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Football heads towards a stopped clock system

Can you imagine football played with a stopped clock, i.e. with a set time and no room for time wasting? The option is on the table and will be studied and debated at next weekend’s IFAB meeting in London.

The debate was opened by Gianni Infantino in the face of clamorous time-wasting and the FIFA president wants to curb what he sees as a blight on modern football.

The measures to be adopted will not be immediate, but they are already on the table and it is no surprise that from 2024 football matches will no longer be 90 minutes long, nor will offside be the same as it has been up to now. Everything will be discussed and both issues are already on the table for those who change and modify the rules of football.

The rule that will come into force, from 30 June, is to include goal celebrations in added time, in other words, not to allow those parties that are held on the pitch and that go beyond a minute or a minute and a half. The world of football needs fewer time-outs and FIFA is concerned about this.

The theory of benefiting the striker on the offside issue has already been discussed at previous IFAB (FIFA’s refereeing body) meetings. Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s director of football development, is one of those in favour of the change and suggests that the striker should be enabled with the last part of his body in line with the defender, making it possible for him to be in front of the defender, but with part of his body in line. For the moment, it is under review.

For next season

Some of the rules that will come into force for the 2023-24 season deal with something that happened in the recent World Cup, such as goals scored when substitutes creep onto the pitch. Until now, they have to be disallowed, something that did not happen at the World Cup, but the IFAB considers that if they are not involved in the goal, the situation does not justify disallowing the goal, although the players who were on the pitch can be cautioned.

It will be insisted that all teams must always have a captain with a distinctive armband on the field of play. The fourth official will be able to assist the referee in the same way as the other match officials on the field.

From next July, goal celebrations, often considered excessive in many cases, will become part of added time, something that has been ignored until now. Referees are obliged to make it clear who is cautioned in the dugouts, just as the coach cannot be cautioned for something that happens in the technical area without being identified.

The anti-Emi Martinez rule will also come into force, as the goalkeeper will not be allowed to distract the penalty taker, for example by delaying the penalty or touching the goalposts, the crossbar or the goal net.

A player is not considered to be in an offside position when he receives the ball from an opponent who deliberately played the ball, i.e. when a player has control of the ball with the opportunity to:

  • pass to a teammate
  • gain possession of the ball; or
  • clear the ball

The following criteria should be used as indicators that a player had control of the ball and, as a result, can be considered to have deliberately played the ball:

  • The ball came from a distance and the player had a clear view of the ball.
  • The ball was not moving quickly
  • The direction of the ball was not unexpected
  • The player had time to co-ordinate his body movement, i.e. it was not a case of instinctive stretching or jumping, or a movement that achieved limited contact/control
  • A ball moving on the ground is easier to play than a ball in the air

A defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission is considered to be on the goal line or touch line. An attacking player may step or remain off the field of play so as not to be involved in active play.

If the player re-enters from the goal line and becomes involved in play before the next stoppage in play (…) the player is considered to be standing on the goal line for offside purposes.