VAR leads to World Cup rule change for goalie encroachment during penalty kicks

·2 min read

After at least one key VAR-assisted goalkeeper penalty in the group stage, the International Football Association Board has worked with FIFA to make a change for the upcoming knockout rounds. The IFAB announced on Friday that it has granted FIFA temporary dispensation from enforcing punishment on goalkeepers for encroachment during kicks from the penalty mark.

Currently, the rule requires that the goalkeeper be cautioned (given a yellow card) if a kick has to be redone due to encroachment. But the change outlined by the IFAB now states that while the goalkeeper can be punished for the infraction, they will not be given a yellow card. Here are the reasons the IFAB gave for the change, via its website:

- the presence of VARs acts as a far greater deterrent than the caution

- the presence of VARs greatly increases the likelihood of any offence being detected and, as goalkeepers are likely to face a number of kicks during KFPM, there is a higher risk that a goalkeeper will be sent off for receiving a second caution if already cautioned in normal time, or two cautions during the KFPM

- unlike during ‘normal time’, when a sent-off goalkeeper can usually be 'replaced' by the team substituting an outfield player for a specialist reserve goalkeeper, substitutions are not allowed in KFPM so an outfield player would have to become the goalkeeper

Chiamaka Nnadozie of Nigeria was given a yellow card for encroachment during a penalty kick during the Nigeria-France group stage match. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Chiamaka Nnadozie of Nigeria was given a yellow card for encroachment during a penalty kick during the Nigeria-France group stage match. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

That last point is critical, because it seems like that’s the entire justification behind this change. Because VAR is meant to detect even the smallest offense, there are fears that teams will be left with no goalie during a vital moment. During the Nigeria-France game in the group stage, Nigeria’s goalie was given a yellow card when VAR caught her setting up just a few inches off the line during a penalty kick. If she’d been given one more yellow card during a penalty kick, a non-goalie would be defending the net during the re-do.

This temporary change may be a better way to execute the rule, but doing it in the middle of the biggest women’s soccer tournament in existence sets a terrible precedent. The rule was made, and living with the consequences — whatever they might be — was the point of making it in the first place.

We’ll see if the change makes any difference in how things proceed in the knockout rounds, which begins on Saturday. It’s possible goalies could be a little less cautious now that there’s no risk of a yellow card, or maybe we’ll see absolutely no material change at all.

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