By William Bantu Irubor
FIFA’s Chief Officer for Technical Development, Marco Van Basten has hinted that FIFA is considering the abolition of offside, scrapping yellow cards and changing the way penalties are taken.
The former Dutch forward says FIFA might not stop at expanding the World Cup to 48 teams. Gianni Infantino’s expansion of the format to 16 groups of three was seen as controversial, but that now seems minor when compared to some of the 10 alterations Van Basten has detailed.
Don’t get your hopes high because none are close to being implemented yet, but the 52-year-old says FIFA is considering the changes for the build up to the 2026 World Cup – and the biggest casualty to them could be the offside rule.
Below is a list of the ten rule changes that we might be seeing in football…
1. Scrapping offside
In an exclusive interview with BILD, Van Basten says he is very curious as to how football would work without offside.
“I fear many people will be against it” he said. “I would be in favour of it, because football is increasingly resembling handball: Nine players plus goalkeeper make the penalty area dense, which is like a wall. It is very difficult to get through. All teams rely on the same effective tactics: forming a stable defence”.
“Without offside, the strikers could be behind the defenders, which would be much more difficult. If they move far back in front of their goal, the attacker will have more opportunities for distance shots.
“This would make the game more attractive, the attackers would have better chances, more goals would be scored. That’s what the fans want to see. In field hockey, the offside has been abolished, and there are no problems. The teams would also adapt in football.”
2. Hockey style penalties
Taking another lead from hockey, Van Basten says a penalty may no longer be taken from 12 yards, but instead a player would be given eight seconds to score from 25 metres out.
“This is spectacular for the viewers and interesting for the player,” he said.
“With this idea, he has more possibilities: he can dribble, shoot, wait, and the goalkeeper responds – this is more like a typical playing situation.”
3. Sin-binning rather than yellow cards
Yellow cards might also be discarded, with players disciplined by being asked to sit on the sidelines, like the sin bin system in rugby union.
Van Basten said: “That frightens players. It is more difficult with 10 against 11, let alone with eight or nine.”
4. Prevent time-wasting
Reduction of time-wasting is also among the problems trying to be stamped out in the FIFA offices.
Teams attempting to wind down the clock would be prevented from doing so by a rule stopping the ball being stationary for longer than 10 seconds after the 80th minute, with long substitutions or delaying set pieces being snuffed out.
5. Five fouls per game
Van Basten took inspiration from basketball for fouling, with players exceeding five fouls per game forced to leave the field.
He said: “I’ve had the idea that a defender, like in basketball, can only make five fouls and then he has to leave the field.”
6. Increasing the number of substitutes to four or five once extra-time starts
“There are good reasons for this as a coach,” he said.
7. Stopping players crowding the referee
“It would be a good idea if, as in rugby, only one player of the team – the captain – should speak with the referee.”
8. Eight vs eight in junior and senior football
“They would often have the ball, would participate more in the game, have more fun, because they have to run less.”
9. Quicker substitutions
He said they are also discussing this at FIFA, which is a possibility. However, it is only for youth competitions. But we must also think of the referee – he must always know who is on the pitch.”
10. Reducing the number of games
“We have to help the top stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who the fans want to see, so they are mentally fresh and physically fit because they have fewer games to complete” he said.