Like many of you, I endured the Swansea game and upon it’s conclusion I felt a mixture of resignation and anger at a range of people.

So this morning, during my morning constitutional, I started to think about how I would change football for the better if I were to become dictator of football at FIFA.

I know the head of FIFA isn’t all powerful and decisions have to go through a committee, this was why I stated ‘dictator’ of football. I could just impost my will and starting from next season I would implement the following changes in all top flight leagues, European and international tournaments.

MATCH RULES

  • A match would consist of 40 minutes each way with a 20 minute half time pause. There would be an official timekeeper who stops the clock when the ball goes out of play for a throw in, corner, etc.
    Sky used to display statistics that regularly said that during a game the ball is in play for only about 65 minutes of a 90 minute game. This is because of time waiting for a player to take a throw, goal kick, corner, etc. This would end the majority of time wasting.
  • Deliberate, cynical fouls by a defending player anywhere in his own half will result in a straight red card.
    How many times has a player deliberately fouled an attacker to break up an attack? Be it on the wing or in the middle of the field it still denies the attacking team a goal scoring opportunity. Sometimes it might be a 3 on 1 situation, 3 on 2 or whatever. So a situation we saw against Swansea where Lorente deliberately pushed over Townsend on the right hand side of the 18 yard box to stop him crossing the ball would see him sent off, not just given a yellow card. It is unacceptable and it is a professional foul.
  • No offside when the ball is played from the attacking teams half.
    If a keeper catches a corner he can immediately kick the ball to an attacking player in the opposition half even if he is between the last defender and the goal. This is to promote faster attacking play and catch teams out.
  • No offside from a free kick anywhere on the field.
    When any team has a free kick they can pack the opposition box without fear of being caught offside. This is to make a foul more of a penalty in the middle of the pitch.
  • A goalkeeper can be challenged if he does not have two feet on the ground.
    We’ve all seen the goal by Andy Gray for Everton against Watford in the cup final, right? Well, if a goalkeeper jumps and claims the ball it can be headed out of his hands all the time he does not have two feet on the floor. Goalkeepers have been protected for too long. Body checking or barging is not allowed but if they are in the air an attacker can legitimately challenge for the ball and head it out of his hands.
  • No obstruction rule for goalkeepers.
    Usually if a goalkeeper’s path to a cross is blocked he is usually awarded a free kick for obstruction. Doing away with this rule in conjunction with the previous rule change will increase the spectacle. Life’s tough!
  • Any holding of the shirt or body parts of any kind results in a penalty.
    The players should not be holding on to a player regardless and should be heavily penalised.
  • If a goalkeeper is sent off the substitute goalkeeper can not be brought on.
    I know it might not be fair but they should be more careful!
  • There will be four linesmen referee’s assistants.
    We’ve all been at a game where the referee’s assistant is on one side of the pitch and misses a lot of naughties by players on the other side. Even if it is only to check the player is taking the corner correctly, the game is rich enough to have a further two assistants to help keep an eye on things.
  • The referee will no longer be on the pitch.
    The referee will sit in the stand to watch the action with access to instant replays. There will be an official on the pitch but just to issue the referee’s instructions and decisions.
  • Each team will have two appeals each half, similar to tennis and cricket.
    Each manager can request a review of the incident to be made through the fourth official who will signal for the game to be stopped at a suitable moment.
  • Any player proved to have dived, play acted or any other form of ‘gamesmanship’ will receive a TEN match ban.
    Subject to video review even if no complaint has been received from the referee or a team the player will receive disciplinary action. The authorities need to take their heads out of the sand.

FA CUP

  • Replays to be scrapped. Games to be settled by a penalty shootout after 30 minutes of extra time.
  • Semi-finals to be played at a neutral venue as near as possible of equal distance between the two teams.
  • All gate receipts to be split 50-50 between the two teams.
  • Winner awarded a UEFA Cup place. Runner up awarded place if winner qualifies for Europe by other means.

LEAGUE CUP

  • Away goals no longer count double in the semi-final. Games level on aggregate will be decided by a penalty shootout.
  • Winner awarded a UEFA Cup place. Runner up awarded place if winner qualifies for Europe by other means.
  • All gate receipts to be split 50-50 between the two teams.

PREMIER LEAGUE

  • The top four teams qualify for the Champions League.
  • Positions 5, 6, 7 & 8 qualify for the UEFA Cup.
  • A squad will comprise of 25 players plus 3 goalkeepers, aged 21 or over on January 1st of that year.
  • A team can loan out no more than 10 players at any one time.
  • A team can loan in no more than 2 players eligible for foreign nationalities.
  • A team can loan in up to 5 players eligible for the England national team.

