FOOTBALL’S lawmakers approved on Saturday the use of video technology to aid referees during matches, with a two-year trial run to start no later than the season after next.
In the most significant rewriting of the laws of the game for more than 100 years, they also changed the rules on penalty kicks, the so-called triple punishment for denying goal-scoring opportunities and the match kick-off itself.
Referees also now have the power to red card players for fighting in the tunnel or on the pitch before a match starts.
With the changes coming into force on June 1, any players involved in that kind of behaviour at this summer’s European championships in France now face being sent off before the ball has been kicked.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), the game’s lawmaking body founded in 1886 and some 18 years before FIFA, comprises four members from the world body and one from each of the four British associations.
The use of video technology will be allowed in four questionable cases: to determine if a goal has been scored, sendings off, penalties and mistaken identity.
“We have taken a really historic decision for football. IFAB and FIFA are now leading the debate and not stopping the debate,” new FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters at a news conference.
“We have shown we are listening to football and applying common sense. We have to be cautious but are taking concrete steps forwards to show a new era has started in FIFA and IFAB.”
As well as approving the long-debated trials of video technology, the board also agreed a widespread revision of the laws, editing the rulebook from 22,000 to 12,000 words.
One of the most significant changes regards the so-called triple-punishment of sending off, penalty and suspension for the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity within the penalty area.
Now, if the defending goalkeeper or defender makes an obvious challenge for the ball the punishment is downgraded to a yellow card rather than an automatic red one.
Another change concerns the penalty kick so that if a kicker tries to deceive the goalkeeper by stopping and starting in his run-up, the right to have a retake is removed.
Instead, the defending team are awarded an indirect free-kick and the attacking player is yellow carded. If goalkeepers move off their line they will also be yellow carded.
As well as conducting experiments with video technology, IFAB have sanctioned further trials allowing a fourth substitute in extra time.
The use of sinbins is only continuing in minor age-group matches and not at the higher, senior level.
David Elleray, the former Premier League referee who is now the head of the English FA’s Referees Committee and the author of the new edition, explained that the existing laws had to be refreshed as they no longer applied to the modern game.
“We wanted to bring some common sense to the laws, to reflect what football expects the referees to do today and eliminate the confusion in the game,” he said.
“We are giving referees the licence to be closer to the understanding and spirit of the game. We have to move forward. Everyone believes we have been talking too long about these changes and now we have to see what benefits they will bring.”