Who exactly makes the rules in football? And why won’t they allow goal line tech.


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.

Tony Attwood

23 Replies to “Who exactly makes the rules in football? And why won’t they allow goal line tech.”

  1. Nice article, Tony, which I’m sure was historically correct where you intended it to be.

    Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for not only goal-line technology but also for the English team to be replaced by a GB team.

    After all, as you said there are now no home internationals but the thought of a team in the Olympics should gladden the hearts of the money hungry (if only for a few rounds).

    Just a thought.

  2. Good article. Its seems inevitable that technology will eventually play a part in football. Major tennis Grand Slam tournaments, like Wimbledon, are using technology to allow challenges in decision made by the umpire. Cricket also uses technology in the form of ‘Third Umpire’

  3. Some claim that technology robs the game of its emotion. Yeah, surely, atleast millions of fans would not be swearing at Fifa for their stone age thoughts. But what if they introduce technology in decision making? the question that really arises is- till what extent should we use technology? Should each and every decision, like a simple foul or throw in, be analysed with television replays, especially if that foul was committed in the penalty box? Or should it just be confined to controversial goals? What about decision made on yellow and red cards? It becomes a huge debate on its own….

  4. One of the arguments that is being used by people who are against the use of video evidence is that “it slows down games”.

    Yesterday in the Argentina-Mexico game you could see that this is rubbish. It took ages before the game restarted and it was clear after 5 seconds when the first slow motion was seen that is was offside. So the game could have restarted after let us say 15 seconds with a free kick to Mexico and at 0-0. Now minutes were lost with pointless discussions, we had a fight at half time because emotions ran high. This all could have been avoided.

  5. Dark Prince, I have written a few articles on this subject in the past and I think I will have to write another before the rules will be changed eventually.
    But we should keep the video evidence or goal line technology to the minimum. Goals and penalty’s are the one that I think that should be looked upon.
    Goals did the ball cross the line completely or not is rather simple. Penalty’s are not simple and this can only be done if they keep in mind that the ruling on the field has to be totaly wrong. For example when a player dives and there is no contact whatever. For offside decisions that lead to a goal it should be seen that there should be a clear offside posisition that should have been visible for the assistant. Being on the same position or almost should be left to the human eye. Only when there is clear daylight between the attacker and the defender and the linesman did not see it it should be changed.

    But it always should be that if there is doubt the ruling on the field should stand. Only when there is 100% evidence the ruling on the field can be changed. In this case England would have got a goal (there was 100 % evidence that the ball had passed the line completely) and the first goal from Tevez would have been ruled out as he was yards offside. There was not even a Mexican player between him and the goalline when the ball was played to him.

  6. Walter- Wouldn’t it be more controversial if we are using video evidence only to a minimal? Why cant we just use it as much as it can be used? Surely a controversial penalty decision or a controversial second yellow card would turn d game around completely just like d disallowed goal for england. Also an offside cant be distinguished as a clear one or close one. And a very close offside should have the same consequences of a clear offside. It becomes more unclear on how the decisions should be made with the help of technology. Maybe thats is why Fifa are not introducing it just yet.

  7. Dark Prince I just said this to keep my hobby a bit interesting. 😉

    The problem is that you have to find a way to keep most of us happy. Those who want to keep the game fluent and those who want everything reviewable.

    Sometimes it is strange. I like to watch American football and one of the main attractions for me is the fact that when you go home you know that every decision is right one. In case of doubt or discussion the game is reviewed. So I think it is a very fair game when it comes to the final score.
    But when I tell this to American scoccer fans they tell me that the reason they like our football more than the American football is because of the reviewing system which makes the game less attractive to watch and less exciting.

    But if we would analyse each situation that would mean that we have to stop the game over and over again. Now in American football this is not a big problem because after each play you have a stop but in football we don’t have those stops.

    We really must keep this fluency in our game and we could only introduce this video evidence when the game has already stopped. When there is a goal the game is stopped until the kick off is being taken. So we can use the time between the goal scoring to analyse if there was no offside and correct it if necessary. With a penalty the game is stopped and it takes a bit of time before the kick is taken because first we have to surround the ref to try him change his mind, which he will not do, so there is time to review the situation.

    So that is why I would like to focus on those decisions and let the rest be open for the debate after the game which Sepp Blatter likes so much.

  8. As it’s my birthday and the dry rot continues to meet the rising damp I feel more than a little antsy today. The blue bird of happiness crapping on my birthday cake was definitely not on the menu. As I wrote to Tony yesterday:

    I’d hoped for a Beethoven Concerto: I would have settled for a Norah Jones Concert: I got John Terry’s dad playing the spoons, a tattered Mills and Baboon paperback and a speeding ticket.

    Anyone considered that FIFA’s corruption (as demonstrated here and elsewhere) may earn them more money than football? How much was Germany and Argentina paying as a daily double? Video replays would do grievous harm to the betting syndicates.

