The unknown rule makers

Many watchers of the beautiful game may not realise the part that Great Britain still has in setting the rules of the game across the world.  Virtually everyone thinks that it is FIFA who make (and break) the rules but they are wrong.  The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is the body that determines the Laws of the Game of Association Football since it was founded in 1886.  Their original mandate was to agree standardised laws for international competition, and has since acted as the “guardian” of the internationally used rules from their office in Zurich and under the guidance of General Secretary Lukas Brud.

It is a separate body from FIFA, though FIFA is represented on the board and but holds only 50% of the voting power. As a legacy of association football’s origins in Great Britain, the other organisations represented are the governing bodies of the game in the four countries of the United Kingdom. Amendments to the Laws, including any changes, require a three-quarter majority vote, meaning that FIFA’s support is necessary but not sufficient for a motion to pass.

Each UK association has one vote and FIFA has four. IFAB deliberations must be approved by three-quarters of the vote, which translates to at least six votes. Thus, FIFA’s approval is necessary for any IFAB decision, but FIFA alone cannot change the Laws of the Game—they need to be agreed by at least two of the UK members. There is also a quorum requirement that at least four of the five member associations, one of which must be FIFA, have to be present for a meeting to proceed. The Board meets twice a year, once to decide on possible changes to the rules governing the game of Football and once to deliberate on its internal affairs.  The IFAB today consists of 31 members, including everyone’s favourite footballing figure, Sepp Blatter.  The FA’s representation includes Greg Dyke, ex-Manchester United CEO David Gill and former referee David Elleray.

At the last AGM, held in February in Belfast, there were a number of interesting proposals on the agenda.    FIFA proposed that a fourth substitute be allowed in games that had entered Extra Time; the US federation proposed using the “stopping the clock” method of timing games, similar to that used in Rugby Union and NFL; There was a preliminary discussion around the potential use of ‘sin bins’ and one that will be interesting to see how it is interpreted, the ending of “triple punishment” for denying a goal-scoring opportunity in the penalty area which leads to a penalty, a red card and a subsequent one-match ban.  The proposed new rule, which came into effect on the 1 June 2015, sees the one-match ban being dropped, as the red card and penalty are deemed to be sufficient enough.  That decision annoyed UEFA who had pushed for the red card to be made into a yellow card.

Other hard hitting decisions the board have taken in recent years are the banning of Snoods, the rule about sock tape having to be the same colour as the socks and that assistant referees are not allowed to kick the ball back to players if it is at their feet.  We are often quick to blame officials but they are simply following the rules set by the blazers in their five star hotels around Europe twice a year.  So in years to come when half-time breaks are extended to 30 minutes to accommodate TV commercials, or we get four quarters instead of two halves, you know who to blame.


Guaranteed a Kick-in

“The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation” – Bertrand Russell

Back in December 2009, Arsene Wenger, a man seen by many as a guardian of football purity,  came out with the ridiculous idea of replacing throw-ins with kick-ins.  When asked for his thoughts on how the game could be improved, he came up with the idea of abolishing throw-ins. In no other part of play are outfield footballers allowed to handle the ball, he argued, and using kick-ins as a way of restarting would be quicker and more logical.  Unsurprisingly, his idea was derided with many “experts” suggesting that it would make the game worse, rather than better.  But few will remember the summer of 1994 when this rule change was actually made reality for a short time.

l4855643On Saturday 5th March 1994, twenty years ago today,  at FIFA Headquarters, the policy makers of the beautiful game met to discuss a number of tweaks to the laws of the game.  Many will not know that it is not FIFA alone who make up the ridiculous laws, but actually the International Football Association Board, which is made up of representatives from the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Football Associations as well as FIFA, so we cannot always blame Sepp for some of the more bizarre rules. Item number 6 on the game, proposed by FIFA was “Experiments with the Laws of the Game”.  A very ominous sounding item indeed.

In that graveyard shift after a heavy lunch of Rosti they revealed their plans to revolutionise our beautiful game.  First up was the agreement that the Golden Goal would be used in the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in the USA.  And then came the radical idea to replace the throw-in with the kick-in.  You can imagine the scene around the table as the rest of the room picked their jaws up off the floor and sniffed the water to see if it had been swapped with vodka. Continue reading

A poor man’s Andy Carroll? I don’t think so

Just two weeks ago the lights dimmed and a lone voice welcomed over 45,000 people to the opening of Europe’s 2nd largest indoor arena (Schalke’s Veltins Arena is classed as the biggest). The 2.8 billion Swedish Kroner Friends Arena had finally arrived, years after talking, debating and finally construction in Solna, just north of the city centre in Stockholm. The opening event featured the best of Swedish music including appearances by Björn and Benny themselves (the BB in ABBA silly) as well as Roxette. Alas, other classic Swedish music acts such as Ace of Base, The Cardigans and Europe were missing from the line up.

