ZURICH: Marco Van Basten, old Holland and Milan hero has revived a string of ideas junked after consideration to ‘popularise’ football in the United States around 40 years ago writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

As if to prove that there is nothing new under the football sun, FIFA’s newly-appointed technical director talked up scrapping offside, the introduction of sin bins, more substitutes, eight-second ‘shootouts’ instead of post-match penalties, splitting the game into four quartests and setting a cap on the number of matches footballers can play in a season.

Short of proposing extra points for kicking the ball over the bar and extra padding to prevent injuries, Van Basten appeared to want the convert association football into American football.

The idea of four quarters (as per gridiron) was suggested by the then FIFA president Joao Havelange in the 1970s and 1980s as a means to guarantee ‘advertising slots’ in television coverage of football matches in the US. It was never taken up.

Early days of the North American Soccer League also saw the short-lived use of time-limit shootout duels between forward and goalkeeper to decide drawn matches as well as an ‘offside line’ to stretch out the game; this was scrapped after it was deemed to have encouraged negative rather than creative tactics.

In interviews with the international media, Van Basten said: “We must keep looking for ways to improve the game – to make it more honest, more dynamic, more interesting, so that what we offer is attractive enough.

“There are lots of variations which need to be tested in the coming years.”

Van Basten thought abolishing offside rule would mean an end to games which “resemble handball where nine players, plus the goalkeeper, pack the penalty area and [the defence] is like a wall.”

Sin bin ‘fear’

He also considered that a sin bin would prove a greater deterrent than the yellow card system. He said: “That would frighten teams. It is hard to play 10 against 11, let alone with eight or nine.”

Van Basten also suggested the introduction of a ‘real time’ rule for the closing stages to try to prevent teams running the clock down with feigned injuries, substitutions, minor fouls etc.

He said: “The spectators want to see action, goals, tackles. The longer a substitution or free kicks or the treatment of an injured player takes, the more playing time is lost. We have to watch that carefully.

“That’s why we’re also discussing turning the final 10 minutes into a period of ‘effective playing time.’ In every second, the ball has to move. Because if a team leads they will try everything to waste time, for instance through substitutions.”