Referees could soon temporarily halt matches and issue “cooling off periods” to combat hostility on the pitch. According to a recent report by The Times, the proposed rule change is part of an upcoming International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting. IFAB helps set official rules for soccer.

The introduction of cooling-off periods would potentially stop games to separate feuding players. Match officials would place the players into different areas in an attempt to de-escalate tense situations. Exactly how long these cooling-off periods would last is yet to be determined.

Premier League cooling periods are sin bin alternative

The idea is somewhat similar to previous attempts to introduce sin bins into the sport. IFAB recently approved trials for the rule change during a meeting back in the fall. Assuming the trials go well, sin bins could be implemented in soccer around the globe. Nevertheless, the idea cannot officially go into effect until the annual business meeting (ABM) takes place in March.

Sin bins have worked in rugby for decades now. Although the sport of soccer may tweak rugby’s use of sin bins, referees force offenders off of the pitch for a determined amount of time. It is like a temporary red card. Previous trials in England have seen culprits go to the sidelines for 10 minutes.

Top soccer officials appear determined to deal with dissent within the game. IFAB’s agenda for the upcoming meeting focuses on “improving participant behavior.” This includes players, coaches and fans in the stands.

Mark Bullingham, Football Association’s chief executive and IFAB member, previously hinted at changes to curb player and coach defiance as well. “The areas we are looking at are dissent and tactical fouls,” Bullingham claimed back in November.

“There’s a real frustration for fans when they’re watching games when they see a promising counter-attack that’s ruined by that sort of foul. We asked if a yellow card is sufficient punishment for that and don’t believe it is.”

Lawmakers should address more constructive issues in soccer

Nevertheless, there is also already fan frustration during matches for stoppages involving VAR reviews. A previous poll released last summer claimed that 79% of all Premier League match-going fans did not like the experience of VAR. This undoubtedly comes down to confusion inside stadiums during video reviews, as well as how long it takes for many VAR checks to take.

The potential introduction of cooling-off periods would only add to these breaks in play. As a result, a majority of fans will not be in favor of the possible rule introduction.

Instead of focusing so much on player behavior, IFAB should address more constructive issues in the game. This includes adjusting the confusing and subjective handball rule.

However, the only handball rule change currently on the agenda at the upcoming meeting is for a specific violation. Officials want players who deliberately handle the ball inside the penalty area to automatically receive a red card. However, this would not exactly address the drastically different opinions of many referees on the handball rule itself.