling a goal kick or free kick bit. I don’t mind the ball rolling, but I think you’ll wind up with two sorts of teams; those who dribble almost every time, and those who line up for the long-ball kick. I suspect we’d be one of the dribblers, and while that’d probably suit our style of play more, I’d miss the long balls into the box for Kozzer to get his head on.

    I’m right with you on Undercutting. Offsides changes every year, so sure, why not? We’ll just change it again next year anyway. As for the Racisim? I’d love to see more being done, but I’ve no faith that anything of substance will be. To answer your final question, the governing bodies may not intrinsically be, but the people who make up those bodies sure seem to happy to remain willfully oblivious.

  6. Introducing a game clock would be great to fight time-wasting! Referees already have the option to add stoppage time, yet they barely seem to notice when a keeper is taking 30 seconds for a goal kick or a player taking 30 seconds for a free kick. It works for basketball, so I don’t see why a game clock wouldn’t work for football.
    Dribbling from a set piece would be a too radical change imho. Football is a team sport, and making an effort to be available and receive the ball from a throw-in or corner is part of that team approach. There’s no need to make the sport more individualistic, especially if such a change doesn’t make it more spectacular.

    1. Not saying I agree or not (needs more thought), but bringing up the distinction between the team and the individual aspects of the game is an excellent point. Thanks!

  7. The arguments against a game clock don’t convince. A game clock is not about disincentivising teams that want to waste time… it’s about doing what is fair by the game, and fair for everyone. It is a commonsense solution, and is overdue. Refs and assistants adding time is too arbitrary. We routinely see games that have a minute of added time at half time, when a single one of four or more stoppages was for 1.30. It’s a nonsense.

    Make the game 30 minutes a half; total 60. We will end up playing longer than actual games of 90. And since time-wasting will have no effect, it’ll be drastically cut down. Say the ball goes out of play fora goal kick. The clock re-starts when the ref blows and the goalie kicks the ball.

    The last 5 and 10 is intriguing, and would be a start. But a small team that scores against us on 20 minutes starts wasting time almost right away. And sometimes they get away with it.

    Make it a rule too that players can’t be treated on the field of play, and the game won’t restart until they are off.

    Also, rotational fouling is next to impossible to establish with any accuracy. It stops being an empirical thing (like last man) and starts being guesswork.

    I’m going to go full Sally on your proposals on offsides, undercutting and racism — yes! yes! YES!

    1. I disagree. With a stop-watch clock, I think time-wasting will get more egregious because killing the clock is only part of the problem but I doubt we will ever see this.

      Also, stopping the game clock is just the next step toward commercial breaks. It won’t be long before we play four 15 minute quarters with a 2 minute commercial break between each quarter. Plus, every injury will now be a minimum 1 minute break, every goal will be a 1 minute break, every sub will be a 1 minute break.

      Each break bringing along with it a commercial!

      1. The slippery slope to ad breaks is indeed worrisome, but like every slippery slope argument, it can be resisted: if the heads of the sport have any sense (which we know they mostly don’t, but then that’s why this discussion is pie-in-the-sky stuff to begin with!), they’ll know to resist ever going down that particular slippery slope. No ads during halves of football, ever, period. No timeouts either. Players/teams could still get yellow cards for taking egregiously too long at stoppages, it’s just that now it won’t subtract from any of the time played.

  8. A couple problems with stopping the clock.
    What happens if they don’t restart it properly? Do they stop play again? Sounds crazy but it happens in basketball.
    Where is this going to lead? To timeouts? Or more likely, TV timeouts? Given Fifa’s corruption, who really believes they would put the game first if there were more ad money potentially available?

    Rotational fouling is easy. Third foul in a half or fourth in the game on a single player is automatic yellow.

    1. Comparatively rare occurrence in basketball games. And in the big scheme of things, is that a sufficiently big thing to offset against the gain? Not for me. It’s like arguing against a fitness app on your smartphone because they sometimes go out of whack and have to be reset.

