To recap, there has been a long history of soccer before this rule, and it was a pretty darn good spectacle. Now, we have soccer rivals and governing bodies with frequent diverging opinions in agreement that the rule should be abolished. What is there for IFAB to do? Well, after ignoring outside voices for decades on lesser issues, let’s suddenly relegate this to new advisory panels for further study.
In the meantime, FIFA President Sepp Blatter believes “soccer-sensitive” refs can end the “triple punishment” debate. He said in FIFA’s weekly magazine recently: “By interpreting the laws depending on the situation, referees could put an end once and for all to the vexed discussion about triple punishments. Making these distinctions is the fine art of officiating.”
That’s exactly what we don’t need: more discretion to refs, more subjectivity, even a bit of “fine art;” perish the thought. The only artistry we want is by the players, not refs who are supposed to provide consistent judgment guided by standardized rules.
Sensitive, even flexible and, ahem, “artistic” refs, are not the solution to the “triple punishment” debate. IFAB will get back to us – don’t hold your breath – but in the meantime I wonder how many perfectly competitive and compelling soccer matches will be ripped asunder by a rule originally implemented under dubious support, and not that long ago. A rule that makes ridicule of intriguing match-ups, like Arsenal vs Bayern Munich or Manchester City vs Barcelona, should a goalie so much as brush a darting, already stumbling attacker in the penalty box.