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Football can learn from its American neighbours in changing the game

Saturday 24th June 2017
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) have submitted a number of changes to laws to improve the game and encourage more attacking play. While many of the suggestions will not be acted upon, it still shows a growing intention to change the game for the better, something that has been painfully missing for far too long.
At the end of each and every NFL season, every single owner of the 32 franchises will join together for a weekend to discuss the state of the game. It is a huge event, usually hosted in some American hideaway. Many of the head coaches attend, with press conferences held throughout for the attending media. While much of what takes place is done so behind closed doors, the influence and impact of what happens in that room will reach far beyond the four walls.

Along with the Commissioner of the NFL, who is currently someone called Roger Goodell, the owners will discuss a wide range of changes to the rules of the game. The suggestions that are made are then voted on by the owners, and those that pass are implemented in some manner. But the suggestions made are not confined to the field. Discussions are held regarding every single aspect of the sport, from the product on the field to the coverage on TV; from the equipment that the players wear and use, to the celebrations that are allowed when they score a touchdown; from the use of social media by the players, the coaches and even the teams, to the car parking at the stadiums. There is not one detail of the running of the sport that is undiscussed.

That does not mean that wholesale changes are made on a regular basis. In fact, because of the very presence of the meeting, the sport is organised to such a standard, that each and every year, rarely are changes suggested that result in anything more than minute adjustments to deal with very specific issues.

You would think, then, that Football, which is a far bigger, wider reaching, global sport than American Football, would have something similar in place, where they are able to continually self-evaluate the governing of the sport and make any adaptations that are thought to be needed. But there simply isn't. Football, for all of its wonders, is an archaic sport ran by archaic men who are unwilling to step out and continually, relentlessly evolve the sport for the better.

That is why the recent suggestions from the International Football Association Board are so welcome. Not because what their propositions are especially mind-blowing, or especially significant or wonderful or forward-thinking. The strategy, named 'Play Fair', includes ideas such as not being able to score rebounded penalties to cull encroachment and being allowed to take a free-kick or goal-kick by dribbling from the spot of the foul or the six-yard box, rather than having to have a teammate touch the ball first. They are not particularly brilliant ideas.

No. It is so welcome, simply, because it shows a shifting attitude towards being a sport that is willing to be flexible and ever-changing. And that will forever be for the betterment of football. It's time we learnt from our American neighbours.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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