      Point taken abut changing the game out of all recognition, but we needn’t necessarily fear that. Considering the issue on its merits makes the case well enough. It’s a significant enough change and doesnt have to be and probably won’t be a slipperly slope to stuff like timeouts.

      Fair point on rotation fouling, but it’s still guesswork by the ref.

  9. From the IFAB website: I do love the idea of going back to the Captains being the only players allowed to talk to the ref. Adds a bit of professionalism and distance back to the game. All for carding mobs.

  10. Tim, I didn’t get a chance to reply to your comment on the last thread before it was closed.

    You were being objective midway through 15-16 when you said Arsenal would win the title. Everyone thought that. I remember at one point Caley’s xG model predicted a 96% chance for an Arsenal title win, and all the models were saying the same thing. We all expected the bottom to fall out from under Leicester. That was a historic, “never” again (at least not for decades) type of underdog story. That’s the thing with stats, they don’t predict the future, they just give you information on probabilities. It was objective of you to say what you said then based on the data and the fact that the numbers “failed” you shouldn’t detract you from using them. They are an emotionless tool and in their current state, woefully simplistic to predict such a complex game. Still, giving up on them on the grounds that we are just fans serves nobody. The numbers should be presented, warts and all, for us to chew and analyze them. That’s what makes it fun! I hope you don’t give up on that because that was my favorite part of what you do here and over on Arseblog.

    On the other hand, I resent the implication that I only agree with you when it serves my underlying bias. That’s an easy way to dismiss my arguments, which I tried to make very clear weren’t written to diss you. For the sake of example, I’m speaking of the difference between this post, to which there were 39 civil replies:

    You concluded:
    “When you watch a game you will see Alexis turning the ball over because he’s constantly in possession. But Alexis is only 1/10th of the problem. There are 10 players who average between 0.9 and 1.4 turnovers in their own half per 90: Giroud, Ox, Iwobi, Cazorla, Alexis, Coq, Walcott, Bellerin, Ozil and Xhaka. That’s down to the manager and the players. Not just one guy.”

    And then there was this one which kickstarted 130 comments of mostly nonsense:

    You concluded:
    “And when the story of Alexis Sanchez is told, it will have the same undertones as the Fabregas story and the van Persie story; that yet again Arsenal had a special talent which they wasted. It won’t be long before special talent starts saying no to even coming to Arsenal.”

    Same basic topic, totally different vibe. I applauded the first one, even though it was critical of the players and manager, because it was numbers driven and raised more interesting questions in the process of reading it. I was sharply critical of the second one because it was based on apparently nothing more than pictures of Alexis looking sad.

    I can’t say this enough: this is your blog, so do what you want, and generally you rock. Just consider what I’ve said and what others have said about how the tone of what you write influences the discussion that follows.

    1. Doc,

      A while back you wrote about P.C. culture, race, and identity politics in a forum. It was a bit nostalgic about the good old days and there was a lament about how hard it is to speak to POC about race for fear of causing offence due to “the accusatory culture of the left”. I’d forgotten about it (apologies if you have too) but some of your comments of late reminded me, although after the last couple of posts I’m not sure why you find it so hard to stop lecturing Tim about his tone and just let some of this stuff go. Like many others, I respect Tim’s work and have no problem with this blog reflecting a wider disappointment felt amongst Gooners. You feel a different way and seem determined to write about it at length. It makes me wonder why I stayed out of the discussion that followed your comment, with people lining up to talk about how “PC culture was ruining modern discourse”. So I thought I’d leave you with some food for thought of your own. Particularly as it relates to Tim’s last point here about racism. I hope you’ll receive it in the same spirit you expect Tim to take your own comments on the tone of his writing.

      When you detect a reluctance from people of colour to engage, when you lament the dying of old modes of discourse when it was easier to stereotype and make generalisations about marginalised people without being labelled a bigot, and when you talk up the “freedom” of subalterns to stereotype without also addressing the clear and present danger of being a subaltern in the first place then you’re diminishing or erasing the experiences of POC. Black people, POC and other marginalised sections of society want to hear fewer people complain that simply speaking out on race is “prolonging conflict” or “causing divisiveness”, and would love for more people to interrogate the bigotry and ignorance hiding in their own communities. Unless this happens, there’s not a footballing regulation on earth that will deal with racism and bigotry in football and wider society.

