With the Euro tournament in full swing, soccer’s on the brain. Here are some of my suggestions for changing the rules of the game. They aren’t that radical, they’re just some minor tweaks that I think will improve soccer without rendering it unrecognizable.
1. Permit more substitutions. Right now there are three, I say increase it to five– i.e., half of your team’s field players. More substitutions would mitigate the effects of injury, players wouldn’t get worn out as quickly (a growing concern due to the dense club, cup, and international calendars), and the careers of the best players would last longer. Remember back in 1990, watching that old lion Roger Milla coming on for Cameroon the last half-hour and showing the whippersnappers how it’s done? No? Well… it was fun to watch.
2. I hate seeing players fake or exaggerate injuries, I hate the theatrics of fakers grabbing their heads no matter which part of their bodies were “injured,” I hate the stretchers and the magic sponges that miraculously heal the “injuries”– so why not make the faking more costly? Let the referee force a team to substitute “injured” players. If you’re going to flop over in an attempt to waste time or to draw a foul, then I’m going to make your team burn a substitution and get you out of the game. So stop diving.
3. Currently, if a player gets a second yellow card in a game, he is ejected without replacement, so his team plays short. Furthermore, he is automatically disqualified from the next match. I think that big of a punishment scares refs away from throwing second yellows, so it needs to be lightened a bit. A second yellow card should not lead to automatic disqualification from the next match (though you may still want to have punishments for excessive accumulation of yellow cards throughout a season or tournament). I think it’d make the ref more willing to show yellow cards and get hacks out of the game.
4. Currently, goalkeepers cannot use their hands on any ball that has been kicked to them by their teammates, but they can use their hands if the ball was passed with almost any other part of the body. So I can shin, knee, thigh, hip, butt, back, chest, or head the ball back to my keeper and have him pick it up, but my foot somehow gives the ball cooties. I’ve never heard a good reason for this. It’s a silly loophole. Keep it simple: keepers can’t handle the ball on any back-pass.
5. Currently, if a player commits a foul to stop an “obvious goalscoring opportunity” (see Law XII), that player is ejected and a free kick is awarded. If the foul is inside the penalty box, then it results in a penalty kick. Fine. But if the foul is outside the penalty box, it’s just another low-percentage free kick. True, the player gets ejected, but his team can re-group, set up a wall, and will probably stop the goal from being scored. I’d rather have the obvious goalscoring opportunity back. Maybe we’ll keep the red card rule, maybe we’ll ditch it, but a takedown on a breakaway should result in a penalty kick, regardless of where the foul occurred. I’d rather have a high-percentage shot right now than have the other team play short the rest of the game.
6. Keep the goal line judges, or whatever they’re calling the extra refs on the goal lines. You have linesmen positioned on the touchlines to see if the ball goes out of bounds, why not have the same on the goal lines? I think the extra set of eyes on the field will also help keep the players in line.
7. The most confusing part of the game is the offside rule. I’d love to see what would happen if we simply abolished offside or used an offside stripe a la hockey, but the following modifications would probably be acceptable to most folks:
a. Right now the rule is that if any part of the attacker’s body (aside from hands and arms) is nearer to the opponent’s goal line than the second-last defender’s body or the ball, he is in an offside position. I say change that to give the advantage to the attacker: if any part of the attacker’s body is level with any part of the ball or any part of the second-last defender’s body, he is in an onside position. Not sure? Tie goes to the attacker. It’s easier to call than the current rule, and gives the offense a better chance to get behind the defense.
b. Right now the rule is that if an attacker was in an offside position when the ball was played to him, the ref can blow the whistle, even if he’s onside relative to the second-last defender when he receives the ball. Well, the point of the offside rule is to prevent goal-hanging or cherry-picking, right? How is he doing either if he doesn’t get the ball until there are two defenders between him and the goal (i.e., he’s onside)? If an attacker receives a ball while onside relative to the second-last defender, he cannot be called offside. Not sure? Tie goes to the attacker.
I’ll present my more radical proposals tomorrow.
P.S. @Azzurri: Nice of you guys to squeak through! I’m glad it didn’t come down to that BS set of tiebreakers UEFA uses.