    If and when VRs do come in …even Fifa, not to mention the Irish, will have the cojones to continue the unequal struggle after yesterday’s monstrous decisions…perhaps take a leaf out of cricket’s book. Refs can ask at any time, captains have two challenges per game and lose one only if they’re incorrect.

  9. The bottom line is that from FIFA’s perspective, goal line tech is the first part of a slippery slope that would eventually herald the introduction of video replay technical officiating and FIFA will not allow that ever for 1 simple reason.

    The introduction of video replay for key decisions would make it virtually impossible to predetermine the outcome of football matches and there is a phenominal amount of money involved in having that ability be it in a key domestic league or international tournament.

    As in any political arena, it is money that influences policy.
    Always has and always will.
    Money will always be able to negate integrity.

  10. Terrence, you hit the nail right on the head.

    If Fifa instructs a ref in the sence of: we would like to see team X go further. And when there is a disputable decision to make the ref will give it for team X. Because the ref knows that he will be rewarded for doing this in the future. That is just how the system works.

    But if the ref on the field does what Fifa wants, you cannot have that when there is the use of video evidene which is clear to see for everyone involved. And this would mean that the ref on the field has less power to “change” the outcome of a game.

  11. Goalline tech is such a no-brainer. Microchips in the ball would allow a beep in the refs ear when the ball goes into the net. Bar the “can all FAs afford it” there is really no counter-argument.

    Bloody Welsh 😛

  12. Tony

    Does your humour run to knowingly printing FICK FUFA when its german translation = fuck the wags!!??

  13. Only reason for not bringing in video is the same since Arsene Wenger tells Platini to use it.
    More than 10 years it’s an open war between the two.
    There’s no real basis for refusing it. Every other professional game uses it.
    The main issue raised is not how to use it, but the timing. If you bring video in, the game will be longer and TV rights are not written for that. Up to now it’s convenient for FIFA and TV broadcaster that a game has a defined time.
    But nothing apart an obsolete and jurassic organisation called FIFA prevents its use.

  14. To spell it out, CORRUPTION.
    It’s easy to corrupt a referree, will be much harder to corrupt a camera…


    Sry just looked up from the keyboard but too lazy to change it now 😉

  16. I say no. If we look at the hole picture, the refs missing a goal now and then is a minor problem. How many penalties are wrongfully awarded per season? How many free kicks in dangerous positions? This is not really an argument to why we don’t need cameras, but perhaps the money it would cost could be spent more wisely. Goal line refs would be better.

  17. In four years from now world cup 2014 in Brazil we,ll still be debating the same bulls- we,re doing now ,talk is cheap it,s time for modern technology to aid the error stricken humans who make mistakes time after time ,the Lampard goal against Germany would have taken maximum five seconds out of the game to see on the replay monitors and award it correctly ,play resumes with a kick off from the centre spot,what,s the problem ?

  18. Goal line refs make a lot more sense, I agree with Robbie. Universality of the game is actually a really critical point, I don’t know why people don’t see that. Also, you can’t introduce just a bit of video technology, its not as simple. Sure you can restrict it to goal-lines and maybe even penalties, but then what happens after England get knocked out of the Euros on a contentious Sneijder freekick, or the Irish get knocked out after a goal where the keeper was impeded? Its very naive to think it can be restricted to a few decisions on the pitch, it wouldn’t even take 10 years before the game turned robotic! Certainly, that is something I don’t wish to see in my lifetime.

    The simple truth is, if your good enough, you don’t need camera replays to win. If you do, then you’re just a fluke, and will be found out eventually. Case in point – the South Korean slalom at W.C ’02.

  19. Imagine the scene — down the road at Wimbledon, Andy Murray comes up against Roger Federer late in the tournament. The first set is all even, until the tie breaker, and then the set comes down to set point for Murray on Federer’s serve. He faults on the first service, and then on the second, hits a shot that looks like an ace, but is clearly out. The ump, unfortunately, got bitten by a bee at that very moment, and for some reason, Hawkeye is not installed at this court today, and the lineswoman also failed to look. What to do? The ump looks towards Federer, sees him walking to the deuce court, and calls it an ace.

    Fury all around. Murray was robbed. There is no recourse. Federer wins the next two points and the set, and Murray is down one set. He fights back, and wins the second set on a tie breaker. Then, exhausted, he wilts, and Federer runs the third and fourth sets 6-2, 6-1 for a convincing victory.

    In the aftermath, the press and pundits say it was terrible what happened in the first set, but the entire match showed that Federer deserved to win, and Murray deserved to lose, since Federer was clearly the better player.

    That’s how the soccer world would handle it. Rational observers, on the other hand, would know that there was nothing fair about what happened to Murray in that match. They would see that once the reversible error wrongly gave the first set to Federer, the outcome could never be fair to Murray, whether he won or lost, whether he played badly or well. And they would see the hollowness of the arguments that subsequent events showed that the result was “fair” since Federer, “to be honest”, played better and “deserved” the win.