      It’s probably high time much of the West was “hyper-vigilant and hyper-accusatory” where race is concerned, because for decades too many were willing to disregard the routine, systematic marginalisation of people of colour or marginalised people as inconsequential. The new “vigilance and accusatory culture of the left” is a myth – people just haven’t been listening and social media has amplified the voices of the marginalised.

      What progress has been made didn’t spring suddenly from a newly benevolent society. A globalised media and actors in educational, political or other social spaces have worked diligently and at great personal cost to elevate awareness of these issues. And that increased visibility is a double-edged sword, with often dire consequences for the private and professional lives of those brave enough to do so.

      What has it taken to reach this state of “hyper-vigilance”? How many unarmed victims of state violence has it taken? How many mysterious unsolved murders of gay and trans people? How many stories of people denied jobs, housing or other basic opportunities for social progress? What has been the cost in blood, the weight of the sacrifices, just to get to this point – where normal discourse about race/culture/politics becomes “uncomfortable”?

      It’s not unreasonable to ask intelligent adults to rethink their interactions with marginalised people and to educate themselves on how to navigate race in a diverse society. It’s fine to lament the passing of a certain form of discourse and the intrusiveness of identity politics, but understand that before the internet it was all too easy to drown out the voices of marginalised people. That has changed and to me wistful thinking about some rose-tinted historical period where it was much better is funny. For many, that past simply doesn’t exist.

      As Jesse Williams said in his BET Awards acceptance speech on ‘whiteness’ – “If you have a critique of our protest, you’d better have a documented critique of our oppression as well.”

      1. Kaius, I’m kind of horrified by this comment; what in the world are you talking about? I’ve never once referenced race, the PC culture or any of that on this forum (for good reason) and I do not write on any other forums online. I did write nostalgically about the way football used to be consumed vs. how it’s consumed now but I stayed far far away from the kind of cultural messages you’re talking about, again consciously and with good reason. I think you’ve got the wrong doc.

        Having said that, I do intend to stop talking about Tim’s tone. I’m just as sick of it as I suspect the rest of you are by now. I hope we can be nicer to each other in the future regardless of how/what he writes.

        1. You recalling the inciting comment is less important than appreciating that certain kinds of comments are inevitably personal – they have the capacity to “horrify”. I’ll leave it at that.

    2. ” I was sharply critical of the second one because it was based on apparently nothing more than pictures of Alexis looking sad”

      Other than the fact that of all the times a mike has been shoved in his face recently by a reporter asking about his future plans, not once had he stated his willingness to stay at Arsenal.

      So perhaps writing a “good bye Alexis” article might’ve been a tad premature, but would you bet your twenty against my hundred that he’s staying?

      1. Tom, I don’t know how I can stare this any more clearly: it’s NOT about the conclusion of the argument! It’s about HOW the argument is made!

        1. Alexis is shopping himself around. Bayern want him badly but they don’t want to pay his fee and salary. I’m not confident he will go to Bayern but I’m also certain he doesn’t want to be at Arsenal any more. This isn’t just “pictures of him looking sad.”

          1. I don’t want to fight with you. If you can’t see my point we can both move on and I can be happy with that.

          2. I see your point. I am just saying that when I write more opinion-based pieces which support your stances, which have quotes from people you like, I can’t remember receiving anywhere near the level of calumny specifically about my writing and me and my mental state that I received on this other piece which contained a conclusion you don’t like. I don’t remember you suggesting I should stick to such and such writing or even criticizing my writing AT ALL, again, when they are opinion pieces you like or agree with.

            You tend to attack the writer when you disagree with them and I personally don’t appreciate it. Thanks.

