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Protection of referees and time-outs: what the IFAB is planning

The rule-makers of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) met in London on Tuesday for their annual business meeting – and launched various innovations

Under the leadership of Ian Maxwell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association, the International Football Association Board, or IFAB for short, focused on measures “to improve the conduct” of players and officials as well as measures to “increase respect for match officials” at its “ABM” (Annual Business Meeting), according to its own statement.

A proposal formulated in October, for example, according to which only the team captain may address the referee in certain match situations, is supported. Such a rule exists in a similar form in rugby.

It was also agreed that temporary suspensions – including for certain harsh and tactical offenses – should be tested at a higher level, following their successful existence in grassroots soccer. This would give referees more leeway to choose between warnings, cautions (yellow cards) and the harshest punishment, a sending-off in the form of a yellow-red or red card. Protocols and a system are now to be developed for time-limited sending-offs in order to seriously test this possible measure. Leagues or associations must actively register participation in such tests – and participation in the tests is not mandatory.

Collina: “It has worked in the English amateur leagues “

Former world-class referee Pierluigi Collina, head of the FIFA Referees Committee and member of the IFAB Technical Subcommittee, called for the new instrument to be handled as simply as possible after the meeting in London for the introduction of time penalties. “It has worked in the English amateur leagues, but now it’s about a higher level. We need to develop something that works and is worthy of top-level soccer,” said the Italian.

The measures discussed also included “stricter application of the Laws of the Game towards players and coaches who behave disrespectfully” and “better handling of mass confrontations”. Clear procedures are also to be developed for this.

Those present were also informed about the “successful attempt” to equip match officials with body cameras. In the future, these could be an effective tool across the board – especially in lower leagues – “to deter serious misconduct towards match officials” and at the same time to collect records for any subsequent negotiations.

Development of semi-automatic offside technologies to continue

One block of topics also dealt with the VAR. The members agreed that the development of semi-automatic offside technologies should be continued in order to support the officials on the pitch and speed up decision-making in offside situations. The FIFA experiment in which referees are to communicate the final decision directly to the audience after a VAR review was also deemed successful. A permanent introduction is being examined

The IFAB also discussed potential strategies to reduce time wasting. Among other things, the six-second restriction for goalkeepers, delaying the restart and dealing with injuries were put on the table.

On March 2, it will be decided what will apply from July 1, 2024

A possible rule change also includes handball. In future, this should be handled in the same way as fouls that lead to penalties.

The next Annual General Meeting will take place on March 2, 2024 in Glasgow, “at which all proposed changes to the Laws of the Game will be submitted for approval”. Any changes that are then given the green light “will be incorporated into the Laws of the Game from July 1, 2024”, the IFAB announced.

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