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Football world divided over plans for controversial new rule

Pundits and fans are outraged at the potential introduction of a sin bin in football.

Pictured referee's showing football players yellow cards
Football’s lawmakers have recommended trialling sin bins in the professional game in an attempt to tackle ref abuse. Image: Getty

The use of sin-bins could soon be introduced into professional football, in a move designed to tackle referee abuse. Football lawmakers have recommended temporary dismissals be trialled in the professional game for offences such as dissent and tactical fouls.

The rule change was backed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) at its annual business meeting in London on Tuesday after it was successfully implemented at the grassroots level in England since 2019. Its introduction would mean that players who receive a yellow card will spend 10 minutes on the sidelines.

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A cynical foul to stop a promising counter-attack that isn't deemed red card worthy is also set to result in a sin bin, much like a professional foul in the NRL that sees a player sit down for 10 minutes as punishment. Whether the proposed trials will be implemented at the Premier League level is yet to be decided, with a call set to be made in March.

Another trial that is set to be introduced at the professional level is the captain being the only player allowed to approach a referee. English football officials are said to be keen on trialing that process after chief refereeing officer, Howard Webb, said more must be done to control player behaviour.

But the new rule changes have caused fierce debate, with some fans and pundits arguing the changes will 'kill the game'. Arsenal great Paul Merson wrote on Sky Sports UK: “So they want to bring in sin bins. Sin bins? Pathetic. In rugby union, you go down to 14 players, the other team's looking at scoring seven to 10 points. It’s a massive advantage. A massive advantage".

"You put someone in the sin bin in football for 10 minutes, you’re killing the game. You'd get 10 players sitting behind the ball the whole time, it'd be the most boring football ever. It's an absolute waste of time, a waste of time."

Push for harsher goalkeeper punishment for time-wasting

Along with the proposed sin bin rule, another recommended law change could see goalkeepers who are ruled to be time-wasting punished with a corner awarded against them. The Law-making International FA Board believe keepers routinely abuse the 'six-second' rule and say steps need to be taken to rectify the issue.

Iconic referee Pierluigi Collina said: "I have seen keepers with the ball in their hand for 10, 15, 20, 25 seconds. That’s not acceptable. The issue was that giving an indirect free-kick inside the box might be considered too harsh a punishment."

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Lewis Dunk of Brighton & Hove Albion talks to Fourth Official, Andy Davies after being shown a red card during the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Brighton & Hove Albion at City Ground on November 25, 2023 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

"But we think we have found a solution. We may consider increasing the time given to the goalkeeper - sometimes six seconds is too little. But then they have to expect this alternative punishment would be given."

To introduce it fairly, lawmakers would also look at extending the period of time keepers are allowed to keep the ball in their hands, extending the timeframe from 6 seconds up to 10 seconds.

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