The idea of referees issuing blue cards for cynical fouls and dissent has proven to be wildly unpopular, prompting football lawmakers IFAB to delay their announcement
Football’s lawmakers have pushed back their announcement of blue cards after being caught off guard by the strength of the backlash.
News leaked on Thursday that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) were about to announce the introduction of blue cards, which would mean 10-minute sin bins for dissent and cynical fouls. The idea has been slammed left, right and centre, with fans, managers and pundits believing it would only succeed in making the laws more complicated.
That reaction has prompted IFAB to row back from their original announcement on Friday. Instead, they will discuss the topic further at their annual general meeting in Loch Lomond, Scotland next month before weighing up the next move.
A statement from FIFA read: “FIFA wishes to clarify that reports of the so-called ‘blue card’ at elite levels of football are incorrect and premature. Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on 2 March.”
While there has been a vociferous reaction over the past day, the idea itself is not new at all. Sin bins were piloted by the Football Association in the 2018/19 season across 31 leagues and returned promising results, with a 38 per cent reduction in dissent.
If approved, the next stage of the process will see a trial at higher-level football, but it would take a long time to reach the elite game at Premier League level. Even if everything progresses as fast as possible, the 2026/27 season would be the earliest it could enter the Laws of the Game.
Sin bins were approved by IFAB back in November alongside trials of a captain-only zone, cooling-off periods and further punishment for goalkeepers wasting time. Blue cards are designed to distinguish between fouls which currently fall between a yellow and red card, like a cynical foul to stop a promising counter-attack. “I think [there is] frustration for fans watching games when they see a promising counter-attack that’s ruined by that [a tactical foul],” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham has said.
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“The question of whether a yellow card is sufficient for that has led to us looking at whether that should be involved in the protocol as well. The starting point was looking at player behaviour and dissent – we’re then looking at whether we should extend it into other areas, such as tactical fouls, as well.”
There is understood to be little appetite for such changes at the top of the game, but the FA could decide to trial the idea in competitions such as the Women’s Super League and the FA Cup. Yet the furious reaction to the idea on Thursday means they are unlikely to push ahead.
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