No mention of sin bin trial featuring blue cards in IFAB announcement

A sin bin trial featuring blue cards was conspicuous by its absence as football’s lawmakers set out plans to improve player behaviour on Saturday.

The PA news agency understands blue cards were set to be part of a trial of sin bins at higher levels of the sport, with details of the trial having been close to publication by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) last month.

Media reports about blue cards published on February 8 drew a negative response on social media and from the likes of Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou, and plans to publish the trial details were delayed pending further talks at Saturday’s annual general meeting.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Friday night he “wasn’t aware” blue cards were intended to be used in the trial and said his organisation was “completely opposed” to the idea, and an IFAB press release issued on Saturday mentioned two other protocols designed to help referees regulate player behaviour had been approved – giving referees the option to create captain-only zones and cooling-off areas in the event of mass confrontations.

But there was no mention of the sin bin trial or blue cards, only that “current guidelines to temporary dismissals in youth and grassroots football” had been “improved”.

“Any potential wider application will only be considered once the impact of these changes have been reviewed,” the release said.

Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell, an IFAB director, said work on sin bins had definitely not gone further back.

“We’ve reviewed the protocol, we’ve updated the protocol, we’re going to assess how that works in that environment (grassroots football) before we decide on what the next steps of those trials would be,” he said at a press conference following the annual general meeting.

“But it’s definitely not going back.”

Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell insisted the IFAB's work on sin bins was definitely not going further back
Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell insisted the IFAB’s work on sin bins was definitely not going further back (Aaron Chown/PA)

His counterpart at the Football Association, Mark Bullingham, said the changes to the existing sin bin protocol were that yellow cards linked to the sin bin were now part of the totting-up process, so that a ‘sin bin’ yellow followed by a regular yellow would lead to a red card, along with more detail in the law about when referees allow players back on to the field after a temporary dismissal.

“It was funny because when we announced (the possibility of a sin bin trial at higher levels) in November actually there wasn’t a backlash,” Bullingham said.

“I think what then happened (in February) was challenging in terms of that communication, and for some reasons Premier League managers thought it might apply to them.

“I don’t think that was ever the intention for the trial to start in the Premier League. So I think we’ve reviewed everything and decided ‘let’s just get the protocol right for the areas of the game where it applies’.”

Competitions will also be able to trial allowing goalkeepers to hold onto the ball for eight seconds instead of the current six, and using either a corner or a throw-in to the opposition as the restart option instead of an indirect free-kick in the box, which is the current sanction for holding on too long.

Referees will count down the final five seconds on the fingers of their hand, Maxwell confirmed.

Goalkeepers will be allowed to hold onto the ball for eight seconds in lower-level competitions that take part in a new trial approved by the IFAB
Goalkeepers will be allowed to hold onto the ball for eight seconds in lower-level competitions that take part in a new trial approved by the IFAB (Richard Sellers/PA)

The eight-second rule trial, plus those for captain-only zones and cooling-off periods, will initially be open to competitions up to domestic third-tier level, IFAB has confirmed.

The IFAB also said additional, permanent concussion substitutes, which were first approved for trials in December 2020, would come into the Laws of the Game as an option from July 1. It comes at a time when leagues and unions remain keen to trial temporary concussion substitutes which they feel offer better protection to players.

FIFA secretary general Mattias Grafstrom also confirmed referees at this summer’s Olympic football tournaments would announce the outcome of VAR reviews, as was the case at the Women’s World Cup last summer.

Grafstrom also faced questions on FIFA’s transgender inclusion policy.

He said: “I think we are quite comfortable with where we are now, but obviously we need to study it further. And we are having discussions both internally externally. But it’s difficult to come to a conclusion already before we have finished a work but it’s a work in progress.”