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Fifa promotes new guidelines to referees for World Cup 2006

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Another big organisation tries its best to find a sensible solution to a rampant problem, and once again they seem to have come up short and out of bloody ideas.

Fifa’s latest initiative aims to promote “proactive refereeing” that aims at protecting the “skillful players” whose safety is paramount.

They have listed several “offenses” committed by players under the heading of “serious foul play”. The wording has bothered a lot of media hacks and raised many questions with bloggers. Let’s look at the list of fouls / situations that the referees have been asked to clamp down on:

Serious Foul Play

  • Lunging (Red card)
  • Elbowing (intentional) (Red card)
  • Elbowing (reckless) (Yellow card)
  • Shirt-pulling (Yellow card)
  • Handball Foul (Yellow or red card according to circumstances)
  • Simulation (certain, not probable) (Yellow card)
  • Shirt removal (Yellow card)

Time Wasting

  • Taking free-kick from wrong place (Yellow card)
  • Taking too long to go off after subbed (Yellow card)
  • Kicking or carrying ball away from free-kick (Yellow card)
  • Wrestling ball at free-kick or after goal scored (Yellow card)
  • Delaying throw-in and handing to team-mate (Yellow card)

To start off with, you have to realise that these are not “NEW” rulese per se – just a reaffirmation of Fifa’s policy to cut down on foul play by being what they have called “proactive”. As part of this initiative these particular fouls have been highlighted, but other than that nothing seriously new is going on.

People have asked about whether “lunging” is an explicit enough wording – they forget that there have been week-long meetings on this report and those have included the referees. Ergo, the refs have had a lot of time to understand and discuss the ideas that were behind it. Debating about the finer points of how lunging is going to be interpreted is like asking if all referees will be equally strict or not. Every ref is different, so is every situation.

Expect the early matches to be messy, as they are at every World Cup. Fifa wants to avoid the accusations that came along with the 2002 World Cup, and they are working hard to prep their referees to get things right.

For example, shirt-pulling in the penalty box will now become a serious area of concern, although my understanding here is that referees will be lenient unless there is an obvious foul – much like before. The aim here is to observe the spirit of the law, which Fifa has tried to imbue the refs with.

Having said that, I’m still against carding players for removing shirts in celebrations. The situation is ridiculous, as made evident in a David Beckham interview in which he talked about how his son wants him to celebrate by taking his shirt off because he does the same at his soccer matches.

Is football really, really supposed to be so prudish? If so every player found swearing should be yellow-carded (there goes Rooney…).

The other part that doesn’t jive with me is Fifa’s intent to protect the skillful players. I’m assuming that this includes players like Reyes (Arsenal) and Robben (Chelsea), and while we’re at it, Ronaldo (Manchester United) as well? Because I count 2 of these 3 as divers (and my non United friends would count Ronaldo as a diver as well). In this case, you have to balance on both ends – stop the ugly fouls while stopping the blatant cheating as well.

Oh well…only 2 days to go.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.