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A Change to The Penalty Law – Triple Punishment to be Reviewed

red card

A striker is through on goal and hares into the penalty area with just the keeper to beat.   The last covering defender though has a chance to make a last ditch tackle and prevent the striker from getting a shot off; they take a chance and dive in. The tackle is mistimed and instead of making a clean challenge the defender fouls the striker. The referee spots the infringement and has little option but to award a penalty and send off the offender. The punishment doesn’t end there, as the player who committed the foul would also be suspended for the following game.

The triple whammy for penalties may soon become a thing of the past according to a report the Independent. IFAB will be discussing the topic at the behest of former referee Pierluigi Collina.

Stewart Regan, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, said that the group would broach the issue next year.

“This will come back in March and there will be a recommendation for change. There are two ends of the spectrum. Either you reduce the automatic suspension or you adopt a more technical solution whereby the 18-yard box is deemed a special area and that denying a goal scoring opportunity becomes a yellow card since a penalty is awarded anyway.”

The fact that the law will be amended is something to be welcomed but which of the two options mentioned by Regan is the better one?

Reducing the automatic suspension makes sense. The punishment, it can be argued, should only hit the offending team in just that game itself.

Treating the 18-yard box as a ‘special area’ is an interesting idea. However the penalty box should only be treated as a ‘special area’ when dealing with fouls where there is only genuine intent at challenging for the ball.

One hopes that IFAB when discussing the will still allow referees to punish cynical fouls or in more extreme cases violent conduct.

The desire to introduce the professional foul into the laws of the football stemmed from an incident in the 1980 FA Cup final between West Ham United and Arsenal. West Ham was one-nil up with three minutes to go when Paul Allen was set clean through on goal with the opportunity to put the Hammers two to the good. Arsenal’s Willie Young had other ideas and cynically took him down. Under the laws at the time the most the referee, George Courtney, could do to punish Young was give him a yellow card.

In the 1982/83 season, the Football League introduced a mandatory red for a professional foul. The practice was adopted by FIFA in 1990 and IFAB officially included into the laws of the game in 1997.

Crucially, the law it its current iteration does not allow the referee to take intent into consideration. Therefore it does not distinguish between cynical play and honest attempts at making a fair challenge.

If IFAB does alter the law, with respect to penalty decisions at least, then it is a welcome move. However whilst provisions should be made to limit the punishment of players who attempt to make honest challenges there must still be scope for the referees to fully punish cynical and serious foul play.

That may lead to referees having to interpret incidents thus adding another factor to their decision making process and making their job more difficult. Players on the other hand may feel empowered to dive in believing that the worst they could see is yellow. There really is no perfect solution.

Whatever the decision the current law seems unduly harsh as it effectively penalizes a single foul three times. Relaxing the law may not solve all ills but at least it’ll redress the balance a little so that the punishment truly fits the crime.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. James Marcus

    April 1, 2022 at 12:15 am

    Appears to me assuming you have that kind of venture, you should be comfortable with the laws of the game. These individuals didn’t have the foggiest idea what establishes a legitimate toss. In the course of my life, footy will ALWAYS be the
    ‘next large thing’ in the states.

  2. yespage

    December 2, 2014 at 11:25 am

    The player with the ball doesn’t have to be in the penalty box for a last man foul to lead to a send off.

    Besides, how often is this even an issue in the penalty box?

    • Marc

      December 2, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Maybe that’s where the change will be? Foul in the box.

    • Flyvanescence

      December 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      The Man City v Barcelona game in February. (Although Demichelis’ foul on Messi was outside the box, the penalty was given anyway.)

  3. Marc

    December 2, 2014 at 8:27 am

    I reffed a game this past fall where an attacker beat the trap and was alone with the goalie. The goalie came rushing out of the 18. The attacker dinked the ball past the goalie and the goalie took the attacker out. I gave a straight red to the goalie. The clueless coach had no idea why I showed the red since it was only an “accident.” I calmly tried to explain. He called me a liar. I showed him a yellow. He didn’t shut up. I showed him a second yellow, then red. Loved it.

    • jtm371

      December 2, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Spot on good calls.

    • rkujay

      December 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      In the early 80’s when my son and I reffed matches, I put off fan ignorance to a lack of exposure in the U.S. to football. Last year when my grandson who plays in a (then) U9 select travel team, I found the same lack of knowledge. I was aghast, knowing that my daughter pays hundreds of dollars for him to play, and even more for him to travel.
      Seems to me if you have that sort of investment, you might want to be familiar with the laws of the game. These people did not know what constitutes a legal throw. In my lifetime, footy will ALWAYS be the
      ‘next big thing’ in the states.

    • Brian

      December 3, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      Marc,
      I used to be a referee, but I retired a few years ago. I was at a youth tournament and the abuse from the players, coaches and parent’s finally got to me that I it was no longer worth my time to keep doing this.

      Please correct me if I am wrong with this, but I thought that they only people you can show are card to are either the 11 players on the pitch or those on the bench. The coach/manager can be given a warning or “sent off” the field and no card is shown. You would then include this incident in your match report.

      Thanks.

      • Marc

        December 4, 2014 at 8:47 am

        Brian, I was reffing a high school varsity level game. For some reason high school, National Federation of High School, use different rules then Fifa. I also ump baseball and the same goes there. One rule, they just changed a few years ago, was if a player got a second yellow you show a yellow and red together. The player is sent off but the team did not have to play short handed. Thank god they changed that rule. All cards given to bench personal is given to the coach for not controlling his bench. Yes the parents can get to you. Everything to them is a hand ball or a push.In the same week I showed that red I kicked a parent out. Cheers.

        • Brian

          December 4, 2014 at 11:33 pm

          Marc,
          Thanks for the reply. Those good old high school rules different than FIFA also drove me nuts, too. In the state I live, we don’t use 3 man crews for matches, it was only two (one for each half of the field). Having two whistles on the field was supper confusing not to mention tying to spot offside infractions.

          BTW, the youth tournament parents were way worse than the high school ones.

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