The use of sin-bins is to be expanded in football, part of a series of measures designed to help protect referees from abuse.
The International Football Association Board, football’s rule‑making body, announced on Tuesday that sin‑bins would be used at “higher levels” after successful grassroots tests. It also confirmed a second set of trials under which captains will be the only people allowed to approach the referee during certain important moments.
Changes were announced after Ifab’s annual business meeting and are a response to a drastic rise in dissent in the men’s game. According to statistics from the refereeing body PGMOL, instances of dissent in the English professional game have almost doubled from last season, up to 347 from 165 at the same stage last year.
Sin-bins, also known as temporary dismissals, have been trialled in English football since the 2019-20 season with 31 grassroots leagues taking part. Applied solely as a punishment for dissent, a trip to the sin-bin means a player both receiving a yellow card and being removed from the field for 10 minutes. The trials proved popular with coaches and referees and, according to the Football Association, brought about a total 38% reduction in dissent.
Whether the proposed trials will feature as high as Premier League level has not been decided, with details likely to be confirmed at the Ifab annual general meeting in Glasgow in March. Competitions can also apply to trial the process involving captains acting as sole interlocutor with the referee, and English football is likely to be keen. It has raised its efforts to counter dissent over recent months after the chief refereeing officer, Howard Webb, said last summer that the behaviour of coaches and players had “not been good enough”. The Premier League has not decided whether to apply to participate in the trials.
VAR was also on the agenda at the Ifab meeting. A wide-ranging review of the video refereeing system is under way, looking at ways in which it could be improved. PGMOL has asked that the review look at the possibility of leaving a window of time for VARs to reverse their decisions, something which might have prevented the controversial overturning of a legitimate goal during Liverpool’s defeat by Tottenham this season.
Reports had also suggested there was the possibility of extending the role of VAR, perhaps to include assessing the validity of corner decisions or the award of yellow cards. Such a decision would prove highly controversial, and Ifab insisted there would be no changes implemented that would further slow the game.
“The process will involve discussions with major football competitions that have extensive experience of using the VAR system,” a spokesperson said. “All members agreed that any measures should not result in any additional delays.”