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Soccer-Rule-making body IFAB to have more room to experiment

Reuters

By Brian Homewood

ZURICH, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Soccer's rule-making body will have more freedom to experiment with proposed changes to rules of the game, such as sin bins, following the reforms which were finalised on Monday, its members said.

However, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) will still maintain its cautious attitude to change, emphasising that the beauty of the sport lies in the simplicity of the rules.

"It will become a little bit more proactive rather than reactive and will have the opportunity to test and pilot different programmes," Jonathan Ford, the chief executive of the FA of Wales, told reporters.

"Historically we have not been very successful in doing that, now we all see a different phase where we will be able to go forth and experiment and see whether they work...and make our decisions."

Ford said that one such suggestion which could be tried was the use of sin bins, where offending players would immediately have to a period out of the game.

"There are many ideas that we have, we just haven't been in a position to been able to pilot them over the course of a year and bring those results back," he said.

Scottish FA general secretary Stewart Regan pointed to a recent experiment with sin bins in Dutch youth football.

"We don't have a control mechanism, this new IFAB will allow pilots like the Dutch sin bin idea to be initiated....and the results fed back for the IFAB to consider," he said.

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The IFAB was founded 127 years ago and remains the guardian of the laws of the game. Four of the eight votes are held by the British national associations, its original founders, with the other belonging to soccer's governing body FIFA.

Under the reforms, two new advisory panels, one representing players and coaches and the other representing referees, will provide suggestions to the eight-man board.

The changes followed criticism that the board was too conservative, British-dominated and lacked transparency.

"This gives 209 associations around the world the opportunity to feed in ideas, we've seen a lot of innovation in football in recent times, but clearly we didn't have a formal consultation process," said Alex Horne, secretary general of the English FA.

"We're widening the consultation through players, managers (and) key individuals who have an interest and expertise in the game.

"This will make us a stronger unit, representing football even better than we have in the past."

"We shouldn't underestimate the simplicity of the laws," he added. "One of the beauties of the game is that the laws are so simple and that's why 127 years of history says the conservative nature of a small body is vital.

"There is so much innovation in and around football and that's a good thing but we need to be very, very careful before we bring that into the laws of the game."

IFAB members added that they would not automatically reject suggestions for the use of video replays to make decisions during matches.

"I think we've got to be open to any suggestions, we're not going to just block certain things but it's got to be well-thought through," said Ford.

"Forty-five minutes of free flowing football is what the sport is all about," added Horne. "If the ball has stayed in play and it's moved on two minutes (before a replay), that can be confusing."

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke warned that video replays could also provide the excuse that sponsors needed to show commercials during matches.

"It will not take long for commercial partners to want a two-minute break," he said. "I wonder if it be nice to watch a football match with three commercial breaks? (Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Justin Palmer)

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