7 Rule Changes That Would Actually Improve the Game

As a lifelong player, fan, and referee, I obviously love soccer. I do not, however, find it faultless. So while FIFA continues to toy with the Laws of the Game, here are a few suggested rule changes to make this beautiful game of ours even more beautiful.`

Eliminate Yellow Card Accumulation

At the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday had to sit out of the quarterfinals. They had each received two yellow cards in the tournament’s opening four games. Just two. In four games.

A referee’s decision to issue a booking can change like the wind. When a caution is so arbitrary, there’s no reason its effects should linger. By punishing players for yellow accumulation, they’re forced to think about tomorrow, when their focus should be limited to the match at hand.

Enforce the Six-Second Rule

We’ve all seen it. A keeper collects the ball, bounces it a few times, meanders a bit, gets lunch, then finally distributes. Way back in 2012, Abby Wambach famously counted the seconds as Canada’s keeper held onto the ball in that instant-classic Olympic semifinal. This time-wasting is a huge drain on the game, so let’s actually enforce the keeper’s six-second timer. This will speed up the game and produce more play.

Allow for Additional Substitutions

This one is all about player safety. Sports science has come a long way in recent years, and while new concussion protocols are good steps, they don’t go far enough. Allowing more subs will not only keep players healthy but also liven up the game.

Relax Unintentional Handball Penalties

One of the reasons soccer is such an exciting sport is because goals are hard to come by. They’re earned. This is why the new handball guidelines are so egregious. Now an attacking player can simply draw a PK by blasting the ball into a defender’s hand. Good job? Dear FIFA: please undo.

…But Punish Intentional Handballs That Force Calls

A surging strategy in recent years has seen offensive players intentionally grab the ball while going to ground in order to force the referee’s hand. This is clearly unsporting behavior; in any other context, intentionally handling the ball is a yellow. Foul or no, that needs to be the case here.

Punish Injury Faking

Injury faking is perhaps the most infamous part of our game. The sporting world mocks us for it, and not without cause. Therefore, let’s eliminate it. Players who engage in injury exaggeration should be required to come off the field to “recover.” The threat of leaving your team a man down would surely help heal a great many imaginary wounds.

Eliminate the Penalty Spot

Regardless of the quality of the actual chance, if a foul occurs in the penalty area, the result is the same: a kick from the spot. The solution? Penalties should be taken from variable locations based on where the foul occurred, similar to conversion kicks in rugby. They would still be one-on-one – only now the punishment is more fitting to the crime. A sliding scale of distance and angles will make these chances fairer and less certain.

Featured Image: ANDREW YATES/AFP via Getty Images



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