For many years, Michel Platini, the renowned French ex-footballer, was the right-hand man of Fifa President Sepp Blatter. In fact many regarded him as the ‘power behind the throne’. Certainly, he seemed to be the one that Blatter turned to for ideas about changes to the Laws of the Game. He was and still is, fervently opposed to goal line technology and there is little doubt that his opposition delayed its inevitable introduction. Now as President of UEFA, he has pushed his own answer to goal line disputes with his two extra officials. This, along with goal line technology, is now permitted, but of course not mandatory. It is also possible that he scuppered the reform that referees in this country supported, the authority to move free kicks ten yards nearer the offending team’s goal line if players delayed the kick, or for dissent at its awarding. Admittedly, an experiment took place but it required a yellow card, which referees wanted to avoid. This of course was taken from rugby and although France is a great rugby nation, we were told ‘Fifa doesn’t understand rugby’.
Surprisingly therefore to learn that Michel Platini is now advocating a direct steal from rugby, and that is the introduction of the sin bin instead of cautions and yellow cards. This has previously been put before the International FA Board, the games law makers, but squashed by Fifa during Platini’s time there. The theory is and always has been sound. At present, yellow cards are totalled and after a number have been accumulated, normally five but dependent on the competition, the player will receive a one match ban. Sin bin supporters think this is wrong because it does not benefit the team who are victims of the cautionable offences. Further more, although the player concerned misses a game, his club is able to field a full team for that match, so the damage is minimal. Under sin bin rules however the team would be lose the offending player for 10 or 15 minutes during the game in which the offence was committed, therefore giving an advantage to the team ‘sinned’ against.
So the theory is good but it is the application perhaps that holds it back. In professional football where there is a fourth official there would be little difficulty. He could record the player’s time in the sin bin and inform the referee when the player’s time is up and then ensure his correct return to the game in the same way as a returning injured player. But one of the features of football is that the Laws of the Game are meant to be adhered to wherever it is played. So imagine a referee on a local recreation ground, who will only have club assistants running the line. He will be responsible not only for sending the player to the sin-bin but also for monitoring the time he spends there. This of course, could be complicated if he sent more than one player there within a few minutes. Recording and supervising this will be an addition to all his other duties. Detractors also feel it could be a cop-out for referees instead of issuing a red card.
Having said that, sin bins already happen in small-sided football, when generally a referee is on his own. I keep in my back pocket, a blue card for the sin bin which replaces the yellow card. But the suspension is only two or three minutes as the games are quite short.
Has Platini still got the influence to get the sin bin into the Laws? Unlike his additional assistant referees, which is open to competition rules, it has to be, I would suggest, all or nothing.