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Opinion

Shove your blue cards where the sun doesn't shine, football - the game is already over-officiated

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Expert
13th February, 2024
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Barring a stunning 180-degree change of course, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is soon to implement its sin bin trial protocols, potentially eroding the purity and simplicity of football even further than what has been achieved under the VAR regime.

The upcoming change will see blue cards awarded to players for dissent or tactical fouls, and the final wording and details around the initiative were due to be presented this coming Friday, yet have now been delayed until next month.

It appears the IFAB annual general meeting to be held in early March will provide the time and space required to iron out perceived imperfections with the new protocols, the precise wording of them, and the all-important manner in how officials will interpret them on the pitch in the heat of battle.

For anyone uninitiated in the game of football, or someone who may have arrived from Mars in recent days, the game has two cards at the disposal of referees.

Should a player commit a rather aggressive or serious foul, the official can brandish a yellow card if he or she deems it fitting. If a player commits a series of minor offences, the same punishment can be administered to them, once the decision maker has had enough of their antics.

When a second yellow card is shown to an already-carded individual, the player is then greeted with a red one from the same pocket and dismissed from the field immediately. In extreme circumstances, a footballer is jettisoned from the playing surface in one fell swoop with what is termed a ‘straight red’, for what is deemed to be a nasty foul and one deserving of an early shower.

It is astonishingly straightforward. Five-year-olds can understand the concept fairly quickly when it is explained to them.

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And despite obvious conjecture among fans; all biased and completely one-eyed in their opinions, the system has worked pretty well in recent times around the globe, especially with referees seemingly keener than ever to open up the game and punish cart-horse defenders for cynical play.

Goals per game statistics are in a healthy state in most major leagues around the world, with the A-League a perfect example of negative play being disciplined consistently and the fans getting better value for money in terms of goals on the board and the associated entertainment.

It does seem frightfully logical to suggest that the expansion to include another card and create a three-tiered system, will do little more than lessen clarity for referees, incite further infuriation in fans and cause many football fans to ask, “If it deserves a blue card, why not just give them a yellow”?

Instead, referees will now be placed in a position in which they are forced to decide whether the infringement they have just witnessed deserves a blue card and what looks likely to be a short period in the “sin bin”, or one better reprimanded by a traditional yellow card.

Goodness me, it all sounds a little too much like the discussion around the “natural silhouette” and the subsequently absurd interpretations made by referees all around the world in relation to the body position of defenders in the box when it comes to handball decisions.

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The officials are the victims in a strange game where perfection is attempted but never reached and the frailties of humans are a consistent reminder as to why AI is a dangerous path to tread.

Yellow cards have consequences, always have and hopefully always will. The player is immediately put on notice and a little more cautious in future challenges whilst walking the tightrope.

A collection of cards sees matches missed and the double booking of players has seen many a team lose thanks to being down to ten and the culprit living in a world of guilt for the week that follows.

It sounds like IFAB are heading down a water polo way of thinking, planning to dish out blue cards for minor or professional infringements, and benching players for short periods as punishment.

Frankly, watching the odd game of water polo, it comes across as something of a farce, where players use professional tactics knowing their teammates can hang on for a few minutes in desperation before they return to the water themselves.

Football does not need that and never will.

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In essence, yellow cards will become blues, reds will become yellows and the idea of dismissing a player for a serious infringement is far less likely in the minds of officials. The more layers created, the more extreme the top tier becomes and that is simply psychology 101.

VAR annoys everyone bar the strangest person in the room; the time wasted and over-analysis grows ever frustrating. Adding a further card to the collection in an official’s pocket threatens to further enrage football fans who long for the purity of the game and the simplicity of it to be returned.

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Somehow, the writing appears to be on the wall and the blue cards seem inevitable. I hope I am wrong, but it simply looks like another dopey move from the powers at be.

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