As a perennially evolving game, big changes are always occurring, and while some of those alterations help make the game more entertaining or ensure it remains healthy, many of them prove controversial with the spectators of the game and split opinion.
FIFA’s decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams is one of the most contentious and significant adjustments to have hit the game for a while, but it seems there are even more to come! While the game’s flagship international tournament is set for an overhaul, FIFA’s chief officer for technical development, Marco van Basten, has said the way the sport itself is played could be altered too.
The former striker has revealed a list of rule changes that FIFA is considering introducing in the build up to the 2026 World Cup, which will be the first tournament to hold 48 teams and 16 groups of three.
The 10 proposed changes that Van Basten described to SportBild offer food for thought and could prove effective, while some others just seem crazy.
Here are five of the latter…
One of the most interesting suggestions Van Basten mentioned is getting rid of the offside rule. The former Ajax and AC Milan star believes the game will be much more entertaining if it was scrapped as it would allow teams to create better chances, using free-kicks as an example.
“I am very curious as to how football would work without offside,” he said. “I fear many people will be against it. I would be in favour of it, because football is increasingly resembling handball: Nine players plus goalkeeper make the penalty area dense, which is like a wall. It is very difficult to get through. All teams rely on the same effective tactics: forming a stable defense.
“Without offside, the strikers could be behind the defenders, which would be much more difficult. If they move far back in front of their goal, the attacker will have more opportunities for distance shots. This would make the game more attractive, the attackers would have better chances, more goals would be scored. That's what the fans want to see. In field hockey, the offside has been abolished, and there are no problems. The teams would also adapt in football.”
An interesting idea put forward is that of replacing extra time and penalties with a kind of take-on challenge. Instead of hitting shots at the keeper from inside the box, players will be given the ball 25 metres from goal and given eight seconds to score. The goalkeeper has to stay inside the box and once he stops a shot, it’s over. Each team gets five attempts.
“This is spectacular for the viewers and interesting for the player,” Van Basten said. “With this idea, he has more possibilities: he can dribble, shoot, wait, and the goalkeeper responds - this is more like a typical playing situation.”
Instead of giving a player a booking for a foul, he will be made to sit on the sidelines for a period of time. As the most frequently booked teams in the Premier League, the likes of Watford, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Manchester United will be sweating over this one.
“That frightens players,” was Van Basten’s reason for supporting the proposal. “It is more difficult with 10 against 11, let alone with eight or nine."
It’s time to make the last 10 minutes of matches entertaining again! FIFA wants to find a way to stop teams from time wasting or slowing down games in order to protect a lead. The suggestion is that from the 80th minute onwards, the ball cannot be stationary for more than 10 seconds. This would nullify the problem caused by teams taking too long to make substitutions or delaying free-kicks in order to hold onto an advantage.
“The spectators want to see action, goals and two teams fighting. The longer a substitution, the execution of a free kick or the treatment of an injured player, the more play time is lost.
“We must be careful about this… when a team scores just before the end of the game, they do everything they can to make time, for example through substitutions.”
Van Basten likes the idea of giving players a maximum number of fouls they are allowed to make in a game. If they break that, they have to leave the field. Having made 44 fouls this season, Paul Pogba will be hoping the plan never comes to fruition.
"I've had the idea that a defender, like in basketball, can only make five fouls and then he has to leave the field."