Reform soccer’s rules

Richard Epstein over at Forbes offered up some interesting potential rule changes that might make soccer a better game. I like soccer. By far the best part of it is that there aren’t any commercials and you can do other things while you’re watching it, because everyone else in the room will start oohhing like a vuvuzela chorus as soon as something interesting will happen. And it’s the only competitive international team sport that anyone cares about. But I’m with Richard as far as changing the rules go. Today’s soccer rules are appropriate for 19th century high school games – they’re simple, easy to enforce with few refs and assume ties don’t matter much. For the World Cup, it doesn’t cut it. Here’s what I would add:

–          Fines for flopping. Soccer players treat every bump like they’re Romeo and they’ve just swallowed the poison. Even worse is when they see they’ve lost the ball and just fall the ground hoping for a foul. The rolling around crying in pain is pathetic and, in the era of instant replay, hopelessly obvious. Hard to solve in-game without more refs (see below), but just start video reviews after games, with fouls for obvious fakes. The NBA does this with assigning flagrant foul fines. Start low and increase for each infraction. Cherry on top: start a hall of shame on the FIFA website with the worst flops of the week.

–          More refs. Did you know there’s only one referee on the field? Blew my mind. Yeah, sure, there are the guys running around the sidelines, and the guy who holds up the substitution sign, but for the most part its one guy running around the field. When there’s a corner, there’s like, what, 20 people around the box? Is he really going to see every jersey that gets tugged? Tennis has more refs than football. Tennis! For something like the World Cup, at least stick one ref in each half of the field, and then have another one near each goal to monitor what’s happening in the box.

–          Stop penalty kicks determining ties. It’s like deciding baseball ties by playing tee-ball. Penalty kicks just aren’t that representative of soccer. I quite like Richard’s suggestion of taking players of the field every 5 minutes, but here’s another option: take a page out of college (American) football instead. Just let each team run set plays until someone scores. I don’t know if trading corners would be fair (if you watched the Chile-Switzerland game you’ll know what I mean), but just set the ball at the top of the box, and the first unmatched goal wins, with clearing the ball past midfield switching the ball to the other side.

–          Instant replay. I’m writing this while watching England-Germany, and, well, that’s all I really need to say.

–          No more instant penalty kicks on fouls in the box. I get the point of it – you don’t want fouls in the box. But it’s had the opposite effect. Refs are (oh, wait, that should say, “the ref is”) loathe to give a free point on a foul that they’re not sure about, so they don’t call anything in the box unless it’s ridiculously flagrant. Compare fouls by the offensive team versus fouls by the defensive team; I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re talking orders of magnitude. Defenders take major advantage of this fact.

Richard Epstein over at Forbes offered up some interesting potential rule changes that might make soccer a better game. I like soccer. By far the best part of it is that there aren’t any commercials and you can do other things while you’re watching it, because everyone else in the room will start oohhing like a vuvuzela chorus as soon as something interesting will happen. And it’s the only competitive international team sport that anyone cares about. But I’m with Richard as far as changing the rules go. Today’s soccer rules are appropriate for 19th century high school games – they’re simple, easy to enforce with few refs and assume ties don’t matter much. For the World Cup, it doesn’t cut it. Here’s what I would add.

Fines for flopping. Soccer players treat every bump like they’re Romeo and they’ve just swallowed the poison. Even worse is when they see they’ve lost the ball and just fall the ground hoping for a foul. The rolling around crying in pain is pathetic and, in the era of instant replay, hopelessly obvious. Hard to solve in-game without more refs (see below), but just start video reviews after games, with fouls for obvious fakes. The NBA does this with assigning flagrant foul fines. Start low and increase for each infraction. Cherry on top: start a hall of shame on the FIFA website with the worst flops of the week.

More refs. Did you know there’s only one referee on the field? Blew my mind. Yeah, sure, there are the guys running around the sidelines, and the guy who holds up the substitution sign, but for the most part its one guy running around the field. When there’s a corner, there’s like, what, 20 people around the box? Is he really going to see every jersey that gets tugged? Tennis has more refs than football. Tennis! For something like the World Cup, at least stick one ref in each half of the field, and then have another one near each goal to monitor what’s happening in the box.

Stop penalty kicks determining ties. It’s like deciding baseball ties by playing tee-ball. Penalty kicks just aren’t that representative of soccer. I quite like Richard’s suggestion of taking players of the field every 5 minutes, but here’s another option: take a page out of college (American) football instead. Just let each team run set plays until someone scores. I don’t know if trading corners would be fair (if you watched the Chile-Switzerland game you’ll know what I mean), but just set the ball at the top of the box, and the first unmatched goal wins, with clearing the ball past midfield switching the ball to the other side.

Instant replay. I’m writing this while watching England-Germany, and talk about a travesty.

No more instant penalty kicks on fouls in the box. I get the point of it – you don’t want fouls in the box. But it’s had the opposite effect. Refs are loathe to give a free point on a foul that they’re not sure about, so they don’t call anything in the box unless it’s ridiculously flagrant. Compare fouls by the offensive team versus fouls by the defensive team; I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re talking orders of magnitude. Defenders take major advantage of this fact.

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  1. 1 What about bad refereeing makes soccer “human”? « Joint Stock Company Trackback on June 28, 2010 at 10:58 am

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