Sunday Morning Scribe: Growing With the Times

Harold Cunningham

As a sport that can trace its closest relatives back to the end of the middle ages, and whose full ancestry spans a couple millennia, modern day football's in need of some updating.

I've been mulling over the plight of the beautiful game, and the ravages of aging that have taken some of the bloom off her. In short, the one-time bella donna could really do with a facelift as she totters along into the 21st century.

But help is indeed at hand. I've compiled some ideas on how the modern game could be tweaked and adjusted in order to put a fresher face on the sport that's so steadfastly resisted virtually all suggestions for improvement for far too long.

Now, I can't claim the proposed changes below to be altogether new, nor can I claim them as my own. Nonetheless, they're all suggestions worth throwing out there in the hope of generating some discussion - and perhaps some impetus for the blue-haired grande dame - all swollen knuckles and wrinkled dark stockings - to take some heed, and get with the times.

SUBSTITUTIONS

There have been a number of proposals put forth over the decades relating to substitution, as a system of limited substitution particularly arcane. Factoring out goalkeepers, seven of the ten outfield players are going to be nearing their limits as the match wears on, and a tired player is one more susceptible to serious injury. For that reason alone, there's an argument to be made for changing the system. Suggestions include:

  • Increasing the available substitutions from three to five.
  • Introducing a system of on-the-fly substitution, with subbed off players allowed to return to play later. Teams would be allowed to sub only one player at a time, and only through 4th official.
  • Not counting any first-half substitutions against substitution limits. As virtually all substitutions in the first half relate to injured players who cannot continue, these are essentially involuntary substitutions and ought not to count against the substitution limit. Players coming off in the first half would not be allowed to return to action.
CARDS
  • All yellow card infractions result in 10-minute power play in addition to a FK. Card accumulation rules still apply.
  • All red card offenses (not including 2nd-yellows) result in a PK regardless of where the offense takes place on the pitch.
OFFSIDES
  • Institute a fixed offside line that functions in exactly the same way as it does in hockey. Ball must cross first; once inside the attacking area, and the play is onside, players may receive passes in any area without being adjudged as "offside". Location of this line is up for discussion.
REPLAY TECHNOLOGY
  • Allow each team one replay appeal per match - to be used only on plays involving disputed goals. The referee is given one minute maximum to review the play.

    If a goal has been awarded, and is subsequently overturned after review, a goal kick is given. If a goal is not awarded, but a coach wishes to appeal, a review takes place as soon as the ball next goes out of touch, or the referee otherwise stops play. If a goal is subsequently awarded (or confirmed as no goal), play resumes from the spot of the throw-in, goal kick, or free kick when play last stopped.

These are just some cursory ideas for discussion, and are clearly open for refinement or rejection. What do you think? Could the game use a facelift, or do you love it - age spots and all?

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