Sin-bins are set to be introduced in professional football as part of a revolutionary crackdown on dissent and cynical fouls.
The game’s lawmakers on Tuesday agreed to test the rugby-style measure in elite competitions such as the Premier League – potentially as early as next season.
Sin-bins have worked successfully at tackling dissent for many years at grass roots and youth level and the new trials could also see them used to punish tactical fouling.
As reported by Telegraph Sport, the International Football Association Board (Ifab) also approved a global trial of another rugby union rule that would see only team captains allowed to speak to the match referee about a decision.
The trials have been fast-tracked amid dire warnings from Ifab’s leaders about player behaviour, of which they said: “This might be the cancer that kills football.”
Tuesday’s Ifab annual business meeting decided that sin-bins were key to preventing this and a protocol will now be drawn up to determine precisely how they would work.
Crackdown on dissent
That will include whether to mirror how players are removed from the field for 10 minutes in grassroots and youth football, which simply involves them being ordered from the field after being shown a yellow card, or whether to introduce a new orange card to the game.
It will also involve deciding precisely which offences are covered amid a desire to clamp down on any foul that prevents a promising attack but does not meet the threshold for a red card.
Mark Bullingham, the Football Association chief executive and Ifab director, said: “The areas we were looking at were dissent, where it’s worked very, very well in the grassroots game in England.
“We’ve also spoken about other areas, particularly tactical fouls. I think frustration for fans when they’re watching games when they see a promising counter-attack that’s ruined by that – and the question of whether a yellow card is sufficient for that – has led to us looking at whether that should be involved in the protocol as well.”
He added: “Some players do commit a foul – I know people call it a tactical foul, cynical foul, professional foul, but a foul that prevents a promising attack – and they do it consciously, knowing they’re going to get a yellow card, and we think that really breaks up the game. So, would they not do it if they felt there was going to be a sin-bin?
“I think with all of these things, success of sin-bins in grass roots game has been prevention, rather than cure. You get to a point where players know the threat of sin-bins and, therefore, don’t transgress. And we would hope that it would make the same change.”
Asked if the FA would volunteer to trial sin-bins in the FA Cup or Women’s Super League, Bullingham said: “Those are all conversations to be had. I think we’ve got to look at the protocol when it comes out and then work out what league it’s most appropriate to trial it in. But, from conversation, it’s all about improving player behaviour at every level. So, I think eventually you would want to get to that point. But let’s wait and see what the protocol is, have that conversation with the leagues and the clubs and see who is willing to take on the trial.”
Attempts to improve Var system
Tuesday’s meeting saw an agreement to discuss in detail whether the Video Assistant Referee system should be expanded to include ruling on the likes of free-kicks, corner kicks and second yellow cards, with a commitment that any changes must not result in additional delays.
And it emerged that next month’s Club World Cup would trial the latest development in semi-automated offside technology that would see an instant message sent to match officials when a player was clearly in an offside position.
In terms of law changes, the meeting all but approved one relating to players preventing a goal by handling the ball on the goal-line. The offence is currently punishable by a mandatory red card, as well as a penalty, regardless of intent. A change was agreed for rubber-stamping at next year’s annual general meeting that would see such handballs deemed to be non-deliberate punished with only a booking.
The five big changes coming to football
There has long been talk of bringing rugby-style sin-bins into professional football but Ifab was expected to stop short of agreeing to do so at its meeting on Tuesday. The fact that it approved a global trial to begin potentially as early as next summer demonstrates the seriousness of its crackdown on dissent and its leaders even went further by talking up adding cynical fouls to the list of applicable offences.
The use of sin-bins in the likes of the Premier League would represent nothing short of a revolution in how the game is policed.
Only team captains to speak to referees about decisions
Another long-established rule in rugby, this will also be trialled alongside sin-bins in a bid to help stamp dissent out of the game. This would go even further than professional football in England this season in which players risk a booking if two or more of them surround a referee.
Ifab also discussed at its meeting stricter punishments for disrespectful conduct and cooling-off periods in the event of mass confrontations, with a view to developing further trials. Its leaders warned that, unless something was done, “This might be the cancer that kills football”.
It is currently an automatic red card offence if a defender stops the ball entering the goal with his or her hand or arm, irrespective of intent. Ifab agreed in principle to relax this so that only such handballs deemed deliberate would be punishable with a sending-off.
That would differentiate between the kind of offence that saw Luis Suarez famously sent off for punching the ball over the crossbar during the 2010 World Cup and that for which Reece James saw red when he blocked a shot with his leg on the goal-line and it rebounded onto his arm in a Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea two years ago.
Ball on the penalty spot
With match officials now rigorously enforcing rules that prevent goalkeepers coming off their line until a penalty kick is struck – something Video Assistant Referees are also instructed to check – Ifab has agreed to redress the balance by stopping the taker moving the ball to the very front edge of the penalty spot.
It will now be made clear that the centre of the ball must be placed on the centre of the spot. Ifab has also agreed to discuss in detail whether Var should be expanded to cover free-kicks, corner-kicks and second yellow cards.
Semi-automated offside update
It emerged following the meeting that next month’s Club World Cup would trial the latest development in semi-automated offside technology that would see an instant message sent to match officials when a player is offside by more than 50cm. Similar to when a referee’s watch buzzes when goal-line technology has determined a goal has been scored, the measure is designed to speed up clear offside decisions and prevent play from continuing unnecessarily while a check takes place. Match officials will still be responsible for deciding whether someone was interfering with play before awarding a free-kick.