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FIFA Technical Director Marco Van Basten moots scrapping offside and yellow cards in radical proposal

Anirudh Menon
18 Jan 2017, 22:26 IST
Van Basten speaks to reporters in a press conference

What’s the story?

FIFA Technical Director Marco Van Basten has floated a radical, innovative, blueprint for football’s future in which he has mooted a number of changes, including the abolition of offside and the introduction of sin-bins in place of yellow cards.

"We must keep looking for ways to improve the game," Van Basten said in an interview with the German newspaper Sport Bild. "To make it more honest, more dynamic, more interesting, so that what we offer is attractive enough. There are lots of variations which need to be tested in the coming years."

In case you didn’t know...

The Dutch great, former FIFA World Player of the Year and double Ballon d’Or winner, was appointed in September last year to oversee the technical affairs of the world’s most populous game and that includes innovations in technology and refereeing. His authority has already been stamped on the game when FIFA introduced video-assisted decision making in the FIFA Club World Cup held in December.

The heart of the matter

The former AC Milan and Ajax sharpshooter’s recommendations take a direct shot at some of the most fundamental rules of the game as we know it. His reasoning behind abolishing the offside rule is to make it end-to-end games that resemble handball where he says nine players plus the goalkeeper pack the penalty area and the defence is like a wall. 

His argument for ditching yellow cards in favour of sin-bins is that it would “frighten” teams – it’s hard for 10 players to play against 11, so imagine 8 or 9, he asks. 

Apart from these two headline-grabbing suggestions, the others include


Introducing ice-hockey style shootouts instead of Extra time and traditional penalty kicks – In ice-hockey, as it was in 90’s MLS, the ball has to dribbled toward the keeper from the center circle, making the whole shebang a lot more entertaining and unpredictable. Here van Basten suggests football should adopt it, but with the ball being carried forward from 25 yards.

Clamping down on time wasting – self-explanatory, he wants to make sure the last ten minutes is ‘effective’ and they are discussing a number of ways this can be ensured 

Flying substitutions –  Like in basketball where unlimited/rotation based substitutions are in force. But he suggests this be introduced in Youth tournaments as of now - with the caveat being that the ref should always know who is on the pitch - a task that is considerably easier in games like Basketball. 

More than three substitutions – He said that they are discussing ways of seeing more subs can be introduced as he believes that this would ensure a fast paced game from start to finish

Only Captain can speak to the referee – It is an observation that has been made by many, the fact that too many players complain at the refs and harass the poor official in the middle. Van Basten proposes to introduce a system where only the captain can speak to the referee – much like in rugby, where this has been a huge success

Cap on number of fouls – In basketball, anyone who commits more than five personal fouls a game is ejected from the game... you know where this is going by now

8 against 8 on a small field instead of 11 against 11 – this is only for youth tournaments or for games involving senior citizens over 45 

Limit number of mandatory games –  He said that the footballing calendar should reduce the number of games from 80 a season to 50 games at the top level. This, he says, will help top stars like Ronaldo, Messi, and Ibrahimovic, 

What next?

While FIFA will take their own time discussing these changes, seeing them on a pitch anytime soon will be too much to ask for. However, in the near future you may see one or two of these rules being adopted

Sportskeeda’s Take

Many of the rules, while seeming out-of-the-world and unfeasible at the moment, may well ensure the continued success of our beloved game in an era where attention spans are flea-like and constant entertainment is demanded. More than that, some of the suggestions like referee-protection, cap on no. of fouls, and limiting the number of games will only help the game whichever way you look at it.  

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