THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Gianni Infantino could alter things to iron out injustices on the pitch

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4 April ~ Now that we have new man at the helm of FIFA, I have a few suggestions for him that might make the game fairer and more attractive. Firstly, officials should no longer to be considered part of the field of play. If a pass hits one of them, play stops and resumes with a dropped ball.

We have all seen promising moves break down because the referee failed to get out of the way of the ball, and though inadvertently, this can sometimes even result in a goal against the team that had the ball. That is not fair. Players who took advantage of this change to waste time by deliberately “passing” to the referee would of course be booked.

All free-kicks to the defending side in their penalty area to be taken from the penalty spot. They are rarely taken from where the offence occurred anyway, and this would prevent teams from gaining any advantage. If penalties are taken from the spot, wherever the offence occurred, why not free-kicks?

In two-legged ties, away goals should only be taken into consideration after extra time. We should do everything we can to ensure that the winning team is the one that scored more goals over the two games, and this would at least increase that possibility.

In two-legged ties where one team is “seeded”, they can choose whether to play the first leg at home or away. I do not see why the seeded team should be forced to play the first leg away when they might not want to. It ought to be a choice, like when you win the toss at cricket. Probably the vast majority would still opt to be at home for the second leg, but some will look at history and see how often the supposedly weaker team grabs a 2-0 lead at home and then hang on to it away.

A fourth substitute to be allowed in extra time. Three substitutes over 90 minutes means on average one every 30 minutes. So it seems logical to allow a fourth if the game is prolonged for a further half hour. A new card to be introduced worth half a yellow and to be used for technical offences such as kicking the ball away or removing one’s shirt after scoring. Two of these cards would equal one yellow, and no player could receive more than two in a game, no team more than six.

This would prevent individual players and teams from committing serial technical offences. It cannot be right that the card issued for taking your shirt off after scoring has the same value as one given for a violent tackle. It is like giving the same punishment for a parking offence and robbery with violence. Offences that do not put opponents at any risk of physical harm should surely receive a lighter “sentence".

Referees to be allowed to take time-wasting into consideration when allocating stoppage time. If the board signals “2 + 4”, it means two minutes of normal stoppage time and four for time-wasting. If the team who have been the victims of the time-wasting score before the four minutes are up and are happy with the result, the game finishes.

Back in September Verona spent much of the second half against Atalanta wasting time, so the referee allocated seven minutes of stoppage time. In the first of these Atalanta scored to make it 1-0. And with the last touch of the ball at the end of the seventh minute Verona equalised. Of course Atalanta were a bit stupid, but I do not think that Verona deserved to have the opportunity to profit from their time-wasting.

So there you are, Mr Infantino. None of these proposed changes to the laws and customs of the game is earth-shattering, but taken together they could improve the spectacle as well as ironing out some injustices. Richard Mason

Photo by Colin McPherson/WSC Photography: A referee’s assistant during Stoke v Valencia in 2012

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