The Blind Hammer Column

Blind Hammer looks at next season’s rule changes

Given the continued global popularity of football it is strange that governing bodies seem constantly obsessed with rule tinkering.

Despite football not being broke they are determined to fix it. The rules have continually changed, from the abolition of the back pass to the introduction of vanishing spray.

There is, however, an unusual mixed bag of welcome and unwelcome rule changes coming next season.

The most trailed change is to the handball rule. This will come in two parts.

The first change affects attackers whilst the second relates to defenders.

Attackers will now concede free kicks after unintentionally handling the ball. Yet, confusingly this will only happen in certain situation. The new rules will only apply if goals are scored or created with the use of an accidental handball. The goal will be ruled out and instead a free kick awarded. This will happen even if the handball was an unavoidable deflection or ricochet. Accidental handball will not, though, attract a Yellow Card.

Given this change relates solely to unintentional handball, it is difficult to see how this will amend any attacker’s behaviour. Intentional handball will still be punished.

This seems rather pointless to me. The whole point of a rule is, surely, to amend behaviour and prevent cheating. The only result of this change will be the ruling out of some possibly spectacular goals if there is the slightest inadvertent touch by an arm or hand. The game should encourage and not discourage goals.

In contract the second, more welcome, change will require Defenders to amend behaviour.

The International FA Board (IFAB) has introduced the concept of “silhouette”. This is intended to deter the practice of defenders spreading or raising their arms into unnatural positions to block the ball from close quarters”.

In future, Defenders will be expected to keep their arms in a natural silhouette by their sides. If the player’s arms extend beyond a “natural silhouette”, handball will be adjudged,, even if it is perceived as accidental.

In theory the rule change is also intended to reassure players that they do not need to hide their hands at free kicks. Despite this, I expect that many coaches will still demand this.

This second change, as opposed to punishing unwitting attackers, should be welcomed as it will make defenders much more cautious in deploying unfair blocking tactics.

Further rule changes are similarly a mixed bag.

Attacking players will, rightly, find it harder to pull and disrupt defensive walls as they will be required to stand a yard away from their opponents.

Bafflingly though the IFAB have decided to allow goalkeepers an extra advantage at penalty kicks by permitting them to advance, as long as they retain one foot on their goal line.

Presumably the IFAB have decided they want to see fewer goals and more penalty saves. Yet the whole drama of a current penalty save is that it is achieved with all the odds stacked against the keeper. This rule change smacks of bureaucrats with too much time on their hands.

Disappointingly the IFAB have not taken the opportunity to address the real outstanding issue, that of cynical fouling. Cynical fouling is what I describe as the deliberate use of a foul to prevent a team breaking away. This foul is committed, even if not in your own half, to protect a high press. . Teams have consistently used this tactic to prevent exposure from loss of possession. A yellow card is readily conceded and is described as “taking one for the team”. The IFAB should consider extending Red cards to these cynical fouls. Alternatively a Yellow Card could be retained as present but an extra sanction of advancing the resultant free kick to anywhere on the D of the penalty box could provide an additional deterrence.

In any case, VAR is likely to magnify the impact of these changes. West ham will have to prepare, during pre-season, drilling changes in tactics to take account of silhouette rules with their defensive units in particular.

David Griffith