But the Arena wasn’t just built just for Swedish House Mafia concerts. It will primarily be a football stadium, home of AIK and the national team. So it was only fitting that the opening game to be played here should be against a team who have a passionate away following, who could generate some real noise and atmosphere. Unfortunately, Denmark had a previous engagement with Turkey so England agreed to step in. The good news was that I was already due to be in the city for work purposes; the bad news was that it was likely the ban on the England band from Poland wouldn’t be in force for this game. Continue reading

Grab a slice of the realism pie

I gave up going to England home internationals about three years ago.  I got fed up with the fans around me who missed half of the game to have a piss, get a beer, leave early to avoid the rush.  I was fed up with the Mexican wave, the happy clappy cardboard things and the whole dumbing down of our passion.  And I was fed up with irrespective who is in charge of the squad, the team never rarely changes.  

Last night despite their long season we were being influenced to feel sorry for Lampard, Terry, Cole, Ferdinand et al for dragging their weary bones out of bed to play one more time for the national team.  After all, it is tough these days earning £5 million plus for an afternoon’s work occasionally.

Unfortunately due to the fact we really do not take the development of our young players seriously enough we really have no other option but to keep playing the slowest centre back pairing in International football, or a one dimensional midfielder who last put a tackle in back in 2004.  So when the inevitable boos ring around the ground as we concede a goal (SHOCK, HORROR Another team cannot score against us…and at Wembley! ) those fans from Chelsea, Man Utd, Spurs etc are actually booing the fact we have no choice but to keep picking players who stopped being world class years ago.  And in part that is down to their own clubs set up.  One example?  Rewind five days to the very same pitch.  Two stars from Swansea on show were Scott Sinclair and Fabio Borini.  Both from Chelsea, both never had a chance of getting in the first team at the expense of another costly foreign import and both have now gone elsewhere.

Anyway, I chose to go and watch Rugby League rather than England v Switzerland.  But instead Brian Parish went along to Wembley…Over to you Brian whilst I go and lie down for awhile. Continue reading

It never rains but it pours, and pours, and pours

Eighteen months ago I completed one of my worst ever european football awaydays as I returned from Seville via Madrid where England had been beaten by a Spanish team who were well on their way to becoming the best international team in the world. It wasn’t a nightmare for any travel problems – on the contrary the flights to and from Madrid were on time, the AVE train to Seville was luxurious and the hotel around the corner from the Ramon Sanchez Pijun was well appointed. Nor did I have any problems with my travelling companion, Dagenham Dan. It was unfortunately the fact I developed an infection in my jaw that caused my face to swell up like a melon. On my return to TBIR towers CMF made me vow that would be the end of my England away days. I agreed, well temporarily, until the draw for Euro2012 qualifying was made and England were paired with Bulgaria, Switzerland, Wales and Montenegro in a group which seemed too easy even for the poor English team that played out the World Cup in South Africa. Montenegro immediately flashed up as a place to visit, and with some local contacts through work keen to help with arrangements that one was in the bank. A two hundred mile trip round the M25 and down the M4 was hardly a difficult one to arrange for Cardiff so that left Bulgaria and Switzerland. Continue reading

The Oceanic XI

After the huge fuss of our appalling showing in South Africa, the FA started another long and tedious review of how our national game should be run, what is the future of the academy at Burton and who should eventually succeed Capello when he eventually leaves.  The upshot was that we need an Englishman in charge of our national game.

Great – but who?  ‘Appy ‘Arry?  Big Sam?  Alan Pardew?  There isn’t a single Englishman who really has the experience or the track record.  But do you know we actually have a number of Englishmen who have international coaching experience.  For instance, Bryan Robson is currently the national coach of Thailand (he actually replaced Peter Reid), Gary Johnson managed Latvia for awhile and of course there is Stephen Constantine who has managed Nepal, India, Malawi and is now in charge of Sudan.  But what about someone who has had no real experience and started right at the bottom. Continue reading