    There is nothing fair about it, and continued behavior of this sort, unchecked and undealt with, will kill the game. At the very least, the governing body should try to deal with it, rather than applaud it as “bringing the human element in to the match,” somehow ignoring that the players and coaches can fully deliver “the human element” to the competition without the intervention of the ref.

    What I’ve outlined as happening to Murray is what happens when game changing mistakes, omissions, or out-right felonious behavior tilt a soccer match to one or the other side, and not just in Italy. And not just at the World Cup: last fall, Rooney dove for a penalty kick at Old Trafford, United beat Arsenal 2-1, and almost every observer said it might have been a dive, but it wasn’t called, and anyway, “in all fairness,” or “to be fair”, United showed they could fight back and deserved the win and Arsenal did not.

    Tennis folks would be outraged that one player could so obviously cheat and steal the match. They would see that the ref’s giving a goal as a reward for simulation was unfair and wrong.

    Not so in football, it seems. In association football, the aim seems to be for a result that was fair, overall, as judged not by standards set out in the rule book, but by the observer’s sense of whether the outcome is “deserved.”

    Sport is not about deserving to win — it is about a competition on an even playing field, following set rules, evenly applied, with every effort being made to allow the actual performance of the players, and the never certain bounce of the ball, to determine the outcome. It is about each squad having a fair chance to win — against all odds, as the FA Cup delivers with increasing rarity. “Deserved” has nothing to do with it. Both teams deserve the same opportunity. And if one team plays better but fails to take its opportunities, the result is still fair, and deserved. Uncertainty is part of the game.

    Every sport has its tales of errors by refs that changed the game, and before the onset of technological solutions that wouldn’t interrupt the flow of the game, an ethos for incorporating refereeing mistakes and, over time, strategies for minimizing them.

    Much of this relied on openness and setting expectations. Sometimes, it meant more officials — compare how many officials watch over an NFL game, where 22 men compete in a much smaller portion of the field than they do in soccer. Many more eyes are trained on the events — the refs are encouraged to discuss unclear calls. And, as in soccer, they try to focus on penalties that impact play, that are not off the ball. (But no one expects a high school American football game to have such scrutiny, and no one — coaches, parents, players — complains about having to play under less than Super Bowl standards.)

    The goal of rules, refs, and standards is to have a fair competition that the fans and the teams can trust to provide a forum for an even match. Why would fans come to a competition that called itself unbiased and fair when they knew it wasn’t?

    When technology arrived, every sport resisted, recognizing the choice between impacting the game’s “natural” (meaning current) flow and the chance to improve fairness of the competition, and guarantee the truthfulness of the result to the people who paid to see it, so that they would know that the outcome was determined on the field, not by gamblers or crooks.

    And guess what? These sports are still interesting, and followed avidly by fans. The loss of the opportunity to get drunk arguing about why the ref screwed up is not a significant loss — those who have to drink have plenty of other reasons to drink, and those who like to argue can also find a lot to work with. In no sport does technology eliminate human error, but it minimizes it, and cuts a deal with the need to acknowledge that the people in the field, court, stadium, whatever, are actually those who are least likely to see what actually happens. If the game is on TV, we at home know immediately when there is a screw-up — if the replay is not shown to the crowd.

    At the end of the day, the fans leave the field knowing that the result was as fair as the best efforts of the organizers could be to make it fair, without killing the natural flow of the competition. This could be done with soccer, given the vagaries of stalled games for injuries and substitutions and arguments with the ref. So what if you had four times a game where 60 seconds was required to allow a ref on the sidelines to examine a decision which the manager wanted to challenge with one of his two challenges? You add four minutes to extra time, is what.

    So in all fairness, maybe England would have lost had Lampard’s goal been recognized instead of denied. But it would have been a different match, and it would have been a fair result, which, after than error, combined with FIFA’s refusal to take the simplest steps to correct it, it would never be.

  20. So you would settle for 8-10 minutes extra time, and pause play football? I wouldn’t, I suppose its a personalised preference now, by the looks of things. So lets leave it at that.

    In Murrays case – the umpire got stung by a bee, tell me that and I’ll well and truly understand. After all, it’s all seasonal sports, he’ll have his shot the next year, and the year after that (or not) :D. Same for us, same for everybody else.

  21. The fact that you give managers let us say 4 challenges in total does not mean that they will be taken each time. If there is nothing to challenge, they wont challenge.
    But you must take measures to prevent challenging just for the sake of it. If you challenge and you are wrong, you should be punished in some way.
    And I think that when there is a goal you can review it while the players are celebrating their goal. This takes between 30-60 seconds of the time and in that time you can see if the goal was a good one or not.
    It really should not stop or interupt the game that much.

    And in the case of Lampards not given goal, the 4th official can check the images and then inform the ref it has been a goal and the ref blows his whistle and a speaker confirms that the ball has passed the line and then you show on the big screan the images so it is clear to see that the ball passed the line. The interruption would take as long as it would have taken for England to celebrate the goal.

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