  11. On topic: I’m not much for rule changes but little things to help the game move along would be welcome. What I dread most of all is the introduction of stopping the game clock because that would be a gateway to planned stoppages, ie. commercials. I really think that would make the sport much less watchable. I started watching football in part because I’m nauseated by the endless advertising inherent in other sports. If that goes away, I would have a really hard time stomaching it.

    1. I meant to include the argument that this would be a slippery slope to commercial breaks. Thank you for picking up the slack!

  12. I like the idea of stopping the clock for all the reasons posed above, but a) even if it deters time-wasting in the hopes of holding on to a result, it still benefits teams who want to disrupt momentum (as Tim points out), and b) it still unfairly benefits teams who want to keep the ball out if they are tiring. Gone is the impact sub who can take advantage of a defense that’s been under the cosh for 70 minutes. Exhausted midfield? Let your goalkeeper hold the ball for a few minutes so you can catch your breath! Presumably he wouldn’t get booked for time-wasting under this new rule.

    Also just want to chime in with a few others about the absurd way first-half stoppage time is handled in football. There’s an unwritten rule, it seems, that no matter how much stoppage occurs in the first half (unless egregious, as in the case of a very serious injury), it’s one minute of added time, or thereabouts. Ridiculous.

  13. I hate the idea of stopping the clock for every throw-in, goal kick, injury, etc. Ever watch the NFL? Rhetorical question for most here, but there are only about 11-12 minutes of actual action in a 60-minute game. Drives me nuts, which is why I rarely watch it. Set a time limit for goalie possession, goal kicks, injuries (to be moved off the pitch), free kicks, throw-ins, etc. and, friggin’ enforce it. I’d be willing to bet there would be less stoppage/injury time if there were limits on how much time injuries, etc. took during the game. Give each team 2 30-second timeouts per half that can only be used for challenging a call or to address a legitimate injury on the pitch. Enforce violations for things like a player kicking the ball away to prevent a team from taking a quick free kick or to waste time. Maybe change offsides to a violation if any offensive player is behind the last defender regardless of if they’re in the play or not. Much easier call to make I would think. Definitely like the idea that only the captain may address the referee.

    1. I think the idea of enforcing time limits on players wasting such as a keeper would dovetail nicely with VAR.

      1. This is my all time favorite thing to say to people who say they can’t watch soccer. You’d rather watch these mutants scratch their jocks while they amble back to the line of scrimmage, then yell hut-hut-hut for 2 hours and forty nine minutes? I don’t have the time or the inclination.

        Throwball would be about a hundred times better if they played it more like real football, i.e. made it a continuously flowing contest between two sides. Never stop the clock, sharply limit time between plays to 10 secs, everyone plays offense and defense, limited number of subs per game. I bet you would see a decrease in brain injuries because fitness would be as important as size and strength.

  14. How’s about, instead of a stop clock, some official other than the ref (who should be busy with other things) keeps track of all the dead ball time and they tack it on to the end of each half?

  15. On the racism rules, does a harsher punishment to the club could be use by the opponent clubs to damage them in the competition?
    For example, if Chelsea is at the top of the tables, the competitor could have paid some people to deliberately chants racist voice for a few games, and the result could lead to point deduction which the competitor will get the benefit of.

    1. Pretty sure that would fall foul of laws against inciting hatred and/or violence, and would be a matter for the constabulary rather than the IFAB.

  16. Thanks Tim for the thoughtful article.

    Stopping the clock would be successful in stopping actual playing time wasting but would worsen the momentum breaking tactics of teams who would take even longer to restart the game themselves and continue rotational fouling. The likely steep slippery slope to commercial breaks is also a legitimate concern.

    Strict adherence to the correct addition of time in both the first half and second half is what I agree should be enforced. Showing the additional time as it accumulates beside the clock may be helpful in both policing referees and indeed showing the teams that routinely try to break up the momentum of games.

    Rotational fouling would always be somewhat of a judgement call by the referee regardless but some consideration could be made to using a particular number of team fouls and a warning given that once that number is exceeded every foul thereafter is a yellow.

