Last week in Belfast there were two important meetings, which might even be called historic in the story of the Laws of the Game. I reported last year that the make up of the International Football Association Board, which calls itself the guardian of the laws, might be in for a challenge. It consists of the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, leaving the rest of the world to be represented by Fifa. As it was, no change in its constitution took place but two new advisory committees were set up to reflect the global following of the game and support the IFAB with their greater expertise. These committees consist of former players, coaches, referees as well as members of associations, league and clubs around the world. One of these committee members who is remembered with great affection by older Reading fans is Shaka Hislop. Shaka was the club’s goalkeeper, making 126 appearances between 1992 and 1995. He is representing Trinidad and Tobago on what is known as the Football Advisory Panel. The Technical Advisory Panel mainly consists of ex-referees like Neale Barry and David Elleray, both of course ex-Premier League referees and Pierluigi Collina, former world number one referee and now head of refereeing for UEFA, with other members come from around the world.
These two advisory panels met on the 24th and 25th November before the annual business meeting of the IFAB. The items they discussed were ones referred to them by the IFAB. Whatever the outcome of their discussions and recommendations, there can be no change to the laws until the IFAB annual general meeting at the end of February 2015. So what are the topics on which they were bringing their greater experience to bear? They were due to discuss handball as it appears in the Laws, rolling substitutes as being trialled by local Reading leagues amongst others, sin-bins, video replays for match officials, Law 11 – offside and that sore point with many managers and coaches, the so-called triple punishment, when players are sent off for denying a goal scoring opportunity in the penalty area.
I would be very interested to hear what Pierluigi Collina had to say on the subject. I recently read a report of a talk he gave to UEFA referees just before the season started. He urged them, I might say instructed them, not to chicken out from sending players off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. His boss, Michel Platini, President of UEFA, has however put forward a motion that if the foul takes place in the penalty area, the offending player should only receive a yellow card. Outside the penalty area would still result in red card. His theory is obvious, if the foul takes place in the penalty area, the attacking team is awarded a penalty so they still have a goal scoring opportunity. But penalties can be missed and that’s what the offender is hoping for. Remember how in the quarter final of the World Cup in 2010, Suarez of Uruguay handled the ball to stop it going in for a late extra time winner. Unfortunately, the Ghana player missed the kick and Uruguay won the tie on penalties. On Match of the Day recently, Alan Shearer praised a Liverpool player for standing on the ball at a free kick to their opponents and said ‘so he got a yellow card but he stopped his opponents starting an attack’. With players having that mindset, will a yellow card instead of a red one, mean more or less players bringing down opponents in the penalty area? The answer to me is obvious, so I hope the new advisory panels get their answer right.