Football’s lawmakers have delayed plans to publish details of sin-bin trials – which were expected to include the introduction of blue cards – at higher levels of football until next month.
Trial protocols on sin-bins, plus other measures to combat poor player behaviour, were expected to be published on Friday, but it is understood they will now be the subject of further discussion at the International Football Association Board (IFAB]’s annual general meeting at Loch Lomond on March 2.
IFAB has chosen to delay the publication of the proposals to allow more time for discussion.
Sin-bins have been used in grassroots football successfully for a number of years but IFAB indicated at its annual business meeting in November a willingness to test them at higher levels.
It is understood that in these planned trials players would be shown blue cards for dissent and tactical fouls, such as Giorgio Chiellini’s cynical tug on Bukayo Saka for Italy against England in the Euro 2020 final.
The introduction of a blue card, if it passed into the laws of the game, would mark the biggest single change in managing player discipline since red and yellow cards came into force at the 1970 World Cup.
It is understood the plan was not to test sin-bins in top-level competitions initially but to stress test them in lower-level events.
This is understood to be because of concerns about the impact on players coping with different rules being used in a domestic league and a continental competition, for instance.
It is unclear precisely what level IFAB had in mind for these trials but certainly a higher level than the grassroots game.
The agenda for next month’s AGM – published earlier this week – confirmed discussions would be held on the trials approved at November’s ABM for sin-bins, captain-only zones around referees and the testing of cooling-off periods as a means for managing mass confrontations.
There is also due to be a discussion around a new trial on how best to tackle the problem of goalkeepers holding on to the ball for too long.
FIFA posted on X on Thursday night to say that reports around the use of blue cards in elite football were “incorrect and premature”.
The global governing body added: “Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on March 2.”
Sin-bins were introduced across all levels of grassroots football from the 2019/20 season in an attempt to improve levels of respect and fair play in the game.
The rule change was implemented up to step five of the National League system and tier three and below in women’s football.
‘Blue card provides more opportunities to fail’ – Managers react
Managers had their say on the potential introduction of blue cards on Friday – and were less than enthusiastic.
Jurgen Klopp argued: “The introduction of a new card would just give more opportunities to fail because the discussion then would be, ‘should it have been a blue card, or a yellow card?’
“It does not sound like a fantastic idea but I can’t remember when the last fantastic idea came from these guys, [or] if they ever had one.”
Mauricio Pochettino echoed Klopp’s thoughts, saying: “I think it is going to create more divides, be more complicated to the referees, the players and the fans. My feeling now is that it’s not a good idea but we’ll see what happens.
“Give it an opportunity to see how it works and after to have a better idea about how they want to apply it during the game.
Ange Postecoglou: “One team being down to 10 men for 10 minutes, you know what it’s going to do to our game? It’s going to destroy it, mate.
“You’re going to have one team just sitting there trying to waste time for 10 minutes waiting for a guy to come on.
“Every other sport is trying to declutter. All we’re trying to do is go the other way for some bizarre reason.”
Mikel Arteta said the tests need to be rigorous before blue cards are introduced into the elite game, saying: “I don’t know if we’re going to get there. We’ve got a lot going on now with decisions, with technology – I don’t know if we’re ready for that yet!
“Hopefully it’s going to be tested very, very well before it’s introduced at this level.”
Jonas Eidevall suggested the lack of application of the rule preventing goalkeepers from holding the ball for more than six seconds was a bigger issue, saying: “There is one rule in football that takes time into account as a consequence at the moment – it’s the amount of time that the goalkeeper can control the ball with his or her hands. That’s very clearly stipulated in the law of the game that it needs to be six seconds.
“If you see how that law is followed by the referees, I think that there’s room for improvement.”
Brendan Rodgers joked the introduction of a blue card would cause additional problems in Scotland, with the Celtic boss saying: “As soon as I saw it I thought ‘I work in Scotland so I’m sure they better have a green card as well as a blue one or we might be in trouble’.
“Just don’t complicate it. Just make a decision whether it’s a red, yellow or no card. We don’t need a blue card up here, that’s for sure.”
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