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60-minute games, penalties for handling back passes; IFAB introduces proposals to change football rules

Will we no longer see stoppage time in football?

New football rules 60 minute clock backpass goalkeeper penalty
Will this spell the end for stoppage time in football?

What’s the story?

Among many of the proposals introduced by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), one of them includes reducing the duration of the match to just 60 minutes. The clock would be stopped every time the ball goes out of play instead of allowing the seconds to tick by and allowing players to waste time. 

“Many people are very frustrated that a typical 90-minute match has fewer than 60 minutes of effective playing time i.e. when the ball is in play,” a spokesperson from IFAB said. “The strategy proposes measures to reduce time-wasting and speed up the game.”

Other proposals included awarding a penalty to the opposing team if the goalkeeper handles a back pass and awarding a penalty goal for handball offences on the goal line. Other rules that they want to change include new penalty laws where if a penalty is missed then a goal kick is taken, effectively saying that there would be no second chance for teammates to score from the rebound. 

In case you didn’t know...

A football match has been 90 minutes long since time immemorial and it is one of the rules that has been considered sacrosanct in the modern game. A start-stop clock is used in games such as basketball where the clock is stopped every time the ball goes out of play, a player is fouled, when a player takes free throws or a substitution is made. This ensures that each quarter is exactly 12 minutes long with the clock stopped for the aforementioned events. 

On the other hand, the existing backpass rule came into effect in 1992. Prior to the introduction of the rule, defenders in trouble used to pass the ball back to goalkeepers who would hold the ball, leading to very dull and boring encounters. Until now, an indirect free-kick inside the box had been awarded if any goalkeeper handled a back pass. 

The heart of the matter

According to IFAB, some of their proposals were ready for implementation immediately with no change required to the laws of the game. However, they were ready to test other proposals before actually implementing them worldwide – much like the Video Assistant Referees (VAR) was successfully used to check for offsides in friendly matches and the U-20 World Cup

Also read: Video replays help Spain in 2-0 win over France as two offside decisions are overturned

“You could say that it is a quiet revolution aimed at getting football even better,” said IFAB technical director David Elleray. “My starting point was to look at the laws and say 'what are they for?' and if there is no particular reason then would changing them make the game better.”

Video: VAR rules out goal for offside

Author’s take

Football has evolved in the past few decades and a number of rules have been changed for improving the game – such as the introduction of the offside law and the backpass rule. They not only made the game more entertaining but also improved tactics and the overall skills of footballers worldwide. 

With that in mind, the penalty for handling a back pass makes the game more challenging for goalkeepers and defenders. It forces players to improve their decision-making and skills on the ball. 

However, the 60-minute start-stop clock seems like a step too far. While it works in basketball, it is not guaranteed to work in football. The game thrives on continuity and the unpredictability of an unlikely stoppage-time winner. Buzzer beaters work in basketball because it takes only a couple of seconds to score at the other end but on a football pitch, it is better if a referee allows one final throw of the dice to get the ball upfield and score. 

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