Soccer is truly the world’s game. Yet, the rules for all organized soccer are set by an anachronistic body made up of 8 members. Have you seen a picture of them? They look more like the Royal and Ancient organization that administers the rules of golf rather than the guiding board for the world’s most dynamic and popular sport. Four members are from the so-called “Home Nations” of England, N. Ireland, Scotland and Wales; FIFA has 4 representatives. Six votes are required to make any changes to the laws.
Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, recognized that six votes – some from countries with tenuous soccer credentials – make a mockery of true representation for the 250 million active players in about 200 countries. At the FIFA congress last year, the composition of IFAB was discussed, particularly regarding the possible broadening of its membership — for example, including representatives from countries that managed to qualify for international tournaments.
Blatter’s attempts to add “greater democracy and transparency” to soccer’s rule making body were stymied by IFAB. Instead of facilitating greater representation of voting members, IFAB applied cosmetic changes that added a wider role for consultation, but essentially maintained the current undemocratic voting structure.
Like a snooty viceroy who stubbornly defends his imperialistic imperatives because he supposedly knows what’s best for his minions, IFAB refused to transition into the modern world of soccer. Instead, they resisted revisions that would have broadened voting rights and representation in soccer’s rule-making enclave lest the newly enfranchised colonists outside the Home Nations get a bit too uppity. They were quite sneaky, too, diverting attention from their self-preservation instincts by proposing the addition of two advisory panels: a Technical Panel and Football Panel. Crucially, the panels have no voting rights but serve only as consultative bodies with membership from far-flung dominions empowered to serve solely at the discretion of IFAB.
And this is where the process gets insidious: Faced with an uproar over the so-called “triple punishment” rule (where a player is red-carded, banned from participation in the next match, and, if the denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity occurred in the penalty box, concedes a penalty), IFAB — in effect — ran to the corner flag to dilly and dally. Perhaps in an effort to assert their hegemony over their eager new panels, IFAB ignominiously referred the most contentious rule in world soccer to them for further discussion. But rarely has a soccer rule been discussed by so many people until they’re blue in the face. Rarely has there been such empirically-based consensus to undo a rule that had dubious origins.