This Saturday, 5th March, the International FA Board, the body responsible for the laws of football, holds is annual general meeting in Cardiff. The first item on the agenda is ‘Revision of the Laws of the Game’.
Its members will learn of the changes already approved by the Board and will be asked to ratify them. It will mean the biggest revamp of the laws for 135 years.
David Elleray, former Premier League and FIFA referee has been instrumental in this re-write and has said, ‘we tried to help in situations which occur very often and are a bit crazy’. I have only had a limited look at the changes, but it hardly seems that way. Admittedly, there is a radical change at kick-off when the ball will no longer have to be kicked forward, but take extending the referee’s power to punish players to start when he inspects the pitch. This is so that players can be prevented from playing if they have a punch-up in the tunnel before the game. Hardly something that occurs regularly.
Another change is if the physio comes on without permission during play, it will be punished by a direct free-kick. When did you last see that happen?
Elleray says a lot of repetition has been removed and brought the laws up to date. Subsequently, it is hoped the laws will not be open to as much interpretation. The question is will it all mean the same when translated into other languages because that’s where the problems of interpretation have arisen.
We want the game refereed according to the spirit of the Laws, Elleray says. No more abandoning a match because of a broken corner flag in grass roots football. An unjust jibe I think, referees at grass roots have to use common sense more than anyone because what they are faced with is often less than perfect.
These revised laws come into force in June, in time for the European Championship.