    The offside rule I would keep but players anywhere near interfering or distracting play should be flagged. The Sanchez goal was poor referring under the current rules but the rule could certainly be made clearer.

    I wouldn’t like to see Mourinhos keeper dribbling from a goalkick around the box until he could pick up the ball and then stand with it for an eternity before lumping it forward to Fellani. However allowing quick free kicks, carding players interfering with such quick restarts and allowing the ball to be rolling would be fine.

    The advantage rule should see an actual advantage to the team it’s awarded. As such if the ball is lost within a nominal period after the advantage is called the referee comes back to the original infringement. The referee should hold up his arm to indicate the advantage and lower it and voice that the advantage is over once the nominal period or advantage has been accrued. I know this is difficult and advantages can’t be allowed to drag on forever but momentum breaking fouls can’t be allowed to continue to flourish as they have over the years and proper punishment as well as proper advantage is the key to eradication. Allowing the team with advantage a free chance at a dribble or defence splitting pass would (along with punishment) help to discourage teams that perpetually foul to gain their own advantage.

    1. I rather like all of these, particularly the accumulation clock. Imagine the groans round some pitches belonging to rotational foulers as their fans keep watching the time on that one tick upwards…

      Also, what about a penalty (or some sort of modified penalty) awarded against a team after every 8th or 10th foul to cut down on the rotational fouling?

  17. 1) Yes to some kind of official game clock. Not sure what the best solution would be but I’m just not into the arbitrary nature of someone consulting their wrist to decide when a World Cup final is going to end. Unless of course Sir Alex comes out of retirement. Then by all means we should have Fergie Time exclusively for him and him alone.
    2) Which reasonable and decent human is possibly going to argue against the strictest punishment against racist behavior in the stands or on the pitch? Thanks for getting the thought out online front burner.
    3) Third and finally, a big shout out for a hard crackdown on simulation. Punish divers immediately with a) live in-game video evidence and 2) an extra ref behind each goal whose duties include watching and calling diving penalties. Also retrospective video review.

  18. Anything which allows more commercial should be welcome. Football revenue is kind of saturating. We need more money in the game 😉

  19. One more:
    IFAB should enshrine an automatic 3-match ban for any and all footballers who do the stupid throwing-up-hands-I-didn’t-touch-him gesture. Puh-leese…

  20. Further thoughts on refs giving cards for rotational fouling and why it’s completely unworkable.

    I suspect that this issue is being looked at through an Arsenal prism, but let’s consider a scenario where we are considered to sinners rather than sinned against, and Dr Duh’s 5th rotational is a yellow rule. Arsenal play Barcelona, and Messi is doing his normal thing. By 60 minutes he’s been fouled twice by Bellerin, and once each by Coquelin and Mustafi. Fould given, no cards issued. In the 61st minute, he runs into a stationary Kosc and loses the ball. The ref sees it as a foul by Kosc, but at home on TV we can all see that Messi lost the ball. Not only that, it’s the 5th rotational and our skipper, already on yellow for fouling Neymar, is given a second yellow for an innocuous foul, that happens to be adjudged as the 5th rotational. Moreover, the score was 1-1. We’re not going to like that very much, are we? That rule is going to work for us against teams that we are clearly better than, but disadvantage us against better teams.

    Refs have enough difficult decisions to make in real time — severity of foul (meriting red or yellow or neither), no foul, got the man, got the ball, simulation, free kick no free kick, penalty no penalty, and on and on. If he’s keeping a running scorecard on rotational fouling on more than one player, then he is surely going to lose track, and card someone (probably for the 2nd time) on foul number 4.

    It’ll become a legislative mess. And oh, in La Liga, I can see 9 players surrounding the ref holding up 5 fingers, while the 10th rolls around as if shot by sniper fire.

    1. I see your point about how it would be hard for us, or anyone, when that fifth foul comes. Especially when if it results in a second yellow for a relatively innocuous foul. But the solution is not to deliver the first four fouls, play the ball, not the man.

