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February 2021

Rule changes escalate as sin bins are to be discussed by international rule committee

by Tony Attwood.

At the start of the year Untold ran the story Could football learn a thing of two from the way games are refereed in rugby?

It was a highly speculative piece which arose from discussions with some friends on the topic of just how football might be improved, and how we might stop the constant cheating that goes on in the games – most of which is ignored by careful editing of the video feeds.

Now however Ben Rumsby in the Telegraph has reported that “The introduction of sin-bins to football is to be discussed by the game’s rule-makers at their annual general meeting next month.”

Of course I am not suggesting that the International Football Association Board reads Untold – so it must be a coincidence, but the changes being proposed do seem to be very close to the ideas that came out of our earlier discussion.

Among the other suggestions being debated is one that says only the captain able to speak to the referee.  One that we didn’t mention was to ok the use of electronic devices such as tablets in the dugout to help identify serious head injuries.  I had no idea such devices were not allowed at present.  It seems bizarre that this is so.

The IFAB is a curious body that we have mentioned before: it is the central group that runs the laws of the game.  It consists of the FAs of England, Wales, Scotland and N Ireland (included in recognition of the UK being the country in which the laws of the game were originally formulated) and Fifa.  Voting on rule changes means that each of the British associations have one vote each and Fifa, representing all other FIFA member associations, has four votes. Final decisions require a majority of 75%, meaning that Fifa and two of the British Associations have to agree.

If the new procedure is introduced the sin bin (or “temporary dismissals” to give it its proper name) would be adopted for certain offences in grassroots, youth, veterans and disability football.  The situation would then be reviewed later to see if it should enter the professional game.   The proposal has the backing of Marco van Basten, Fifa’s chief of technical development.

Also up for discussion is the idea that only the captain should to be able to speak to the referee.

However we are still awaiting the ratification of video technology in the game in time for the next World Cup, but the next round of live experiments have been agreed, with around 20 competitions including them, including the Bundesliga in 2017/18.  The PGMO is running secret non-live video ref trials this season, but in keeping with its normal approach, is not telling anyone about it.

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The 131st Annual General Meeting of IFAB will take place at Wembley Stadium on Friday, 3 March and will be chaired by Greg Clarke, Chairman of The Football Association. The agenda for the meeting is now available here.

Among other things the AGM will be asked to give national football associations more freedom and responsibility to modify the organisational Laws, e.g. number of substitutions and length of play, to assist with the development of their domestic football by promoting and encouraging more people to take part in the game.  National football associations will be permitted to decide at which levels the modifications are applied in their domestic football, except for competitions involving the first team of clubs in the top league and senior ‘A’ international teams.

On the topic of video assistant referees (VARs), the AGM will receive updates on the completion of the first phase of experiments including reports from the workshops held and more than 20 test matches organised to test the VAR protocols which were approved one year ago.

The IFAB’s overall strategy is said to relate to “what football wants” and at the moment is giving particular focus will be given to the role of the captain and how her/his responsibilities could be enhanced as part of a move to improve on-field discipline and create better communication between players and match officials.

Additional agenda items include an update on experiments with the Law 12 change to the punishment for some denial of a goal-scoring opportunities as well as 4th substitutes in extra time; both changes are currently being trialled.

The AGM will be also asked to approve the development of the first minimum standard for electronic performance and tracking systems (EPTS) which will regulate the safety of devices worn by players on the field of play.

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21 comments to Rule changes escalate as sin bins are to be discussed by international rule committee

  • WalterBroeckx

    A sin bin for referees would also not be bad at times 😉

  • Zuruvi

    IFAB needs to be reformed.
    I think as football is a worldwide game, IFAB should represent all continents/federations (EUFA, CONCAFA, AFCON, etc. etc.).
    Each federation should have one vote and FIFA the same number of votes as the number of federations.

    Changes to the rules of football should be by 60 or 75% majority.

  • Zuruvi

    Just imagine how unfair it would seem if the rules of football were decided by FIFA in conjunction with Germany, Belgium, Holland and Slovenia only.

    Or if the rules were decided by Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Lesotho and FIFA.

    The Sun, The Mirror and the Telegraph would be persecuting FIFA for not moving with the times.
    The FA would be screaming from all roof tops that IFAB and FIFA are stuck in history and dysfunctional.

