FIFA’s rules can be confusing and complicated

Errol Sweeney (Supplied)
Errol Sweeney (Supplied)

Johannesburg - The FIFA Laws of the Game are designed to ensure that a football match proceeds within certain boundaries, and that it flows as smoothly as possible.

Ever since the game was created in the late 19th century, it has grown in leaps and bounds, culminating in the formation of FIFA in 1904. It is now regarded as the greatest game on the planet and was nicknamed “the beautiful game” by one of the most prolific scorers in history - Pelé from Brazil.

Now and again, so-called experts are brought in to tweak the laws of the world’s governing body of soccer, but sometimes these tweaks are puzzling.

I have been dealing with some of them in the past couple of weeks, but I discover more every time I delve into the book. Some are altogether very confusing.

I think I’ll start with Law 1: The Field of Play and move forward.

There isn’t much here. Teams are now allowed to put logos/emblems on the corner flags during playing time. The other great advance is the introduction of goal-line technology, which indicates to the referee whether the ball has crossed over the line between the posts and under the crossbar.

Remember the occasion in the 1966 World Cup final when the ball hit the crossbar, then bounced down and out? There was confusion at the time about whether it had crossed the line or not. The Russian assistant (they used to be called linesmen) was adamant that it did and the goal was allowed.

Law 3 deals with players and substitutions.

The question of return substitutions has been discussed for some time. It is now allowed “subject to the agreement of the national football association, confederation or FIFA”. They state that it is allowed only in “youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football”.

The issue of a player changing places with the goalkeeper without the referee’s permission is also a sticky one.

The law says that the referee will allow play to continue. He will then caution both players when the ball is next out of play, but not if the change occurred during half-time (including extra time), or the period between the end of the match and the start of extra time and/or kicks from the penalty mark.

Here’s what it says about a player being outside the field of play: If a player who requires the referee’s permission to re-enter the field of play re-enters without the referee’s permission, the referee must:

. Stop play (not immediately if the player does not interfere with play or a match official or if the advantage can be applied); and

. Caution the player for entering the field of play without permission.

If the referee stops play, it must be restarted:

. With a direct free kick from the position of the interference; and

. With an indirect free kick from the position of the ball when play was stopped if there was no interference.

A player who crosses a boundary line as part of a playing movement does not commit an offence.

Then there’s the rule about a goal scored with an extra person on the field of play.

If, after a goal is scored, the referee realises, before play restarts, that an extra person was on the field of play when the goal was scored, the referee must disallow the goal if the extra person was a player, substitute, substituted player, sent off player or team official of the team that scored the goal; play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position of the extra person.

I’ll continue with the next set of changes next week and in future weeks.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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