Sunday, 4 February 2007

The Laws Association Football

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 - 2 Plymouth Argyle

In 1863 the FA adopted 14 rules in order to regulate the game of football. These 14 basic rules became the Laws of soccer and were*:

1. The maximum pitch length is 200yds, maximum breadth 100yds, marked with corner posts and a goal defined by posts 8 yds apart
2. The game shall commence with a placed kick from the centre at which opposing players shall not be within 10 yds. After a goal the losing side shall kick off
3. The two sides change ends after each goal
4. A goal is scored when the ball passes between the posts (without being thrown, knocked or carried over)
5. When the ball is in touch the first player to touch the ball shall throw it at right angles back onto the pitch from the point at which the ball left the field.
6. A player is out of play is he is in front of the ball
7. If the ball passes the goal line, if the first player to touch the ball is of the defending team he shall restart with a kick 10 yds from the goal line; if he is of the attacking team, 15 yds from the goal line, opposite where the ball left play
8. If a player makes a fair catch (when the ball is caught after it was last touched by an opponant), he can claim a free kick provided he makes a mark with his heel immediately.
9. A player can run toward his opponant's goal if he makes a fair catch or catches the ball after the first bounce
10. Players may defend their goal from the attacking player controlling the ball by charging, hacking, holding, tripping or wrestling but hold holding and hacking at the same time
11. Tripping or hacking are not permitted, neither is using his hands, elbows to push or hold (except for circumstances in Law 10)
12. Any player shall be allowed to charge if they are both active
13. A player can throw the ball if he makes a fair catch or catches the ball after the first bounce
14. No player shall wear protecting nails, iron plates, or latex in his boots

Today some of those rules seem bizarre. Obviously all handling of the ball has now been outlawed, changing ends now only occurs at the beginning of each half and what happens when the ball is in touch, but the foundations of today's Laws are visable.

Today's Laws, on the face of it, have only increased by 4 to 18. And I would think that most people agree with them (such as a more definitive way of who takes the throw in, and the more recent blooded players leaving and changing kits) But each Law is no longer a single small paragraph, all of them incurring several paragraphs of explaination and running to several pages. So have the FA et al gone too far?

Take the recent offside changes. The offside rule was introduced to stop 'goal mouth sitting' - as seen in schools where players wait by the keeper waiting for a pass - and most people would agree that this is good. The rule was changed recently to allow more goals, as it was felt the Offside was too strict. The trouble is that now many supporters (and some assistant referees) are no longer able to follow the players' movements on the pitch close enough to decide whether they are active or passive.

But then again, should the Laws be changed again. Would introducing things such as video replays and mic'ed referees assist the game? Certainly having referees being more accountable for their actions would help, for example the awarding of a free kick that led to the Wolves' equaliser and Sinclair's yellow for diving when he tripped. Likewise at times when both the referee and assistants are uncertain, the use of video replay would be advantageous. After all they both work in rugby and there is only a short break of play.

Never the less, the main root of these troubles is the supporters inability to conenct with what they are seeing on the pitch. With falling attendances, people need to feel more connected with what is happening - whether it be a change in Laws to make them more simple, or a change to add more communication.

*these have been précised

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