By Tony Attwood
The rules of football are established by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). It calls itself the “guardian of the Laws of the Game”. What it says goes. There is only one IFAB, (just like there is only one monopolies’ commission) and everyone buys into it.
The first set of football rules were drawn up in Cambridge in 1848 at a private school, which amusingly FIFA never identifies but which it always calls “reputable”. In 1863 the Football Association set itself up, and created 14 official rules. The FA has been there ever since, although what it has been doing sine 1863 apart from refusing to allow other clubs to play Woolwich Arsenal when we went professional, is a matter for speculation.
The IFAB came along in 1886 when the English FA, invited the Irish, Scottish and Welsh FAs to helps them come up with an internationally accepted set of rules.
FIFA (the great re-writers of history) came on the scene in 1904, an FA man, Burley Woolfall, became FIFA President in 1906 and the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Football Tournaments were effectively run by the FA. It was all going so well.
But gradually FIFA took over, although the four founding FAs have never given up their grip on the rules, and all four still sit on IFAB making up the rules of football (although Ireland is now N Ireland). In addition there are four representatives from FIFA. This group of eight make up the rules, and this group of eight have decided not to have goal line technology.
They meet at the start of each year (before FIFAs AGM). For a motion to change the rules, six of the eight votes must be in favour. So effectively FIFA can’t just vote things in, and nor can the four original FAs. They have to work together.
Which is fine, except that the four originators from N Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, are not always the best of pals.
The Home Internationals (involving the four FAs) ran for exactly 100 years starting in 1883/4, and in later days were the money spinners that kept the Welsh and N Ireland FAs alive. With few participations in the world cup, and limited international income, and with no big event like the FA Cup to generate cash, they had little going for them, except the internationals.
England pulled out of the internationals in 1984 after coming third (N Ireland won), and the N Ireland and Welsh FAs have been annoyed ever since. So when something like the change to the rules over goal line technology comes along, these two associations tend to vote against England.
But of course they still need FIFA to support them.
FIFA is proud of the lack of rule changes over the years, and note with amusements the way that other sports (particularly rugby) has changed major rules more than football.
The view is that “the attraction of the game of football resides in its simplicity. And as guardian to its Laws, the IFAB seeks to preserve the original seeds on which the football has blossomed so spectacularly.”
The last big change to the rules was in 1997 when the rules were unified and simplified.
Goal-line technology became a big issue once again in 2005 when the Tiny Totts were not awarded a clear goal after Man IOU claimed the ball had never crossed the line (which it clearly had).
FIFA then started to test the Adidas microchip system which would send a an electric shock into the referees whistle if the ball crossed the goal line sensor. (Actually that last note might be inaccurate, but I wanted to see if you were still awake).
The Almighty Sepp Blatter said, “We did different tests at the Under-17 World Cup in Peru but the evidence wasn’t clear so we will carry out trials in junior competitions in 2007. In 2008 Blatter had rejected the system as it was not accurate enough. The March 2010 IFAB vote was a 6-2 vote to abandon all notion of goal line technology permanently. Wales and N Ireland voted against Scotland and England, once more reminding the English that they should not have abandoned the Home Internationals.
There’s more on the grand work of FIFA in FICK FUFA and there is a total index to the various bits and pieces of Untold Arsenal in the Grand Index where you can also find info about making comments, and indeed writing for Untold although there is very little on hanging wallpaper.
If you have been, thank you for reading.