Rule changes for new football season: Officials to crackdown on dissent, be more lenient on physical challenges and add on wasted time | Football News

New guidelines for refereeing in football are set to be implemented at the beginning of the season. The crackdown will focus on reducing time-wasting and dissent, as well as stricter monitoring of the bench and technical areas. Matches in the English Football League (EFL) and Premier League are expected to have significantly increased added minutes, similar to the last World Cup in Qatar. For example, a recent Championship game between Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday saw an additional six minutes added to the first half and nine minutes to the second half.

Officials have been concerned about the limited amount of time the ball has been in play during professional matches, with average play times last season being only 48 minutes in League Two, 50 minutes in League One, 52 minutes in the Championship, and just under 55 minutes in the Premier League. To address this, referees will now be required to specifically time stoppages in the game before restarts, such as goals, substitutions, injuries, or preparations for free kicks. The duration of goal celebrations will also be taken into account, as officials believe they have become longer and more elaborate.

In an effort to speed up play, the EFL will adopt the multi-ball system for all matches, following the lead of the Premier League. Additionally, referees will be expected to be more strict in penalizing actions that waste time, going beyond just kicking the ball away.

The changes in refereeing guidelines are aimed at bringing English football more in line with the Qatar World Cup, where matches often had extensive added time. However, it should be noted that the longer duration of games in Qatar was also influenced by factors such as concussion-related injuries, goals, and substitutions.

The new guidelines also extend to improving the behavior of players, managers, coaches, and addressing the issue of abuse in football. Measures include a technical area code of conduct, increased penalties for repeat offenders, academy scholars undergoing refereeing courses, stadium bans, potential criminal prosecution for abuse, a pilot scheme to rehabilitate young offenders, and a plan to tackle unwanted behavior by spectators and participants.

On the field, the rules regarding physical challenges will be adjusted to allow the game to flow better and reduce stoppages. A higher threshold will be applied to contact between players, resulting in fewer free kicks for incidents that may have been penalized in the previous season. However, challenges deemed careless, reckless, or endangering the safety of an opponent will still be punished with fouls, yellow cards, or red cards respectively.

In terms of dissent, the threshold for receiving a yellow card will be lowered this season. Whenever multiple players approach the referee, at least one of them will be shown an automatic yellow card, potentially more. Players who approach match officials from a distance will also be booked. The aim of these changes is to address the issue of crowding referees which was observed in the previous season and to send a message that such behavior is not acceptable.

The behavior of managers and their backroom staff will also be closely monitored, with automatic yellow cards given if there is more than one coach in the technical area. Harsher penalties will be imposed on managers who leave their technical area, and aggression towards match officials or opponents will result in red cards. Officials who are sent off will not be allowed to watch the game from the stands but must stay out of sight of the pitch.

In grassroots football, repeated offenses against referees and other unacceptable behavior will lead to points deductions for teams. The use of bodycams for grassroots referees will also be extended in an effort to combat poor behavior. Referees have reported improvements in player and fan behavior since the introduction of the cameras, as they serve as a deterrent. The camera settings allow for recording if the referee feels threatened or aware of abuse or violence on the pitch. Footage from the bodycams may be used as evidence when bringing charges against players or clubs for repeated misconduct. Deductions in points will apply to clubs at various levels in the men’s and women’s game for acts of serious misconduct, such as discrimination or assault against match officials. The number of points deducted will depend on the severity and number of breaches within a specific period.

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