      If the rule passed it would greatly potentiate the offence of ball handlers like Neymar, Hazard, Messi and Sanchez. As well as speed merchants like Zaha, Mane and Sterling. I think that would be a good thing, particularly for spectators.

      Instead of bruising defense that tries to knock the opposing player off their game it would favor an interception based defense. Interestingly the big losers would be Watford, ManU, Palace, Boro and Spuds.

      I think the same off field ref who does time keeping, could keep track of the rotational fouls and tell the main referee through the headset.

      Source: http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/10801884/eden-hazard-fouled-more-than-lionel-messi-stats-reveal

    2. Great point, but this exposes the ridiculousness of the current yellow-red card system, rather than the unworkability of addressing rotational fouling.

  21. On the game clock, why the all-or-nothing. Football does not have to devolve into football (American), becaue of the introduction of a game clock. It’s surely not beyond the wit of men to come up with a bespoke solution for football. This is 2017, and we’re still on Fergie time.

  22. Did you guys see the report about the average NFL game: 3 hours long, over 100 commercials, only 11 minutes of playing time. Football needs to be protected at all costs. We can hate the idea that football could change in such fundamental ways but the dark arts and incompetent refereeing combined have far, far too much influence on the result of games.

    As a low-scoring sport, football administrators have a responsibility to consider any changes that can redress the balance. “It all evens out over a season” is one footballing cliche I never want to hear again.

  23. On the game clock. I would not want to see a 60 minute clock. I think 90 mins running clock is kind of what makes the game fun. It can stop for referee video referrals, and challenges, which I would like to see.

    I also would want a slight tweak to the time added on bit. Have a separate timekeeper who puts any stoppages in a team’s account (or a neutral account) If Jose wants to waste time at 0-0, let him, but count it. And at the end of 90 give the other team the option to either add it on or not. Teams wasting time all game should not get the benefit of added time if they happen to concede in the 88th minute.

    I also like the rugby style proposal that the final whistle can only go when the ball is out of play. It’s currently so arbitrary where sometimes the refs will keep the game going if there is an attack brewing and at others they’ll just blow the end of the game even when a clear break is on.

    Absolutely enforce the rule that only captains can talk to the refs and also turn on the refs mics for the TV and let us hear what they say to the players and each other.

    Not sure on the dribbling on FKs, but it would speed up the game.

    On Racism. Absolutely right but I can also understand why from an administrative (and political) point of view this can be a nightmare. While people seem to think a racist chant is clear cut, it isn’t. Like the Adebayor elephant chant, or the Tottenham Yiddo chant. I can see why they are racist, and also why they are not considered racist. Also, the Spurs’ chant is both meant to be demeaning (when used by others) and proud (when used by them) Like black musicians/comedians using the N word. How do you go about punishing it? And that excludes the fact that in a crowd of many thousands, you can’t always hold the club responsible for the actions of a few who may not even be regular ticket holders. Someone else made the point but what if many fans of other club buy tickets on ticket exchange and indulge in racist behavior to get their rival club banned or punished?

    I appreciate the will and more can be done definitely than the stupid puny fines, but this one isn’t so easy to enforce properly.

    1. Not sure how it’s treated right now but if points reductions for acts of racism is too easy to exploit then long/permanent bans for the individuals involved seems the best idea. Individuals who commit clear acts of racism are the ones punished and a team isn’t held responsible for the actions of a few.

      1. I believe the clubs already do that. I think they also share info on repeat or likely offenders. There are still problems with identification and I think they mostly rely on other fans reporting any racist or objectionable behaviour in the stadium.

        Ultimately, I don’t think the problem of racism, which is a social problem, goes away through the legal route. Step up punishments, refine systems of identification and prevention, find other ways to ‘punish’. But merely a legal stick won’t solve the issue and might have unintended consequences.

