Reviewing the rules – 5 lessons football could learn from futsal, ice hockey, cricket, and rugby league.

By James Fletcher

Ever since its birth back in 1857 the rules of Football have gone through many changes, from the fair catch to each team having a referee in the opposition half. But since the introduction of VAR to the English game, football has come back under fire with the lack of control and tight decisions that have been awarded against teams, so what can football learn from other sports? And what other rules would you like to see imposed? These are some rules I think could improve football in the coming years.

  1. The Decision Review System from cricket:

The DRS rule in cricket which was introduced back in 2009 to help umpires make the right decisions or retract their decision following a review. This rule allows each team to challenge the umpire’s decision on an LBW call and or a catch and if the team challenge, but the resulting decision goes against them they would lose one of their challenges. But if it turns out the team had got it right then they would keep their challenge and can use it again.

This rule has served cricket well and even though cricket is naturally a slow game, this rule could serve football well with a few tweaks of course. I think if each team have a certain number of challenges that could be reviewed by VAR instead of checking after every goal or every major incident. And if the team is right then like in cricket, they would retain their challenge and use it again but would lose it if the decision goes against them.

This would drastically improve the flow of the game as teams would be wary of making challenges against the referee and could improve the referee’s decision making. As well as this it would reinstate the fast-paced game that we have all come to know and love.

  1. Stop The Clock from Futsal:

This rule from futsal which enables the clock to be stopped every time there is a stoppage in play, is for me a must in football. Teams and players have adopted a new tactic of feigning injury to try and run the clock down if they feel they don’t have the skills required to beat their opposition which ruins the demographic of the game and is right up there with diving.

And at the end of the 90 minutes the referee always adds time on, from 3 minutes to 10 to combat this but if stop the clock was enabled in football, then they would be no need to add on time at the end of the game, and players would not and could not time waste to try and get the result.

As in futsal once the time has run out then that’s game over there’s no last chance no added time and it would keep the excitement of the game as it did in the Futsal Euros 2022 match between the Netherlands and Ukraine. In which the ball had been adjudged not to have crossed the line as the final buzzer went which resulted in the Netherlands not progressing in the tournament and was the subject of debate for many days afterwards in the futsal community.

  1. Sin Bin from Ice Hockey, Rugby League and Futsal.

The Sin Bin rule which is featured in a few sports around the world but has mostly been used in ice hockey and rugby league where a player would go off the ice or field of play for a short period of time if they had done something that was against the rules of the game.

They have used a variation to the sin bin rule in grass roots football in which if a play was adjudged to have dived to try and cheat the system instead of a caution or yellow card, they would have to go off the field of play for 10 minutes. This was in effect back 2019/20 season.

So, the footballing bodies have explored the possibility of using a sin bin rule in the game. Could it be seen in the premier league or the EFL? Who knows?

Futsal has their own variation to this rule in which if a player is sent off, either a red card or 2 yellows then the player would not be allowed to play the rest of the match and or the next match depending on the length of his ban. It would also mean that the team would be given a 2-minute penalty in which they would have to play with 4 men for 2 minutes, before another player can make up the numbers. Either if the 2 minutes runs out or if the opposition score a goal.

So, we could potentially see this rule come into the professional game, but this could either improve the game or make it worse depending how the sin bin would be implemented into the game. I think the Futsal variation would work in football and would get rid of the age-old argument.

‘That you only won because we were down to 10 men.’

  1. Rolling Subs from Futsal and Ice Hockey:

The rolling subs rule, is a rule that I don’t think it would work in football as it would cause palaver and become confusing for the referee if all 11 players were substituted during a game or switched in play and the referees have enough to contend with making one sub.

And there would always be that manager or team that would try and sneak on an extra player to gain an advantage in the game before the referee had noticed.

Saying that just every other sport has varied rules, maybe if rolling subs were permitted then teams could have unlimited subs. Meaning they could change as many players as they wanted but only during a stoppage in play, so the referee can keep it under control. But again, this could cause frustration in the opposition if they tried to waste time by changing every player on the field who gingerly makes their way off the field.

So, Rolling Subs, I’m not a fan but you might be.

  1. Kick Ins from Futsal:

This rule which has been tested in Spain over the previous summer. Which instead of throw ins they would have to kick the ball back into play. This has been a good rule in futsal and goes well with the dynamic of the game considering pitch and court sizes, but for football I’m not sure how it would work.

In futsal the rule is that a player must kick the ball back into play if it goes out via the by line. The opposition must be 10 meters away from the player and the player cannot move from the spot from where the ball out of play when kicking the ball back into play. So, there’s no stealing a few yards up field. The taker can be penalised if the ball is rolling it must be a standing kick so no doing run ups to take it either.

This rule could stop players from stealing a few yards by walking slowly up field, which has been the tactic of every team throughout the footballing world for many years. As a rule, I cannot really see this one coming to fruition.

But it could stop players from walking with the ball and instead forcing them to take the throw from where the ball went out of play.

Which rule do you think could improve the beautiful game? Or if you have other rules you wish to voice that you think could improve the sport. It’s time football went through the rules once again and keep this wonderful sport alive and kicking for centuries to come.

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