By Tony Attwood
Football is changing from today with a set of amended rules coming into being. I will deal with those in a second or three, but first, a little resume if I may, into how we got where we are now.
Although there were earlier notes setting out agreed rules, the first printed and published rule book for football was created in 1863. It actually included an early version of the offside rule, but this was one of the first to be revised. In the early version, an attacker could never be ahead of the defence. Another big difference the time traveller from today would notice (apart from the roughness) was that the goalkeeper could handle the ball anywhere in his own half. That lasted into the 20th century however.
With the game growing the International Football Association Board (IFAB) was set up with representatives from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland met, and a 75% majority was required to change the rules.
1869 saw goal kicks added, 1872 gave us corner-kicks and 1878 a referee’s whistle. The penalty was introduced in 1891 and as the Arsenal History Society discovered recently, the man who took the very first League penalty it went on to play for Woolwich Arsenal FC in 1893. Referees instead of two umpires were also introduced in 1891. Arsenal, you will recall, started out in 1886 and joined the league in 1893. In 1912 keepers were restricted to handling in the penalty area.
The scourge of football – Fifa – came along at this time, and in 1913 became a member of IFAB. Then after all the mucking about with the rules just before the second world war the Laws of the Game were re-written in full. That set of Laws lasted until 1997 when the second big revision was made.
Further changes came in 1990, including making the foul designed to stop a goal scoring chance a sending off offence, and in 1992 making the pass back to your own keeper a ball that the keeper could not touch.
Now we have another set of changes, they have been ratified by IFAB, and all matches from now on have to stick to them. The changes also involve a cleaning up of the rule book and some re-wording for clarification, but here I will stick with what’s new…
The current law says the ball must go forward at kick-off and players have to be in their own half. The rule is being changed to allow the ball to go in any direction at kick-off as long as it moves. The players however still have to start in their own half.
Pre-match red cards and offences off the field
These can now be given at any time after the pre-match inspection of the ground by the ref. So a tunnel punch up (an event reduced of late following the rebuilding of grounds with much wider player access areas) could result in a player being banned from the match. But the team could then use a substitute immediately. The only effect would be that the offending team would only have two subs left for the rest of the game.
If two players were off the field, and one offended against the other (pushing him or stopping him coming back on by grabbing his shirt for example) there will now be a free kick and a card against the offender. If the offence by some bizarre chance happened behind the penalty area close to the goal, the offence could result in a penalty.
Leaving the field after treatment or for a non-injury issue
If a player is injured by a challenge and the player who delivered the challenge gets a card, then the injured player can have treatment on the pitch as long as he is fit to get up and play by the time the referee re-starts the game, then he can stay on the pitch without doing the silly run off to run back on.
If a player goes off of his own volition (for example to change a torn shirt, or to change boots or to get a bandage over a minor cut which he may have seen but the ref not noticed) he can go off, do the necessary, and then be waved back on by the referee without the referee waiting for a break in play.
Non-playing people on the field of play – the unreal
We’re getting into the unreal zone here, but basically if the club doctor of a team comes onto the pitch during play to treat a player (ie without being called onto the pitch by the ref who would stop the game if he did make the call) and in so doing this person affects play there will be a direct free kick or penalty. The same would happen if a substitute came on without being called on by the ref.
I am still not quite sure what happens if a supporter runs onto the pitch and saves a ball that would be going into the goal.
Penalty shootouts – the surreal
If a player is sent off during the penalty shoot outs then a player from the other side is nominated by the innocent team, and he too drops out of the penalty shoot out. This seems nonsense, but is to balance matters should the teams go through their whole 11 shots, and then start again. As things stand the team with the player sent off would be able to start using their best shooters before the other team, who had done nothing wrong. So it makes sense in the end.
Free kicks from offside.
This is a rule that is being clarified. The free kick is taken from the place where the offside offence took place – not from a place where the player was first technically in an offside position (but not actually blown by the referee because he was not at that moment interfering with play).
Action after the match
If a rule is broken, but is not materially affecting the game, the referee is now encouraged to allow the game to continue if he can and then report the matter back to the League within which the game is played. So for example, a player in a minor league who gets blood on his shirt and has to change, puts on a shirt which clearly identifies him as being on his team, but is actually not the team’s first strip he should be allowed to play on.
Likewise if a corner flag is missing but the corner post is there, the same would apply. If however a herd of camels escapes from the local zoo… well, who knows.
What there isn’t
This was a great chance to sort out some major problems in football, not least time wasting by goalkeepers by indicating the appropriate amount of time taken by a keeper once he retrieves the ball, to take a goal kick and making the offence a compulsory yellow card, and giving a free kick to the opposition. Also there is no action to stop the lesser annoyance of ball boys from discriminating in the way they return the ball to opposition players.
And there is no increase in the stringency of punishment for the offence of shirt pulling – one of the factors that is spoiling the game, nor is there anything that allows the authorities to deal with palpably unsafe grounds such as Norwich’s Carrow Road ground where the TV camera pits are extremely dangerous.
But, these are rule makers. We can’t expect everything.
- Unbelievable Transfer Shock; Arsenal sign £20m striker in secret.
- Association Football in Canada, by Untold’s Canadian Correspondent (which makes a certain sense)
- The curious case of the Theo Walcott.
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page