FIFA’s Proposed Rule Changes Miss the Point

09/23/2021

FIFA is considering a host of rule changes that are meant to revolutionize the game. I'm not sure anyone said the game needed revolutionizing, but, nonetheless, FIFA decided that was the case and proposed five rule changes that would radically change the game.

The most disappointing part is that this reeks of a 60-year-old man wearing skinny jeans and tight clothing to try and blend in with the youth on a Saturday night out. The 60-year-old man thinks he's fit in; meanwhile, everyone else is staring at him, asking what in the world made him think any of that was a good idea.

Let's look at what the proposed rule changes are.

  • The first rule change is that instead of two 45 minute halves, a match will be two 30 minute halves with the clock stopping every time play halts.
  • The second rule change is that instead of a three substitution limit, teams can make unlimited substitutions.
  • The third rule change eliminates the throw-in. Instead of a throw-in, teams can now kick the ball in from all parts of the field.
  • The fourth rule change proposes a 5-minute suspension for any player that receives a yellow card.
  • The fifth rule change allows players to dribble the ball back into play instead of having to pass the ball.

The rules were tested in an elite U19 Tournament over the summer, and it remains to be seen what will happen over the next few years.

As for the impetus of the change, that's where FIFA is getting it all wrong.

In their mind, the game needs revolutionizing to reduce time-wasting, decrease injury risk, and increase scoring opportunities. These changes are supposed to make the game more intriguing and therefore better for the next generation. The problem with this is that not only is the game already attractive as is, but the new rules essentially create a new sport and contradict themselves.

FIFA feels the games are too long, so they want to reduce the halves. And their "brilliant" idea is to make the halves 30 minutes and stop the clock anytime there is a stoppage in play. Let's look at other sports that do that.

  • An NBA game is supposed to be 48 minutes, but with stoppages every time play stops, it ends up taking about two and a half hours.
  • An NFL game is supposed to be 60 minutes, but with stoppages every time play stops, the average American Football game lasts three hours.

Meanwhile, as currently established, a regulation soccer game is 90 minutes guaranteed with a few minutes added on. Because there are no stoppages of the clock, that's how you get a scenario where a 90-minute soccer game takes less time than a 48-minute basketball game or 60-minute American football game.

Then along with the mandatory stoppages, FIFA thought it would also be a good idea to allow more substitutions and kick-ins instead of throw-ins. The reality is many teams will treat those kick-ins like additional freekick opportunities. So essentially, the ball goes out of play, the clock stops, and now they can take their time setting up an elaborate kick-in routine that does what? Oh yeah, adds more time to the game.

And I don't know about you, but I, for one, don't remember a time where a friend and I were watching a game, and we came away with the conclusion that we wished there was more time spent on set-piece stoppages.

Add to this the proposed unlimited substitutions, and you extend the game longer as teams exchange player after player. Not to mention how unfair that rule is to teams who don't have the depth in their roster to go 20 men deep and compete with the wealthiest clubs in the world.

You also have the proposed 5-minute suspension for every yellow card, taken straight out of hockey. Hockey is six versus six, so missing one player for five minutes can be extremely consequential. Soccer is 11 v 11. Missing one of those 11 for a few minutes has no relevant effect on the game; it won't deter dangerous play in any way. Teams often play with one less for a few minutes as a player receives treatment, and those few minutes are rarely ever consequential.

These aren't particularly clever rule changes either. There's already a version of soccer that employs a variation of all of these rules known as futsal. If fans wanted outdoor soccer to look more like futsal, then futsal would be far more popular than it currently is. Futsal and Indoor soccer should not change their rules to look more like outdoor soccer and vice versa. 

Perhaps, what is most ironic is that rather than changing the organization's corrupt nature that is turning people off from the governing body, FIFA would rather change rules no one asked to be changed. It is like the father whose children tell him they wish he would spend more time with them, and rather than do that, he hands them a twenty-dollar bill and pats himself on the back.

The only revolution that fans want is within FIFA itself and eliminating corruption.

What FIFA is missing is that the game is in a good state and will always be. Because what attracted the youth to the sport 40 years ago is the same thing that attracts them now and will do so a hundred years from now. The avenues for enjoying the game have changed, but at its root, it remains the same. It is like how cellphones changed how we have conversations, but at the end of the day, the core of having a good and effective conversation remains the same. 

For soccer, what makes it attractive is in the foundation, not in the rules. It's the stories that exist within the game. The passion connected to seeing your favorite team or country fail and excel, the joy of believing that anything is possible. And the brilliance of knowing all you need is a round ball and makeshift goalposts to carve out your slice of the beautiful game. And as long as that remains, the beautiful game has nothing to worry about.

FIFA, please, listen to me. We love what you offer outwardly, and we don't want you to change the rules and look like something you are not. It is what lies within you that we wish you would improve. Change the parts that make you less attractive, like your; money laundering, corruption, disregard for human rights, misogynistic nature, and shady dealings. Take off the skinny jeans and the Vlone sweatshirt; no one wants to see that from you; everybody ages, time changes, and you look as cool now as you ever have.


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