Football’s laws : Scrapping 45-minute half to be debated at Ifab

A proposal to scrap 45-minute halves is to be looked at by football’s lawmakers to deter time-wasting.

Instead, there could be two periods of 30 minutes with the clock stopped whenever the ball goes out of play.

Lawmaking body the International Football Association Board (Ifab) says matches only see about 60 minutes of “effective playing time” out of 90.

The idea is one of several put forward in a new strategy document designed to address football’s “negativities”.

Another proposal would see players not being allowed to follow up and score if a penalty is saved – if the spot-kick “is not successful”, play would stop and a goal-kick awarded.

Other ideas include a stadium clock linked to a referee’s watch and a new rule allowing players to effectively pass to themselves or dribble the ball when taking a free-kick.

Former Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola is in favour of the proposal to cut matches to 60 minutes.

“I personally like this rule because there are so many teams who try to take advantage of it because they are winning and wasting time – so I think it is not a bad rule,” he told the BBC.

“Football is fast enough. Some of the changes I don’t like very much, but this is a good one.”

Arsenal keeper Petr Cech echoed Zola’s sentiments as he discussed the proposal on social media and wrote that at present there are “25 minutes of effective playing time per half so you would actually see more football”

Where have these proposals come from?

The ideas have been put forward to Ifab by stakeholders in the game to tackle “on-field issues” and form part of what it calls its “Play Fair strategy”, which has three aims of:

  • improving player behaviour and increasing respect
  • increasing playing time
  • increasing fairness and attractiveness

Part of the problem the new document highlights is that a 90-minute match has fewer than 60 minutes of playing time because of stoppages and time-wasting.

Which plans need no law changes?

The document has put forward a number of radical ideas for discussion, but suggests some proposals can be implemented immediately without the need for law changes.

Most of these apply to trying to combat time-wasting. The document says match officials should be stricter on the rule which allows keepers to hold the ball for six seconds and be more stringent when calculating additional time.

Additionally, it suggests match officials stop their watch:

  • from a penalty being awarded to the spot-kick being taken
  • from a goal being scored until the match resumes from the kick-off
  • from asking an injured player if he requires treatment to play restarting
  • from the referee showing a yellow or red card to play resuming
  • from the signal of a substitution to play restarting
  • from a referee starting to pace a free-kick to when it is taken

Which plans are ready for testing?

Some of the proposals are already being tested. The idea of only allowing captains to speak to referees – to prevent match officials being mobbed – will be trialled at this summer’s Confederations Cup, which starts on Saturday.

Another proposal involves changing the order of kick-taking in penalty shoot-outs, known as ‘ABBA’. It is similar to a tie-break in tennis, with team A taking the first kick, then team B taking two, then team A taking two. That is a change from the traditional ‘team A, team B, team A, team B’ pattern.

New suggestions also include players who are being substituted leaving at the closest part of the touchline to them instead of at the halfway line.

Which ideas are up for discussion?

This is where it gets interesting. One of the proposals would allow being able to dribble straight from a free-kick to “encourage attacking play as the player who is fouled can stop the ball and then immediately continue their dribble/attacking move”. Other measures include:

  • passing to yourself at a free-kick, corner and goal-kick
  • a stadium clock which stops and starts along with the referee’s watch
  • allowing the goal-kick to be taken even if the ball is moving
  • a goal-kick being taken on the same side that the ball went out on
  • a “clearer and more consistent definition” of handball
  • a player who scores a goal or stops a goal with his hands gets a red card
  • a keeper who handles a backpass or throw-in from a team-mate concedes a penalty
  • the referee can award a goal if a player stops a goal being scored by handling on or close to the goal-line
  • referees can only blow for half-time or full-time when the ball goes out of play
  • a penalty kick is either scored or missed/saved and players cannot follow up to score to stop encroachment into the penalty area

Who has come up with these proposals?

Ifab is made up of Fifa and the four British home football associations – of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and is responsible for making the final decision on law changes.

Former English referee David Elleray is Ifab’s technical director and has overseen the document.

“Referees, players, coaches and fans all agree that improving player behaviour and respect for all participants and especially match officials, increasing playing time and the game’s fairness and attractiveness must be football’s main priority,” he said.

The next stage would involve the ideas being discussed at various meetings before decisions are taken on whether to develop them further or discard them.

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