VAR, sin bins and protecting referees: Every major law change discussed at IFAB meeting

Referee Simon Hooper views the VAR monitor before sending off Curtis Jones of Livrpool during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 30, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) discussed a range of issues surrounding the laws of the game at a meeting on Tuesday, with a view to implementing them full-time in football in the UK.

Focussing on how officials use VAR, implementing sin bins for cynical fouls and how to best protect referees in the game, IFAB proposed changes to the laws of the game, which will now undergo a trial period as the game's law-making body looks to "identify which levels are best to test".

Testing of the proposed changes will then be subject to approval at IFAB's annual general meeting on March 2, 2024. But what was discussed? FFT takes a closer look. 

Law changes discussed at IFAB meeting 

West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta is shown a yellow card in a Premier League game at Bournemouth in August 2023.

There might be a different card colour next season (Image credit: Getty Images)

As part of an effort to increase respect for officials, a proposed trial where only the captain of a team is allowed to approach the referee has been given the green light. This is part of an attempt to improve behaviour from players, which in turn leads to officials suffering less abuse. 

Players falling foul of that law change could subsequently receive a sin bin, whereby their dissent is punished by leaving the pitch for ten minutes. But that's not the only thing sin bins are being introduced for. 

Specific tactical offences, or cynical fouls, will also receive a sin bin after IFAB indicated yellow cards weren't a harsh enough punishment, but red cards went too far. 

"I think [there is] frustration for fans watching games when they see a promising counter-attack that's ruined by that [a tactical foul]," FA CEO Mark Bullingham said.

"The question of whether a yellow card is sufficient for that has led to us looking at whether that should be involved in the protocol as well. The starting point was looking at player behaviour and dissent - we're then looking at whether we should extend it into other areas, such as tactical fouls, as well."

Sin bins have been implemented at grassroots level since 2019, and will be trialled in the professional game between now and March.

VAR inevitably cropped up, too, with IFAB suggesting that authorities should look at extending VAR's power to cover free-kicks, corners and second yellow cards. It did acknowledge, however, that this shouldn't result in any additional delays during games.

The VAR screen checking a possible offside for a Luis Diaz goal between Liverpool and Tottenham in September 2023, which was wrongly disallowed following a VAR mix-up.

VAR could be handed more responsibility  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Currently, a VAR working group established by FIFA is looking at whether those operating the technology should have greater responsibilities. 

Another proposal focuses on something first seen at the Women's World Cup, whereby referees announced their final decision after a VAR review. Referees sent to the monitor in Australia and New Zealand would be heard around the stadium stating what their final decision was. 

IFAB also highlighted that semi-automated offside decisions are subject for approval in March, which would help speed up the process and further assist officials. 

Finally, there could be potential clarifications for next season's laws, with Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) set to make handball offences for penalties sanctioned in the same way that fouls currently are. 

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