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3. 3. 2012.

Changes in the rules of soccer game and its influence on soccer development on World Championships

 Zoran Petrovic
Member of referee commission - Serbia Football Alliance

Soccer as an organized human activity(game), for more than one century is played according to established rules. What makes soccer unique is the fact that, without any differences, these rules are applied all over the planet. It can be said that this is one of the rules that is one of the most known on the planet!!! This makes soccer the most viewed, the most popular and the most loved accessory in the world.
When it is talked about the rules of soccer, it has to be mentioned that some basic settings never change. In the game of soccer two teams are taking part with 11 players. Court is needed according to previously prescribed dimensions, on the types of surfaces that are also precisely specified. The court for play has to be equipped: posts, nets, flags on the corners and marked correctly, on specifically prescribed way. Also, the ball has to exist in order to play soccer. Size, look and matherials from which that ball is made should be according to the regulations. Referee also has to be present, to lead the game, and decisions in the look of the result has to be final.
For international games, court length must be 90 to 100 meters, and court width must be 65 to 75 meters, standard is set, and that is goal for most countries – 105x72m.
Ball must be round-shaped. Has to be made of skin or some other material approved specially by FIFA. Ball perimeter is 68-70cm. Pressure inside the ball has to be 0,6- 1,1 atmospheres. Ball mass has to be 410-450g. Each game has to be played with new balls.
When all the conditions are counted, it looks simple, but it isn’t at all! In the first sentence it was told that specifically designed rules exist, but that doesn’t mean that these rules haven’t been changed through ages. Rules are changing, improving. It has to be said that the rules of soccer game absolutely follow and adjust themselves to all, even to the smallest problems in the game of soccer. Only basic rules stay the same. All other things are changed, corrected, and agreed according to modern trends in order to keep the most beautiful, the most excited and most emotional game on this planet.
Before the time machine through regulation changes is made, it has to be emphasized that final tournaments, final part, world championships and world cups are not the places where experiments with the changes of the soccer game should be made. On these tournaments only eventual news which are checked between two world cups, which are checked in the criteria or appliance in soccer game, are presented. For these new instructions starting phases of competition are used to send the clear message to tournament contestants, what they can expect, what can, and what cannot be tolerated.
Rules of soccer game in the previous period, from the last century 70-ties, till nowadays, suffered a lot of changes and agreement with soccer game development trends. Some basic problems for these changes were non-sport, ruthless and rough games directed towards the best players. Data connected for happenings to the best player of all times, Pele 1958. and 1962., Eusebio 1966. etc. Regulator idea was to protect the best, but all other players, from eventual injuries, so every team on each game could compete in the best combination, so the viewers on stadiums or over the TV’s could enjoy the beauties of soccer game.
Due to that, the way of public discipline measures pronouncement, yellow and red cards, was established. From these days, till nowadays, it is completely clear and visible, for each competitor in the game and of course fans, who was penalized and who has to think how will he play in the rest of the game.
Idea to pronounce discipline measures to the players with yellow and red card dates from English referee Ken Aston, who gave this idea while he was waiting in the car on the traffic light. First “significant” cards usage occurred in the World Championship 1970, but cards were not obligated on all competition levels till 1982.
While 80’s in the last century a problem with intended offenses that were made to stop the opponent in the obvious position to score a goal. After detailed analysis of everything that happened on the courts, it is came to the one of the most radical change in the rules of soccer game. Between World Cups in 1990 and 1994 article 12. was changed. Fouls that stop the player in envisaged situation to score a goal( last player of the defense) are, since then, panealized with direct red card, or exclusion. The most important in the assessment of these fouls is the position in which the player is found without any influence on judging is the intensity with which the foul was made. It can be freely said tha this is one of the changes in the regulations of soccer game that gave soccer the power to survive all challenges.
What is important with that important changes is players reaction on the court in these type of situations. Practical work shows that change is absolutely accepted and it often happens that offender leaves the court for game on himself, aware of what he did and the penalty for that type of offense.
In these change are also included offenses of intentional goal scoring stops, hand playing on goal-line or its near, from defending player, which is also punished by direct red card.
With these revolutionary changes, part of soccer game rules has been specially affirmed, and it is called the spirit of the soccer game rules, and its basic goal is to achieve maximum number of goals during the match.
Next important change in the rules of soccer game was done during 90’s of the last century. It is related to goalkeeper’s play. Life, practical work applied that goalkeepers that were in the rules of soccer game specially privileged, with the fact that in their own penalty area they can play with hands also, among other parts of the body, abuse their rules nonsportly, on various ways, protracting with ball return to the game. It was specially intended to the game moments with the final result.
Law-maker, on completely clear way, gave them instructions that the ball has to be put in the game in the shortest amount of time possible. After an experiment with 4 rules step, optimal solution was found. When the goalkeeper comes in the ball possession in his own penalty area, he has to release the ball in 6 seconds, nevertheless how he controls it, and return it to the game outside of penalty area.
This rule started with its usage since 1992. The most drastic example of abusing was the game between Republic of Ireland and Egypt played on World Championship 1990. Republic Ireland’s goalkeeper, Pat Bonner, held the ball in his possession for 6 minutes, alternately “leading” it through the penalty area and grabbing it in his hands.
Only this decision was not sufficient. It was also needed to stop returning the ball to the goalkeeper, especially when the goal-kick was performed. And wise solution was found. Goalkeeper was banned to catch the ball which was returned by his team member’s foot. It is also prohibited catching the ball that was returned from the throw-in. And not to endanger the true spirit of football, only intentional return of the ball to the goalkeeper is counted as an offense.