  24. I’m a football fan, no doubt. I’m too old now to play it but it still hurts whenever I see a nice green pitch. My youngest daughter has chosen hockey however and I now really enjoy watching hockey games. It is similar to football in terms of tactics and rules, but the ball being too small and fast makes it not good on TV. Hence no money, no antics, no diving,… The other reason why it is good to watch is a very dynamic governing body which already introduced a lot of the rules that are discussed here and more. And it works very well.
    The sell pass, as they call it (a free kick taken immediately by the fouled player who runs with the ball, dribbles and gets an advantage) makes the game incredibly quick and without pause. The clock is stopped for all major interruptions. As a result, the game lasts usually 5 to 10 minutes more than the scheduled 2X40 mins. No off side (anymore: there used to be): this makes the pitch much bigger obviously, creates space and opportunities. Playing defense is very different. The video is being used on goal decisions, always upon challenge of the defending team (but this is linked to how fast things happen in hockey. One needs a second chance to look at things). Another nice thing is the temporary exclusion, often a good solution when a real punishment is needed but not as drastic a red card.
    Finally, outside of the hockey comparison, I would follow 1niltothearsenal and plead for severe punishments on divers (with help of video) and lifetime ban of all sport activities (and sex and sugar in food and alcohol consumption) for all those guys who are all over their opponent and then raise their arms in a gesture of total innocence. This must stop. By the way, did you all realize that, when one enters a football pitch (even at the lowest level, with no real stake), one turns into a pathological liar and constantly makes unjustified claims (our throw in! I did not touch him! offside!…)? Lying sits deep in football culture and it does not have to.

  25. I’d like to see mistimed and errant defensive headers be punished more severely. If you mistime a sliding challenge, it’s a for sure yellow and increasingly often a red. How often have we seen a defender in the box go to clear a ball or block a header shot, miss the ball and catch the man, leaving the attacker curled in a ball on the ground and bleeding. This is one of the worst challenges in the game, but it’s often not even deemed a foul. Crazy.

  26. no offside rule = deep defensive line and maybe dull defensive games. I don’t. there will always be teams that are cavalier, and teans that will always play defensive, but i’d say we’d see more switch the the defensive way to keep protected with a lack of offside?

  27. Whether stopping the clock is the right way to go or not I’m glad to see alternatives being trialed and tested.
    Sometimes it can seem like those in charge aren’t really interested getting calls right or punishing gamesmanship so I’m happy to see attempts being made to find better solutions.

    The new rules to punish players found guilty of simulation in order to win a penalty or get a player sent off is a good start as far as retroactive punishments go (even if the punishment is only for a match or two).

    The Var in the Confederations Cup has been interesting to watch and has certainly led to a lot of controversy but at least it’s a sign that those in charge are willing to give new ideas a go, even if the change is a big one.

    Although as someone already mentioned,(Tim?) a lot of footballs problems would be neutralized if the laws of the game were actually adhered to and enforced.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see there’s still an appetite to improve the game and get things right.

  28. I don’t like the idea of 30 minute halves with the clock stopping every time there is a stoppage of play. I agree the opinion of others who mentioned that’s one step away from commercial breaks during stops. I do like the idea of having the 4th official or an official time keeper keep track of all the wasted minutes and adding those on at the end of each half. This would include free kicks, goal kicks, penalty, goal celebration, substitutions etc. For throw-ins, I think they should impose a 10 second rule: take the throw-in within 10 seconds otherwise the throw-in goes to the opposite team. This would make the game play faster. A ref in each half of the pitch is a good idea too. I would also like to see the 6 second rule for goal keepers administered strictly.

    Yes to only allowing the captain to talk to the ref.

    Yes to VR and 1 appeal by each team in each half.

    No to getting rid of the offside rule. It would take away the high-line defensive set-up and make it harder for teams to play through-balls.

  29. One other thing I wanted to add: I think there should more protection for keepers during corners. Sometimes I see two or three players from the opposition surrounding the keeper before the corner is taken and nothing being done about it. It’s unsportsmanlike and a dirty move. Enforce a rule of not allowing any opposition players within 4 yards of the GK before the corner is taken.

