Goalkeepers to be placed against the clock in bid to beat time-wasting

<span>Goalkeepers will be able to hold on to the ball for eight seconds but referees will count down the last five.</span><span>Photograph: Ragip Candan/Getty Images</span>
Goalkeepers will be able to hold on to the ball for eight seconds but referees will count down the last five.Photograph: Ragip Candan/Getty Images

Dawdling goalkeepers are to be given more time to hold on to the ball, but subjected to a countdown by the referee and punished if they fail to release in time, under new plans to combat time-wasting in football.

A number of trials were announced at Loch Lomond at the annual general meeting of the International Football Association Board (Ifab) on Saturday, as the game’s law-making body extended its range of measures to improve player behaviour in matches. It was also confirmed that concussion substitutes are to be permanently introduced, even though an average of one substitution per competition has been made each season during three years of trials.

Only 24 hours after Gianni Infantino had given a “red card to the blue card”, with trials of sin-bins to remain the preserve of the grassroots game for now, Ifab revealed another unusual idea. Under its new proposals, which can be trialled from next season in any competition other than the top two divisions of domestic leagues, goalkeepers will be able to hold on to the ball for eight seconds rather than the traditional six. For the last five seconds, however, the referee will raise his hand and count down five fingers to warn the player of how much time they have remaining.

If no fingers are visible and the keeper still has the ball, trials would allow for the opposition to either be given a throw‑in, in line with the penalty spot, or a corner.

Related: Blue cards in football would be a backward step for the game | Karen Carney

The chief executive of the Scottish FA, Ian Maxwell, who sits on the Ifab board, said the proposals were addressing a difficult problem for referees. “We have seen an increasing trend in time being wasted in the game and that is one occasion where that happens,” he said. “It is certainly a difficult situation under the current laws for the referee to manage because giving an indirect free-kick in the box is incredibly difficult for them. So we are looking at increasing that [time] to eight seconds.

“The referee will hold up his hand to signal the last five seconds of that, so that everyone playing the game and in the stadium is aware. We will assess the impact that has and hopefully that means we will increase the number of minutes played.”

The chief executive of the English FA, Mark Bullingham, said the referee’s finger raising could become a hit with the crowd – “You’ll see the crowd respond to that and the other players will” – and that it was important to try out new ideas. “The reality is these things are trials, if they don’t work they don’t get put through,” he said. “Equally if you ask someone if their team has just lost 1-0 and the other team were using time-wasting tactics at the end of the game they would be frustrated at that.”

Ifab said it would enact one of the demands made by the Premier League, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the global players’ union FifPro and other bodies by making extra permanent substitutes for suspected concussion part of the laws of the game. The change will not be obligatory, however, with the decision of whether to implement left up to competition organisers. Furthermore, the trial of temporary concussion substitutes remains off the table, another key demand of player groups and competitions.

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On Friday, Infantino said Fifa was committed only to making permanent concussion substitutions and that they would not consider temporary substitutions because “we care about the health of the players”.

But Bullingham said the issue was not resolved as Fifa’s own statistics showed that there were 650 concussion substitutions made across 277 participating competitions in three years, less than one a season. “It’s a topic where there were undoubtedly different points of view in the room,” he said. “Even amongst medics there are differences of opinion, with some leading on the permanent model and saying in theory that is safer because even at the point of an assessment they are removed permanently. The argument in favour of temporary is whether that is really working.”