In the rules of soccer there are no changes that are related to game length. For senior teams these are two half times of 45 minutes. However, technical devices development enabled precise measuring of effective game length. At the half of 90’s that was on the meeting of International BORD. As it was predicted by the rules of soccer that referee has to compensate lost time during the game due to player injuries, substitutions or any other thing; an idea was to publish the time lost on the end of first and second half- time; and on the end of extra time( at cup games). This publishment is directly connected with entering the fourth(reserve) referee since the middle of 90’s. Effect of this decision is very positive. Everybody in the stadium now knows minimum amount of time that will be compensated; and in most cases there are no players’ protest if something happens during that period. On significant number of games exactly in that period final results are solved; and this doesn’t represent the subject of arguments and complains. However, game lasting still stays in absolute discretion of the head referee.
Multi-ball system should also be mentioned. That is the game with larger number of balls, that are returned in the game during breaks by special trained boys and girls. Acquiring of this system applied on game effectiveness, game lasts longer and gives better changer for teams to score wished result, and fans are having less non-interesting time during game breaks.
If for the changes that were mentioned till now may surely be said that they hit the target and achieved the highest rank, there were other changes that are applying, but still come on specified problems and players or fans non-understanding.

Offside is one of the rules that always represented stumbling block. Due to that many experiments were done, but for now without positive effect. One thing is at the moment completely sure. People that want to abolish this rule are minority. Arguments that say about endangering soccer game with that type of rule change are very strong.
In 1866 first offside rule was established. Offside is when the player receives the ball on the opponent’s court, and doesn’t have in front of himself at least three players from the opponent team. Till that year every player that was in front of the ball was in offside. That rule was taken over from rugby.
In 1925 offside rule was changed, so the player on the opponent court, when his coplayer passes him the ball, must have at least two opponent players in front of himself.

Among everything that is done to create progress in the assessments and decrease the number of mistakes; in today’s, atomic fast soccer, role that line referees have is very important. In order to alleviate their hard job, specific changes were made. These changes are relied to the spirit of soccer game, which is directed to giving rights to line referees, to give the advantage to the attacking side when not sure if the player is in offside or not. One more alleviation is the rule “wait, see and decide”. Line referees are given the right to wait for a few moments  and then decide in which position is the attacker to whom the ball was passed.
In the last years of previous century dilemma of ball rejection from the defending side was cleared. Now, and in the future, rules the rule that if the ball that is passed to the opponents goal line hits any player of the defending side and comes to the player that was in the moment of ball passing in offside, that player is being penalized. Same counts as before if the ball hit the post or the crossbar.
Last change refers to the players that are found during action out of the playing field, goal-line or out line. According to that decision, defensive player, if from any reason found outside of the playing field, during this action; it will be considered that he is found on his own goal line. This change is strictly related to praxa(game NetherlandsItaly, EURO 2008).

About other rules that are the subject of constant argument is the problem of simulating. The latest instructions are directed to special evaluating and penalizing to this offense, not only in the penalty area, but in all areas of the field.

The biggest problem in the rules of soccer is now representing hand play. Nonetheless rule 12. hasn’t been changed for a long period of time, on the fields it is a huge problem for referees. TV cameras and insufficiently trained commentators led to that, with their nonexpertise comment, that aggravate regular use of this rule. Comments that the ball hit the player in his hand automatically excludes an offense. At hand play it is important to make a difference, because only intentional hand play, when “the hand hits the ball”, is penalized by an offense. An expression “hand in non-natural position” is found in the use, and it is abused in many cases. The fact mustn’t be overlooked – position is estimated only by the referee. It is talked with the referees a lot in order not to endanger the rules of soccer and the spirit of the game.

Arbitrage on World championship

The biggest soccer competition on the planet is for all competitors the biggest confession and dream realization. The fact that from over 200 national teams only 32 have the honour to show on this competition, every fourth year, speaks about importance of the competition itself and priviledge to be there.
For referees to, taking part at the final tournament represents the carriere crown, opportunity to be rewarded for hard work during all years, hard trainings, to be rewarded for negligencing off all other life pleasures. Every referee is trying to prepare the best for the happening and to show himself in the best edition.
The World Championship is the festival of the best referees in soccer in the moment, referee continental organizations and state are doing everything to present itself in the best edition. While in Europa and South America continental organizations selection is done on completely stabile and established way, and no complaint, these continents are giving the best referees, that cannot be said for other continental alliances. That is reality.
On the world championship in South Africa it was planned to be three referees from the same country, head referee and two assistant referees; and this wasn’t the case till now. Not to mention communication problem that existed in the past. Till 1994 and World Cup in America, duty of line referees were done by the referees that, or at least bigger part of them, had this function very seldom in their own countries. Now situation is different. Coordinated referee pairs were created that always arbitrate together. Line referees are specialists that do only this. They have additional resources available, like beeper flags and since South Africa championship wireless communication system. There are a lot of professional among the referees today.
For world championship in Germany 2006, referees had to pass detailed medical examinations and condition check. Knowledge about soccer game was also tested, so as their interpretations of the soccer game. Also, referees were also subjected to psychological tests.
Outside of play court referees will be helped by two more colleagues, one reserve referee(4th referee) and one reserve line referee(5th referee).
Referee team that counts 5 members will be given maximum conditions to arbitrage correctly, so as the maximum support and belief of Referee commission and Fifa Comitee.
On referees stays to prepare well and present themselves in the best possible edition with respecting the players and functioners, and with small, but always welcome dose of luck.  

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