Major rule changes such as 30-minute halves and dribbling from free-kicks are set to be discussed as part of new proposals suggested by the organisation in charge of the Laws of the Game.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), which has jurisdiction over FIFA’s official rulebook, has released a document called ‘Play Fair!’ which aims to complement FIFA’s fair play policies.
Its suggestions are designed to create more respect for match officials and the laws of the game but also increase playing time and the entertainment value of the sport.
The proposals around the length of halves and the taking of free-kicks centre around attempts to increase the amount of time the ball is in play and speed up the pace of games.
IFAB will discuss reducing halves to around 30 minutes, with the clock being stopped any time the ball goes out of play. They claim that although this would reduce the length of matches from 90 minutes to 60 minutes on paper, the ‘effective playing time’ – the time the game is active with the ball in play – would not change and time wasting would be eliminated.
Also to be discussed is a move to allow free-kick takers to take more than one touch, which would allow, for example, a dribbler to immediately resume play after being fouled.
To increase ‘fairness and attractiveness’, IFAB suggest clarifying the handball rule and only blowing the half-time and full-time whistles when the ball has gone out of play.
They will also contemplate making penalty kicks during games the same as in shootouts, with the only outcomes being a goal or a goal-kick to the defending team.
This, IFAB say, would eliminate the problem of players entering the penalty area before the shot is taken in a bid to be first to rebounds, which “annoys people as referees rarely punish them”.
While those changes are only at a stage of being up for discussion, other proposed rule adjustments are defined by IFAB as ‘ready to be tested’ in match situations.
They include allowing defenders to receive goal-kicks within their own penalty area to make it easier to pass the ball out from the back and changing penalty shootouts so that teams take turns to shoot first.
That would mean that after Team A took the first kick, Team B would then take two consecutively before Team A took the fourth shot.
FIFA have 50 per cent of the voting rights on the IFAB board, with the governing bodies of English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish football holding the rest of the power.
Proposed changes require a three-quarter supermajority to pass, which means that FIFA’s support is necessary but not enough on its own for alterations to be imposed.