  30. Rules, rules and more rules. Who is going to interpret them? Enforce them? A single referee and a couple of linesman? What a joke- It will become almost as bad as our (US) legal system. ( Another topic for another day)
    Put more refs on field, use VAR, punish serial fouling like hockey, keep offsides to simple last man, and get rid of all the other garbage used to figure if, who, and when, time wasters or divers sent to penalty box and add time.
    Just my lousy one cent.

  31. Jim Sheridan on Irish Tv…

    ‘If he wanted a free kick he should have made more of it….obviously I don’t encourage that type of thing….but everyone’s doing it.’

    You can’t have it both ways dude.

  32. Shifting gears a little, there is a story circulating today that Mbappe is considering Arsenal as an “intermediate” club before he goes to one of the either Barcelona or Real Madrid before the age of 22. Tim, I know you are all about building a team around Mbappe. I don’t know if this story is true or not (apparently it’s coming from some family member) but if it is, do you still think Arsenal should build a team around him?

    1. For me, it depends on how good and how ready he is. That’s a judgment I can’t make. But the stepping stone bit, I don’t mind. We were going to do that with Suarez. 3 or 4 years is a long enough time and surely our win-dow (yeah, I did that) for this team falls within that timeline.

      We’ll also likely make a profit on him. Put in a nice hefty release clause, active after 3 years and I think that would be fine.

      1. Well if we are only going to have him for 3 seasons then the most important question is if he is ready now. Suarez was a different beast. He had a couple of seasons under his belt already and Wenger knew he was about to explode. The worrying part of this whole scenario is that Mbappe is untested in the premier league and we don’t know if his 18 year old body is going to hold up the entire season. We have gone with youth before and it didn’t quite work out. Arsenal gets no protection from the premier league refs. It only makes sense from an investment perspective if he performs – but if he fails to live up to his billing, we will lose more than just money.

    2. While I’d love to have Mbappe, I don’t believe in the concept of building a team around anyone. We supposedly built a team around Cesc. How did that work out? For a time a player looks like he’ll be yours forever and ever, but players have more job mobility now. One Club Man is done. Even Wilshere looks likely to leave.

      Mbappe didn’t score against England in the recent game, but my word, what a player he showed himself to be. A mobile, skilful front man, who will add more to the game than goals. He set up Dembele, had a hand in another goal, and with better luck might have had two. His movement. Gosh, his movement. With Alexis (fingers crossed) and Ozil, we’d have a totally destructive attack. No team, except the elite ones, would be able to mark us effectively. Hey, to varying degrees, all three names look unlikely to be on our roster next year, but a man can dream.

      Mbappe is clever enough to play in any system and formation. We do not have to build a team around him if he joins us. A big if.

      1. I agree with your assessment of the pitfalls in building a team around one person. The modern game is more about controlling space and possession rather than just trying to feed one person the ball.

        I don’t doubt Mbappe’s talent at all. He is everything you described. My biggest concern is his age and lack of experience in the league. Maybe I’m being overly cautious here but we have not had the desired success with project youth – both on a physical and mental level. Dortmund’s CEO has said they will sell Aubameyang if the right offer comes along. I keep beating that drum despite him explicitly saying he doesn’t want to come to Arsenal because I think if we throw enough money at him, he will come. I am curious who most fans would choose if given the option between the two (we probably won’t get either but it’s fun to dream).

  33. I think it’s best if I take a bit of a leave of absence from the blog. I’ll see y’all in a few weeks or months.

    1. Hey Dr. Gooner,

      After The Man’s 1000th game in charge (what a cruel joke that turned out to be!) I had to take a break myself. I hope your LOA is a good one for you. Cheers.

  34. ‘The Football Association has ended all of its sponsorships with betting companies, including mutually terminating a long-term Ladbrokes deal.’

    BBC website.

    Good move on the part of the fa. Not all gambling is bad but I think this sends out a positive message.

  35. Hey, just wanted to say: discussions like this one are why I love this blog. Very high level of thoughtfulness being displayed. Much food for thought for me. And fun! Well done, Tim, for kicking it off.

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