Barcelona“I would change some rules of football, I would make very radical changes because, if nothing is changed, football will stagnate”, Gerard Piqué said a month ago on the Twitch channel of Ibai Llanos. The now ex-Barça footballer would thus revive a debate that football has been dragging on for some time and which, in fact, the World Cup in Qatar has only fueled: the Argentinian Lautaro Martínez had a goal disallowed in the defeat with the ‘Saudi Arabia because his arm was further forward than a rival defender’s foot. In Croatia, for the same reason, they annulled one against Belgium. The two actions generated great controversy because the 3D replays offered by the realization suggested that it was millimetric situations.
Historically, football has been one of the most reluctant sports to implement major regulatory changes or to introduce technologies that help referees resolve certain controversial actions with greater certainty. Carrying out a fictional football exercise, the ARA has collected a dozen proposals to change the football rules, some of which are inspired by other sports such as basketball, field hockey, handball and water polo.
The first is to remove offside, a rule that even in the age of VAR continues to generate a lot of controversy. Without this limitation, any team could drop one or more players past the opposing defense, which would make the game even more dynamic: teams could play longer and thus create more space in midfield, because many forwards they would force opposing defenders to retreat.
The second, introducing temporary expulsions. In water polo players who catch or sink an opponent who does not have the ball are penalized with 20 seconds outside the playing area. In field hockey, on the other hand, a green card means leaving the team with one player less for 2 minutes (in handball there is also this penalty), while a yellow card means an expulsion for no less than 5 minutes. Once the time limit is exceeded, the player can play again. In basketball, on the other hand, if a player commits five personal fouls, he is sent off. Of course, he must be changed by a colleague.
The control of the effective time has meant that, both in the League and in the World Cup, it is increasingly common to see matches that last more than 100 minutes. Iran, for example, knocked out Wales with goals in the 98th and 101st minutes. According to a study by Opta, the effective playing time in the Spanish league this season is 52.3 minutes. In other words, the games are stopped for an average of 37.7 minutes. This means that although they are officially 90 minutes long, the effective playing time is shorter than other sports where the clock stops every time there is an interruption: hockey matches last 70 minutes, handball matches 60 and basketball 40. In the case of hockey and basketball, moreover, the games are divided into four quarters and not two.
Another rule could also be taken from this last sport: timeouts. Each team can ask for three, one minute each, in the second half. It must be pointed out, however, that the introduction of hydration breaks in matches played in high temperatures already constitutes, in factan opportunity for coaches to gather and give orders to players in the middle of a match.
In all these sports, on the other hand, unlimited changes of players are allowed. In other words, you can take occasional breaks and use the players again whenever you want during the same match. In football, on the other hand, until the pandemic only three substitutions were allowed. From 2020 it is already possible to make up to five changes (FIFA allows another and all in qualifiers with extra time). Of course, a footballer who has been substituted cannot re-enter the field.
The sixth proposal is to reintroduce the golden goal, which consisted of automatically giving victory to the team that scored first in extra time. This rule would make it possible to shorten many qualifiers that end in a draw and avoid numerous penalty shootouts. FIFA tried it between 1993 and 2004. France won Euro 2000 thanks to a goal from Trézéguet in the 103rd minute. A goal from Mário Jardel in the same minute allowed Galatasaray to win the Real Madrid in the European Super Cup.
“Penalties don’t make any sense, the best doesn’t happen, but any,” said Piqué. The Spanish team, without going any further, fell eliminated with Morocco after failing to convert any of the penalties kicked. A possible solution would be to transform the current static penalties into what in field hockey is known as penalties shoot-out: Players run with the ball and have a one-on-one with the rival goalkeeper with limited time. In the American MLS they were implemented, but the experiment only lasted four years, between 1996 and 2000.
Free exit for fouls
Another change that would introduce more dynamism to the game would be to allow any player to come out with the ball played without having to pass it to a teammate every time a foul is called. This already happens in hockey and allows the attacking team to catch the opposing defense off guard.
Punish all hands
Specifying in a simpler and clearer way when hands are punished and when they are not could also help to reduce controversy. Almost every season there are changes in judgment on this aspect, which makes it often difficult to interpret when to point hands and when not. Punishing them all could eliminate the controversy. In field hockey, for example, any contact of the ball with a player’s foot or leg is penalized, regardless of voluntariness.
Referees with microphones
“I would like to see the referees with microphones”, added Piqué. With this transparency exercise, which is already successfully applied in rugby, spectators could hear and understand, in real time, what criteria he followed when interpreting and judging a play. The explanations can be more or less convincing, but they serve to know how he understood a certain action and what led him to solve it in one way or the other.
Kings League standards
Precisely in an attempt to renew football with regulations more focused on entertainment, the new amateur football league that Piqué will preside over, the Kings League, has put a series of rules to a vote. Any Twitter follower of this new competition could choose between maintaining the conventional rules or looking for a disruptive alternative. In other words, to democratize the rules of football to bring it closer to the spectator.
So far, up to six votes have already been completed. In order to break a tie, it has been decided that penalty shoot-outs will be the format shoot-out, with the players starting from midfield. They also decided, by majority, to continue playing with offside from the front of the area, as in soccer 7; that side services are done with the hand and not with the foot; that technicians can make unlimited changes; that the cards involve temporary ejections, and finally that the initial service be like in water polo: the teams run from the end line to the middle of the field and the first person to the ball takes it.