In the past year I have read about or head about numerous law changes for the game of soccer. These changes have been discussed by current coaches, former players etc.
Some of the discussed changes include the following:
- Changing the offside law. The ideas I have heard range from getting rid of it altogether, adding a 35 yard line which is where the offside law would take affect, requiring there be a clear space between the attacker and the second to last defender in order for it to be offside, factoring the keeper out of the law so it would be changed to the last defender instead and not worrying about the keepers position.
- Changing the throw in to kick in. This would make every ball dead ball a free kick
- Changing the corner kick so that if a ball goes over the end line inside the 18 the restart would occur from the corner of the end line and 18.
- Banning heading. This is due to the risk of damage from concussions
- Banning slide tackling. This is to limit the number of injuries
- Making the goal bigger. This is to increase the number of goals.
- When a games regular time is over and a winner needs to be determined (due to a tournament type situation) remove one player from each team every 5 minutes to open the field up further.
- Add additional refs - The field is VERY big for one person (with two assistants) to cover
- Have the official time kept on a scoreboard - This would avoid the uncertainty of how much time is added for injuries, time wasting etc
- Add additional allowed subs in professional soccer
- Adding instant replay for close calls
These are just some of the proposed changes I have heard discussed.
My question is WHY?
Soccer is a wonderful game as currently played. It’s fun to play. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to coach. Why do people feel the need to make changes when things are so good?
Is the offside law confusing sometimes? Yes but it’s not the law that is confusing it’s determining whether a player is involved in the play when the ball is played and whether they are in an offside position at that time. If you change the location of where the offside law takes place or what makes someone offside, it’s still going to involve decision making so will always be somewhat confusing. Confusing is NOT a bad thing!
The idea behind the throw in is to get the ball back in play (preferably quickly). It’s not intended as an offensive weapon. The last thing the game needs is for the ball to go out of play and everything stops while the big backs come up the field and then the balls gets lofted in the middle hoping something good happens.
Corner kicks are currently great scoring opportunities for the attacking team. There is no need to change this just for the sake of changing
Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game but to completely change the game to make it safer is not necessary when slide tackling and heading are not where most injuries are coming from.
The idea that we need more goals in soccer is the reason for the argument that we need bigger goals. While this MIGHT attract more casual fans, real fans can appreciate good defense, possession etc. If we want more scoring, let’s give 7 points for a goal and then a 3-1 game turns into a 21-7 game which sounds much better (this is NOT a serious suggestion)
Playing for 90 minutes is difficult. Having to play an over time period is that much more difficult. Putting players at additional, unneeded risk by making them cover even more space in order to make it more exciting is simply wrong.
While the idea of adding more refs might be appealing there are a couple of things to consider. First, at the youth level, I know many organizations struggle to get enough refs for their current games. Asking them to get even more would be extremely difficult. At the professional level, I think the amazing thing is how good the refs really are. Watching games on TV, it’s incredible how many times they show a replay and it confirms the refs were right (and even more incredible is when the replay confirms the refs were right and the announcers still say it was the wrong call). Are there occasional bad calls made? Of course. There are also occasional bad passes made, bad save attempts and bad coaching decisions. It’s part of being human
The problem with having the official time kept on a scoreboard is it requires...a scoreboard. I like consistency and while every ref has a watch or two, not every field has a scoreboard. Requiring every youth game to be played with a scoreboard will make it that much harder to find fields to play on and will further increase the cost of playing.
One of the things I like best about soccer is the flow of the game. Every time a substitution is made the flow is broken (and sometimes, this is the reason for the sub). Having players know they have to pace themselves throughout the entire game is one of the things that makes the game so great. Contrast that to some youth games where every 5 minutes new players are being shuttled into the game and while the game might be played at a high level of intensity, it doesn’t mean it’s played at a high level. The tactical decision making of how and when to use the 3 subs is one of the things that makes the game so fun to watch.
There have been rare times when I wished a call could be reviewed and changed via instant replay (the occasional goal that is not allowed because the ref didn’t see it cross the goal line) but those rare occasions would not be worth the delay each time the game gets stopped to review a call. Refs do such a good job that the last thing they need is someone constantly looking over their shoulder (for the most part).
I admit it, I’m a traditionalist but soccer is such a great game and I don’t know why people are so determined to change it.
Are there law changes that should be made? Just one. I would like to see it changed so they are called “rules” and not “laws” but other than that, soccer is great as is, let’s leave it alone!
Have a great day!