Soccer

IFAB Laws of the Game 2021-22: What’s New and What’s Needed

IFAB Laws of the Game 2021-22; Image credit: @TheIFAB Twitter

Soccer, like all sports, is constantly evolving. Therefore, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) Laws of the Game need to, as well. So let’s take a look at a couple of tweaks made to the governing rules and regulations for the 2021-22 season, and also explore some areas that are ripe for improvement.

IFAB Laws: What’s New

LAW 12 (Fouls and Misconduct): “Accidental handball by a team-mate immediately before a goal is scored or which creates a goal-scoring opportunity are no longer offences.”

This is a significant shift and will hopefully mean more goals in the Premier League. Last season, a number of goals were disallowed for accidental (inconsequential) handballs, which revealed a double standard: goals (or goal scoring opportunities) prevented with the hand/arm were sometimes ruled fair play, whereas goals (and opportunities) created with the hand/arm were chalked off for “handball”. It seems a bit of common sense has prevailed in this case. Although, the rules still disallow goals scored as a direct result of accidental handball.

LAW 11 (Offside): “(For offside) The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered. For the purposes of determining offside, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.”

IFAB has made sure to distinguish between the “bottom of the armpit” and the “bottom of the shirt-sleeve”. The latter was the border between “handball” and “no handball” last season. Maybe they realized the more baggy-clothed players had an advantage when it came to the acceptable area of their “shoulders”.

IFAB Laws: What’s Needed

Goalie-style throw-ins

Last season, Hector Bellerin committed at least four foul throw-ins. Setting aside how unacceptable that is for a professional, there should be more freedom for players to throw the ball in however they like. Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, agrees (in principle). Last year, he proposed that, near the end of a game, teams should be able to kick the ball back in play from within their own half. While that seems extreme, players should be able to restart play from a throw-in the same way a goalie releases the ball – sidearm or underarm. After all, a throw-in should be an advantage, so why not make it one?  

Goalies should have more lee-way on penalties

During a West Ham game last season, Lukasz Fabianski saved a penalty. However, VAR ruled that his foot was a millimeter off the goal-line before the kick, so the ball went back on the spot. Former goalie Petr Cech – now Technical Director at Chelsea – took to Instagram afterwards with a bone to pick. While penalty kicks are to the kicker’s advantage by design, the current rules are overly burdensome towards goalies. Give goalies a ‘zone’ to operate within, not just a line to stand on. 

Continuous play during substitutions, except in the case of an injury

The flow of a soccer game should not depend on the time a player takes to leave the field. Yes, the rules now instruct substituted players to leave at the closest exit point, but still, in order to limit gamesmanship and time-wasting, play should continue as one player leaves the pitch and the substitute comes on. Referees do their best to allow for added time when a substitution occurs, but coaches still use “tactical” substitutions near the end of games to waste time. I’m sorry, but don’t tell me “that’s just part of the game” – it’s not.

What do you think of the IFAB clarifications? Any aspect of the game you’d like to see amended? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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