Could 60-minute matches actually be good for Football?

When I saw an article recently saying that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) were investigating reducing matches from the traditional 90 minutes to 60 minutes, my immediate thought was a negative one.  Why on earth would you want the game we all love reduced by a whole 30 minutes!?

However, when I delved into the proposed reforms in more detail, I thought this might not be the worst addition after all.  The Football lawmaking body have put forward a new strategy document designed to address some of the sport’s “dark arts”.

There are several ideas being proposed, but on the surface the change from the traditional 90 minutes appears to be the most radical.  IFAB claim that on average, the ball is only actually in play for two-thirds of a full 90-minute match.  To this end, they are investigating whether the match time should freeze every time there is a stoppage in play.

This for me makes total sense as it would takeaway the “dark art” of running down the clock when your team is winning by the odd goal or holding out for a draw.  In addition to this, it would eradicate the uncertainty of how much time the referee adds on at the end for stoppages.

Officials are often maligned when someone scores in say the sixth minute of injury time after a board has been held up displaying a minimum of four.  This rule change would make the time left transparent to everyone and potentially more dramatic.

I’ve looked at some of the other proposals being put forward and to be honest they are a mixed bag for me.  Some feel like they’ve been lifted straight out of a Rugby rule book!  I have listed them out below with my thoughts on each:

Changing the order of kick-taking in penalty shoot-outs – known as ABBA:

This basically means that Team A take first, followed by two from Team B, then two from Team A and so on.  I think this proposal is totally bonkers.  If you win the toss, you get the choice to go first or second – nothing wrong with that.  Maybe they’ll suggest penalties at each end too, so it is not unfair on one over another!!

Passing to yourself at a free-kick, corner and goal kick:

I can see the benefit of this, although passing to yourself on a goal kick is an interesting one!  Isn’t the ball supposed to leave the area on a goal kick?  Seems like the keeper could be playing Russian Roulette if that rule remains!

A stadium clock which stops and starts along with the referee’s watch:

This pretty much goes hand in hand with the match time reduction to 60 minutes.  However, as a lover of Non-League Football, I don’t think clubs further down the pyramid have been thought about here.  Not every club has the luxury of a stadium clock synced to the referee’s watch!  I think it is a good idea, but would be interested to see how this would work in the lower echelons of the game.

Allowing the goal-kick to be taken even if the ball is moving:

Again makes sense to me.  I find it really frustrating watching play get pulled back for a moving ball, so this one gets another thumbs up.

A goal-kick being taken on the same side that the ball went out on:

Not sure this really matters if the clock stoppage comes into play.  I’m no goalkeeper so their fraternity may put me straight on this, but don’t keepers only choose the furthest corner of the six-yard box to kick from to waste time or is there a benefit to one side over the other!?

A “clearer and more consistent definition” of handball:

Anything in Football that is “black and white” and not open to individual interpretation can only be a good thing.  A “clearer and more consistent definition” of the offside rule would also be useful!!

A player who scores a goal or stops a goal with his hands gets a red card:

Not so sure on this one.  Stopping a goal with your hands (other than the keeper obviously) is a red card anyway, but denying rather than punching one in yourself (provided the officials see it of course) is surely worse than the latter?  It would act as a deterrent though I guess.

A keeper who handles a back pass or throw-in from a team-mate concedes a penalty:

I’m not a fan of this proposal.  The back pass rule can often be a “grey area” when it comes to the ones that are not absolutely clear cut.  A penalty award in this instance would be more costly for a wrong decision than an indirect free-kick.  Maybe an indirect free-kick from 12-yards could be a compromise as those awarded at point blank range seem to have a pretty low conversion rate.

The referee can award a goal if a player stops a goal being scored by handling on or close to the goal line:

The “penalty goal” has come straight out of the Rugby rule book!  For me, penalties add drama to the game.  They make heroes and they make villains!  Just awarding a goal because it was highly likely to happen is a total anti-climax as far as I’m concerned.  I can see the principal, but it takes away the rush of emotion when a goal is scored.

Referees can only blow for half and full time when the ball goes out of play:

Again, another one out of the Rugby rule book!  This does make sense though.  How many times do you see players and fans get the hump when the referee blows up during a promising attack.  A no-brainer.

A penalty kick is either scored or missed/saved and players cannot follow up to score to stop encroachment into the penalty area:

As they say on BGT – “it’s a No from me!”  All the other proposals and ideas seem quite positive, but I don’t really see any benefit other than for the keeper who has to get something behind the ball once.  There must be a better way to handle encroachment!

Overall, I think there is some mileage in a number of these proposals.  I think for the footballing purists, there is always the danger that the game might become something we no longer recognise.  However, if Football evolves in a way that makes it more attractive and entertaining for all involved, then that can only be a good thing.