  • insideright

    Given that, according to the Chelsea manager, rules are interpreted differently in different countries wouldn’t it be a good idea to get more consistency as well as (maybe) improvement?

  • MickHazel

    Tony writes…
    ‘The PGMO is running secret non-live video ref trials this season, but in keeping with its normal approach, is not telling anyone about it.’
    The PGMOL will probably say they do not need help from technology as any improvement over the current 96% accuracy of their decisions it may offer would be marginal thus making it’s introduction pretty pointless.

  • Gord

    If requiring 75% votes (or similar) is to be a guiding factor, allocating FIFA the same number of votes as the number of votes for all the other parties probably isn’t a great idea. As it stands now, FIFA effectively has a veto on any proposal. I don’t think that is helpful.

    Alternatively, the FIFA block of votes could be broken up in _independent_ parts. With indepedence being important. For instance, having the sports medicine function within FIFA having an independent vote would be useful.

  • Norman14

    UK MP’s today gave a vote of No Confidence in the FA to reform itself, and will seek to legislate changes that enforce the FA Board to implement change.

  • ARSENAL 13


    Will never help for us. When rules are interpreted differently, how will any new rule help us? When our opponents get carded for persistent fouling only after 60-70 mins of the game, how will sin bin like rule work? Also ARSENAL will have to play the whole game with 10 men, as we always get carded for the very first foul….

  • Nitram

    ARSENAL 13

    I have to agree. Just another way to screw us.

    You can just picture it. Hanging on valiantly to a 1 goal lead at OT with 10 minutes to go.

    You tell me, under such circumstances, what are the odds of Xhaka ending up in the sin bin, assuming he’s managed to remain on the pitch until such a time in the first place of course.

    Our players are s**t scared to put a tickle in now. Did I say ‘tickle’, I meant tackle. So heaven knows what they’d be like with a visit to the ‘sin bin’ hanging over there every move.

    It would be a disaster.

  • Leon

    Nothing new about this. The great late Ian Wooldridge (Daily Mail) advocated Ice hockey style sin bins more than thirty years ago, and it’s surfaced regularly since. I think it would be an excellent idea for minor card offenses like swearing at officials, technical offences, time wasting etc., while fouling should be treated in the same more severe way as it now is.

  • Leon

    It’s worth pointing out that any rule changes are not made to assist or penalise Arsenal or any other one club, but the whole of football generally.
    The idiocy here sometimes!

  • Leon

    …but are for the whole improvement of football generally…..

  • MickHazel

    Who is guilty of idiocy? Who has said the rule is being made specifically to penalize Arsenal?

  • WalterBroeckx

    you have the law and how the ref will apply the law… that is the concern here

  • Menace

    My origins are complex but I think IFAB is correctly organised & has sufficient representation to ensure the governance of the Laws of The Game.

    Where any change needs to be made is in FIFA. It needs to be disbanded completely & organised in an open transparent way with democratic election of representatives every 4 years & with no successful candidate allowed a subsequent term.

    The four home nations must retain their position in IFAB. It maintains a historical connection for the game.

  • Menace

    PS let me not forget the major change that needs to be made to ensure honest football in UK. The FA & the PGMOL must lead the home nations with change in its home for geriatrics of dubious origins. The most pathetic of organisations in sport.

  • Leon


    Arsenal 13 & Nitram are suggesting that we would be done over as a result. At least that’s the way it looks to me. No attempt at this is good/bad for football, but this is how it will affect Arsenal and with stupid scenarios.

  • MickHazel

    Yes I appreciate that but they did not say the reason the rule will be changed is specifically to screw Arsenal which is what you are implying they said.

  • Leon


    Yeah, bit OTT by me, I didn’t actually mean that they saw the change as Arsenal specific, but that they’re not looking at the impact of a rule change on football generally.

  • ARSENAL 13

    Hhahhahaha Leon,

    Any rule change for the better of the game is always welcome. Which includes aids for referees.

    Now for what I’d written earlier. There are enough rules in the game….Yet we see enough. How it gets applied in ARSENAL games…Just look at referee preview and see how often the predictions are right…..

  • Menace

    Leon – the rules or Laws are not different for any team but the PGMOL apply them differently for some teams. The corruption is not in the Laws but in the organisations that are supposed to police those Laws. It’s a little like the stop & search laws that were more used on black & ethnic minorities than on whites. It is an issue that has not resolved itself as yet and raises its head in football with similar bias (perhaps less colour prejudice).