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Ifab approves trial to change penalty for time-wasting goalkeepers in next radical plan

Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the FA
Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the FA, says it is 'important to look at these changes and trial them' - Cameron House/PA

Referees will penalise goalkeepers who time-waste by awarding their opponents a corner or throw-in under radical plans drawn up by football’s law-makers.

On the same day proposals to introduce sin-bins to the professional game were shelved following the backlash against blue cards, the International Football Association Board (Ifab) approved trials for what could prove another hugely-contentious change to the way the sport is played.

Testing of the new measure could begin in England as early as next season.

Under the current laws of the game, referees can award an indirect free-kick against keepers who hold on to the ball for more than six seconds, something that is not always enforced.

As part of plans to clamp down on such time-wasting, Ifab wants match officials to be stricter about applying the law but also wants to explore giving keepers an additional two seconds before penalising them.

More controversially, trials approved at its annual general meeting at Loch Lomond on Saturday would see the offence punished with a corner, or throw-in level with the penalty spot, instead of an indirect free-kick.

Initial testing would take place below the top two tiers of the professional game, such as in the likes of League One or Two in England or the English Football League Trophy.

Competitions would be allowed to decide whether to trial either awarding a corner or a throw-in.

‘If they don’t work, they don’t get put through’

Mark Bullingham, the chief executive of the Football Association and one of Ifab’s five directors, rejected suggestions law-makers were tinkering too much with the game.

“The reality is these things are trials,” he said. “If they don’t work, they don’t get put through to the game.

“Equally, if you ask someone if their team has just lost 1-0 and the other team were using time-wasting tactics at the end of the game, they would be frustrated at that.

“We see so many patterns with a goalkeeper when the score is 0-0 holding on to the ball for five or six seconds. But when they are 1-0 up, suddenly they are holding onto the ball for 25 seconds; it’s not right.

“So I think it is important to look at these changes, trial them, and if they make the game better then why not?”

Other potential law changes approved on Saturday for testing below the top two tiers included one that would ban players other than captains from approaching a match referee in certain situations and another that would feature cooling-off periods forcing teams to go to their own penalty area in the event of match confrontation.

Bullingham said he anticipated the approved trials would be explored in “lower levels of English football”.

He added: “It’s clear that we’re not aiming at the top two leagues in any country. But we’ve got so many options in England.”

Saturday’s meeting also saw the use of permanent concussion substitutes written into the laws of the game in defiance of opposition, including from the Premier League, to Ifab’s refusal to trial temporary replacements.

The build-up to the AGM had been dominated by the row over the blue card and sin-bins, the latter of which Ifab had agreed in November to trial at professional level.

In a major climbdown, the testing of new protocols drawn up over the rugby-style measure was limited instead to grassroots and youth level.

It came after Gianni Infantino gave a “red card to the blue card” on the eve of the meeting, killing off plans to introduce it to the game.

Telegraph Sport’s revelation last month that Ifab was on the brink of introducing such a card sparked worldwide panic and fierce opposition from the Premier League’s leading bosses.

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