LEAGUE SYSTEM (General)

  • The English league system will comprise of 5 divisions with 20 teams in each division.
  • The season will begin on the first Saturday in August and end on the first Saturday in May.
  • The teams finishing in positions 1, 2 & 3 in any division are promoted to the tier above.
  • The teams finishing in positions 18, 19 & 20 in any division are relegated to the tier below.
  • The teams finishing in positions 4, 5 & 6 will enter into a play-off competition with the team finishing 17th in the tier above.
  • Transfer windows will be from June 1st to July 30th and January 1st to January 31st.
  • Loan transfer windows will be from August 1st to August 31st and February 1st to February 28th.
  • A team receiving 30 yellow cards in a season will lose 1 point for every further yellow card and 3 points for a straight red card.
  • All leagues will have a winter break from the Monday after the first Saturday in January until the first Saturday in February, usually 3 weeks. This is to incorporate southern hemisphere tournaments such as the African Cup of Nations.
  • Teams will have a minimum of 3 days between games plus 1 day for travelling to or from a game if further away than 150 miles. In the event of two away games a total of 5 days is required between games.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

  • The current system will remain in place but there will be no seeded teams.
  • All gate receipts to be split 50-50 between the two teams.
  • Knock-out ties to be decided by away goals in the event of scores being level on aggregate.
  • A squad will comprise of 25 players plus 3 goalkeepers, aged 21 or over on January 1st of that year.

UEFA CUP

  • Number of teams expanded from 156 total (in all stages from qualfication rounds to group) to 256 in total.
  • Straight knock-out competition, ties played home and away.
  • Knock-out ties to be decided by away goals in the event of scores being level on aggregate.
  • No seeded teams.
  • All gate receipts to be split 50-50 between the two teams.
  • A squad will comprise of 25 players plus 3 goalkeepers, aged 21 or over on January 1st of that year.

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • All 55 UEFA nations attend the finals meaning no qualification games.
  • Finals held every 2 years instead of the current 4 years.
  • First round is 32 games requiring 64 teams. As there are only 55 teams in UEFA, the top 9 European nations teams will be given a bye to the 2nd round.
  • No seeded teams.

WORLD CUP

  • Qualifications and finals held every 2 years instead of the current 4 years.
  • No seeded teams.

INTERNATIONAL (General)

  • A player is eligible for a country by birth or if he has lived in his country for a minimum of 5 years while under 21 years of age. In other words, a Brazilian born player who moved to England when he was 23 could not declare for England when he is 28 years of age but he could if he moved to England when he was 15.
  • Players can no longer be eligible for a country through parents or grandparents.
  • Once a player has played for a country after signing a professional contract he can not change the country he represents. Typically a professional contract is signed at 17 years of age.

FANS, STADIA, ETC

  • Stands behind each goal are designated ‘safe standing’ areas and equipped accordingly.
  • An away ticket price is capped at £20 if the team is more than 50 miles away otherwise the ticket price is capped at £30. The difference is subsidised by the away team if the supporter is a member of an official away fan club.
  • Safe standing tickets capped at £40 and seats capped at £50 though clubs are encouraged to offer tickets below this price.
  • Loyalty schemes should be in operation meaning the more games you attend the higher priority you get for tickets. For example, 1 point for a home game and 2 points for an away game of up to 50 miles away but 3 for a game of over 50 miles away.
  • Each match day ticket should be linked to a ID card to prohibit tickets being bought and sold on. Instead a ticket refund system should be in place by the club for unwanted tickets.
  • If the temperature exceeds 30 degrees, free water should be provided by way of water dispensers on the concourse or stewards.
  • If the temperature is zero degrees or lower, free tea or soup should be offered.

This is a pretty comprehensive overhaul of the game and while most have been thought through some would require a better mind than I possess to make it work.

At the end of the day we are customers of the football club and should be catered for in the same way any other large event is organised. Could you imagine a music festival ignoring people standing in the heat? Or an outdoor winter concert letting the people attending freeze?

I doubt anything on this list will happen but you never know. Last season Leicester City regularly gave things to fans be it a free doughnut and a beer to t-shirts. If they can do it in the US at their sports events why can’t we?

This article was first published in The Eagles Beak on 10th January 2017.

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