This may seem cynical, but it appears the operations of IFAB are founded in self-preservation rather than the good of the game — considering that attempts to add a “greater democracy and transparency” were stymied by diversionary tactics. Instead of greater representation of voting members, IFAB essentially maintained the current undemocratic voting structure. Then, they craftily reinforced the pretense at democratization by delegating consideration of the most invidious rule in competitive soccer to a bunch of neophyte consultants.
Cynicism is what apparently entangles the old IFAB fuddy-duddies in analysis paralysis. But how much discussion is needed to remedy the travesty of automatic red cards for players who deny so-called obvious goal scoring opportunities? We know what soccer was like before issuing red cards for such offenses – it is not unchartered territory.
Actually, soccer was very exciting before the imposition of this rule. Imposition is the right word, too, as it was controversial, and hardly met with universal approval when instituted. But, the Football League, despite much consternation from stakeholders, insisted on making professional fouls red card offenses and instructed referees to apply this rule in the 1982-83 season. In 1990, FIFA instructed referees to send players off for professional fouls in the 1990 World Cup. Then, in 1991, IFAB added the “denying obvious goal scoring opportunity” provisions as red-card offenses; provision was incorporated in the law in 1997.
So, undoing this arduous, potentially game-ruining rule would not be like entering a dark void of unintended consequence – been there, done that. This undermines IFAB’s contention that: “You don’t have to change things for change’s sake,” as their English FA General Secretary Alex Horne stated.
Another IFAB member, Stewart Regan, said “We don’t want to flip back to where we were before where some goalkeepers knew that if they could not be sent off, they would simply take out the attacker.”
Why not, especially when “where we were before” is better than where we are now, the latter being ushered in by what was contemporaneously considered an ill-conceived rule by many?
By the way, in a contact sport like soccer, what exactly is obvious is subjective, and that’s oxymoronic. Fouls are part of the game, and full-blooded vigor and gut-busting determination often rally a team, provoke players and rile up supporters in otherwise dull encounters. If a slow defender is still capable of producing a foul to thwart a breakaway, then perhaps the attacker is not fast enough, and the goal scoring opportunity is not so obvious.