English Premier League sets new standards

SEEING RED No-nonsense English referee Mark Clattenburg shows Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker a red card last season. It will be interesting to see how the strict whistle-man will apply the stringent new rules. Picture: Adam Davy
SEEING RED No-nonsense English referee Mark Clattenburg shows Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker a red card last season. It will be interesting to see how the strict whistle-man will apply the stringent new rules. Picture: Adam Davy

We will start, like all football matches, with the kickoff. Beginning this season, which kicked off yesterday, the ball no longer needs to go forward at the commencement of play, meaning only one player needs to be standing over the ball.

While it is unlikely to have a direct effect on the result of matches, one-man kickoffs quickly became the norm at Euro 2016 and the pattern will probably continue into the Premier League.

It will be interesting to see whether teams are able to use the new law tactically, possibly looking to launch attacks directly from the kickoff with the extra man available.

The exact wording of the rule indicates that the ball can move in any direction from kickoff, as long as it clearly moves – meaning feinted restarts are unlikely to be tolerated by referees.

The next major change sees the introduction of prematch red cards.

What this ultimately means is that the match officials are now allowed to punish offences while the teams warm up before the game, or in the tunnel when the two sides line up to walk on to the pitch.

Moving into the box, we find an end to the much-derided triple punishment law, which saw players automatically red-carded when denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity in the box.

It has been regarded as unfair for some time that defenders were sent off and then suspended, and the goal-scoring chance was reinstated to the attacker in the form of a penalty kick for a single offence in the box.

Now the legislators seem to agree.

From next season, a player will be given a yellow card for committing accidental offences that deny goal-scoring opportunities. But professional fouls, such as intentional hand balls and unnecessarily dangerous tackles, can still lead to a straight sending off.

Remaining in the box, officials will also be taking a harsher stance on penalty takers.

Until now, stopping and other forms of illegal feinting have been punished by forcing the player to retake the kick.

Legislators have now taken this issue to the next step by amending the rule to allow referees to show penalty takers a yellow card and award the defending team an indirect free kick.

The most interesting rule change comes with referees being urged to take a harsher stance on intolerable behaviour from players who react to their decisions on the field.

This refers to the way in which officials are rushed by players every time there is even a slightly contentious decision.

While the issue has been frowned upon for some time, officials have now been told to act with yellow cards being awarded for visibly disrespectful actions and red cards for insults or offensive language.

How severely referees apply this rule, as well as how much support they are given from the media, remains to be seen.

With the way things have been going in recent seasons, if they crack down properly on this issue, it is not unfeasible to imagine a Premier League football match ending with each side having just seven or eight players left on the field.

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