We asked for your views on what rule changes you would like to see in football. Which ideas did you like… And which ones did you send for an early bath?
Over the years, football has had to change with the times and the laws of the game have played a big part in this – be it the implementation of the back pass rule, the introduction of VAR, goal-line technology – and even substitutes, who were only introduced to the professional game in 1958.
As part of us The future of football series, one of the main points we’re looking at is how these rule changes might progress over the next several decades. All of this will happen under the watchful eye of the IFAB, the international body whose job it is to check the laws of the game, what works and what doesn’t, every year.
Almost 7,000 of you responded to a survey we ran on Sky Sports earlier this year, asking for your thoughts and ratings on a scale of 1-10 for a range of potential rule changes. Those were then whittled down — adding a few of our own — to six new additions for an 11-vs-11 game, which you can check out below.
Here’s what you thought of the initial suggestions, from the ones you loved to the ones you were, shall we say, less interested in.
If you want more details on the individual rules, we’ve listed them all with some added explanations at the end of this article.
The MVP of the proposed new rules was the retrospective diving penalty, which already has a precedent but even after the addition of VAR in the Premier League still appears on most weekends. Almost 68 percent of you have ranked it as a 10/10 add-on to the game.
Not far behind was the suggestion that only captains should be allowed to speak to referees. This is something already accepted in rugby union, where the importance of respect for match officials is much more established than in football. This rule is one FIFA previously discussed for implementation in 2016, but never materialized.
A 10-minute penalty for dissent – another rule we’ve removed from rugby union, in case you hadn’t noticed the trend – also scored a lot, and is something that has already been introduced into the grassroots game.
On the other end of the scale, there wasn’t much love for a 10-minute power play, where both sides pick an opposing player to leave temporarily. The likes of adding an extra point to a win and getting rid of offsides were also, perhaps surprisingly, deemed a bit too wild.
In the age of football analytics, digging beneath the simple numbers revealed how some of our suggestions really divided the crowd – as you can see in the chart below.
For example, while 40 percent of you would rather watch tennis than tune in to 60-minute matches where the clock stops every time a ball goes out of play, 29 percent of you thought it was the best thing since short breaks. However, it was the fifth best ranked suggestion of new rules overall.
And although 33 per cent of you rated the idea of managers having three VAR challenges per game at 10/10, 40 per cent of you gave it five or less, and 20 per cent of you hated the idea, to put it bluntly.
Moving the free-kick wall back to 12 metres, reducing women’s goals and allowing free-kicks to themselves really split the room – all three ranked in the top eight of the 24 rules we proposed.
IFAB: We never reject an idea immediately
These rule change suggestions ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, as you were more than happy to tell us in your rankings.
However, nothing is the same on paper as it is in reality. Many seemingly mundane suggestions have been tried by the IFAB over the years without success, and vice versa.
Look at ABBA’s penalty kicks, in theory removing the advantage of going first, which came a few seasons ago – but was quickly removed.
Lukas Brud, IFAB secretary, said Sky Sports The world body for changing the laws of the game never dismisses an idea out of hand – and, in fact, seriously studies all suggestions and considers how they will affect existing laws.
“We take ideas and thoroughly examine the things that are given to us,” he said. “For example, with the idea of the ABBA penalty. There was an assumption here that it could improve penalty fairness, but it created so much confusion. In the end, we said it was good to try it, but we’re not considering it going forward.
“There are other areas where we’ve thought we need to investigate further and try to see if there really is a way because we need to address a problem. The penalty kick order may not have been the main problem, but where there is a problem, where we see there’s a challenge to face in order to improve the game, whether it’s fairness, attractiveness or player health, we need to look at it.
“We never dismiss an idea outright. We always check it against what’s already in the laws of the game and whether the laws of the game could potentially be improved in this area or if there’s a certain interpretation that could be applied or if a certain addition to what’s in the laws could be introduced to embrace that idea as well.”
Dermot’s View: Power, Replay Rules and Timers
Former Premier League official and footballing middle man of the future, Dermot Gallagher:
“In the 11-a-side test match, I liked the power play, I thought it was interesting and clever how they used it. One of the teams conceded a goal and thought they could get a quick goal back within 10 minutes of the player being off the field.
“The team that was winning kept their paper dry and waited until the end of the game, determined who the best player was and took it off, which worked much better for them. It allowed one team to think tactically about what they were doing and both used it very differently.
“I wonder if sin bins will ever make it into the professional game – it’s a lot faster than grassroots. How do you keep a player up to speed if he’s out for 10 minutes? There might be exercise bikes on the side of the pitch if he did.
“I talk about two rules that I like to enforce all the time – on a throw-in, I think the nearest player should get the ball and throw it. It’s not rocket science to do a throw-in. It really puzzles me why a player has to throw it to the second player and then the third player.
“I’ve also said since 1995 that there should be an independent timekeeper and play 35 minutes each way. If that’s too long, 30 minutes is fine. If there’s someone independent, it goes – even now, when a referee gives six or seven minutes to add on, there’s still a lot of wasted time within that.
“It doesn’t matter to any referee how long you hold unless there’s a game-changing goal. If I go six minutes and a winner is scored after five minutes and 50 seconds, I’m sorry. An independent timer takes that away.”
What rules have we introduced?
The 24 possible rule changes we laid out for you, in full, were:
- Scrap offside – Yes, you read it correctly. No offsides, anywhere, ever.
- 10-minute penalty for dissent – No more arousal and dazzle… Seems to work in rugby.
- Transitioning offside positions from halfway to the final third – We would need some new painted lines…
- Only the captains can speak to the referee – Yes sir, no sir.
- Matches 60 minutes – The end of wasting time? The clock stops when the ball goes out.
- Four points for a win, one for a draw – A ‘good point’ turns into ‘three dropped points’?
- Bonus points for winning by more than two goals – Attack, attack, attack!
- No point for a 0-0 draw – End of boring cramps. These last two would have changed several title winners…
- Penalize all dives with retroactive action – Show me a person who likes diving, I’ll show you a liar.
- 3 VAR challenges per manager, per match – Taking a leaf out of the cricket and tennis book.
- Strikes to replace resets – “Stick it in the mixer!”
- Penalties are only awarded for denying clear scoring opportunities, or for a foul in the six-yard box – Is it time for the punishment to fit the crime?
- You are allowed to take a free kick for yourself – Can it speed things up on restart?
- Only the player who wins a penalty can take it – This one does what it says on the tin.
- Biggest goals in the men’s game – Since goal sizes were made official, men have grown by an average of 11 cm. Time to get up and get out?
- And smaller goals in the women’s game – Women are on average 15 cm shorter than men, so should the goals reflect this?
- Reversible and unlimited replacements – Mother in rotation. Would it make things more interesting?
- There are no technical area restrictions – Let managers roam free on the contact line. Some of them already do anyway.
- Increase the distance from the wall on free kicks from 10 yards to 12 – Less obstacles = more goals?
- A maximum of five attacking and defensive players in the corner box – Only 1.4 percent of corner kicks lead to goals… Time to cash in?
- Power play – Both teams can choose an opposing player on the field to leave for 10 minutes per game. Yes, indeed.
- Pull the players in stages in extra time – Hate penalties? Yes 10 against 10 from 90 minutes, nine against nine from 100 minutes and eight against eight from 110…
- Move the penalty spot two meters back – Is it time to make pens harder to score? Some attackers may not like this.
- MLS-style penalty kicks – As in this amazing but strange videofrom the 1990s.