KEIR RADNEDGE in CARDIFF: Dummying, hesitating or feinting in taking a penalty is outlawed definitively in a major revision of the laws of association football.
The Herculaean task has been undertaken by a panel commissioned by the lawmaking International Football Association Board and led by England’s David Elleray, the former FIFA referee and Harrow schoolmaster.
The original 12 laws – not rules! – were enshrined in December 1863 after a stormy meeting of the newly-created Football Association. A variety of changes and piecemeal interpretations led to a first major revision in the late 1930s by Sir Stanley Rous, then secretary of the FA.
A further revision was undertaken in 1997 to delete some irrelevant paragraphs and insert further clarifications.
Since then the lawbook, as governed by the International Football Association Board, has expanded to a 144-page volume split into two. Section one, a mere 48 pages, covers the now-17 laws. A second section of a further 87 pages deals with interpretations and clarifications.
In practical terms the lawbook itself has been sliced back from 22,622 words to 12,300 by editing, refining, simplifying and striking out contradictions while the separate sections of laws and interpretations have been brought together on the same page(s).
The 18-month-long, word-by-word analysis also revealed a string of anomalies and lack of clarity which hindered match officials in matching the laws with a need to referee to the spirit of the game.
Most glaring example concerns the taking of penalties.
Elleray said that a penalty-taker who hesitates in his run-up, tricking the goalkeeper into diving one way and leaving an open goal, was considered cheating. From June 1 the referee can penalise the trick by awarding an indirect free-kick to the defending side and a yellow card to the player.
On the other hand goalkeepers should now incur a yellow card for stepping off their line too early. Elleray noted: “Goalkeepers are getting away with too much.”
Explaining the project Elleray said: “The game has changed down the years. The ball has changed, boots have changed but have the laws kept pace with modern football?”
His answer was a resounding No.
The lawbook is now gender neutral, players injured by a yellow or red-card foul may now be treated on the pitch to address a fair-play anomaly.
The first laws of the game were based on two earlier frameworks. One comprised the Cambridge Rules of 1846. The authors were two undergradates, John Charles Thring and Henry de Winton. In 1862 Thring, now a master of Uppingham School, produced a further set of laws for what he defined as The Simplest Game.*
A year later came the formation of the Football Association at the Freemason’s Tavern, in London’s Great Queen Street. A stormy meeting in December 1863 led to the approval of the original eight laws of the game. Two proposed laws – permitted handling of the ball and hacking – were scrapped.
IFAB was created to control the laws in 1886 with its membership comprising two representatives from each of the FAs of the four British home nations: the Football Association, Scottish Football Association, Football Association of Wales and Irish Football Association (now responsible for the game in Northern Ireland).
Two representatives from FIFA were admitted in 1913. Now the four home nations each have one vote and FIFA has four votes, representing the rest of the world. Approval for a change in the laws demands a three-quarters majority: ie, six votes.