This is perfectly captured by the rather mundane article "16 football rules that drive us mad"
( means their opinion lacks technical knowledge;
means their suggestion may actually help match officials.)
Some of our writers started discussing the laws of the game - and got angrier and angrier. Here are their main gripes, and what they would change
Photo: GETTY IMAGES/FIFA
Kicking the ball out when players get injured
Not a rule as such, but a convention that no longer has any place in the game. And for what’s supposed to be an act of sportsmanship, it’s amazing how often this strange ritual never fails to generate maximum ill-feeling. This is because there are two false assumptions underpinning it. Firstly, that any player on the ground is in need of treatment.
And secondly, that the player on the ball can make an instant medical diagnosis of an opponent lying 70 yards away. Kicking the ball out may have had its roots in fair play and comradery, but it’s been exploited with ruthless cynicism by divers, time-wasters and cretins. If referees are too squeamish to stop an attack in full-flow, then either let play continue while players get treatment, or appoint a neutral doctor with the authority to stop play.
HandballHonestly, nobody knows the handball rule.
"He hasn't moved his hands towards the ball", "it's ball-to-hand", "it's not deliberate", they say in an offender's defence.
The exact wording in the FA's rules says "A direct free kick [or penalty] is awarded...if a player handles the ball deliberately" while "distance between the opponent and ball" should be taken into consideration.
But when does a player actually mean to block the ball with their hand? When does someone knowingly and deliberately move his hand or arm towards the ball? Unless he is Luis Suarez, the answer is very, very rarely indeed.
The excuse "his hand is in a natural position" is also used - but what does that even mean?! Who on earth knows what a natural position is when you're sliding in at 100 miles an hour or jumping to head the ball. Was Daley Blind's arm unnaturally positioned as John Terry struck at goal at Stamford Bridge on Sunday? Who knows?
A solution is hard to come by but it seems to me that a blanket every-instance-of-hand-touching-ball might be the best answer, with destination of the ball the deciding factor. This isn't without problems though - it may encourage attempts to deliberately flick the ball onto an outstretched arm and will almost certainly mean even more appeals. It's better than the mess we have at the moment, though.
Fouls not given in the penalty areaThis is very simple really. A foul is a foul regardless of where on the pitch it has occured. It is not the referee's job to debate whether a penalty is too harsh a punishment for someone committing an offence inside the 18-yard box. Yes, there are major issues with being forced to harshly send players off in certain situations but that is a separate debate that should not come into this equation. For the purposes of this point the only issue should be foul = penalty. If it's a foul on the halfway line, it's a foul in the penalty area.
NB. Tim Sherwood is yet to fully grasp the concept of penalty areas...
The penaltyThe punishment system in football is a mess: regular fouls, even deliberate fouls, are penalised so leniently that teams use them as a strategic ploy (“he’s taken one for the team there”). The penalty, on the other hand, punishes even piddling offences with an almost certain goal, based on a completely arbitrary 18-yard measurement. The penalty rule is a relic of the days when football was a more territorial game, and an attacker with the ball in the penalty area was very likely to score.
These days, it makes no sense, and simply encourages referees to take the safe option. Of the first 53 fouls in the penalty area during Euro 2012, 52 were given against the attacking team. By introducing free-kicks inside the area, you would allow referees to punish minor defensive offences (shirt-pulling, grappling in the area, marginal handball calls), in turn rewarding attacking football.
Get rid of the quadruple punishmentBuilding on the changes needed for the penalty rule, something must be done about the quadruple punishment of your goalkeeper giving away a penalty. A slight miscalculation from a keeper can mean a red card, a penalty, a need for a substitution and a suspension. Would it be too radical to just award a rugby style penalty goal, keep the cards in the ref's pocket and move on? I can't see how either the attacking or defending team could be too enraged by that outcome. If the foul is violent and deserving of a red card in and of itself, then a red card and a penalty goal could be awarded.
Getting rid of such a harsh punishment, and this goes for professional fouls by defenders as well, would solve the problem of referees being wary of giving penalties that they know will also require an automatic red card. Time and again we see officials shy away from giving a foul that will also mean sending off a player, which is hardly surprising when the consequences of getting the decision wrong are so severe.
DissentFootballers get away with absolute murder when it comes to dissent. Why not take a leaf out of rugby's book and take a no tolerance stand to back-chat?
"A player who is guilty of dissent by protesting (verbally or non-verbally) against a referee’s decision must be cautioned."
So when Diego Costa squares up to a linesman or Joe Hart pushes his head into Michael Oliver's face, it should be (at least) a yellow card. Footballers might become nicer people and it could encourage others to become referees.
The unwanted advantageThere are few things more infuriating than when your team sees a player fouled while defending a lead and are grateful to have the free-kick, but the ball rolls to a team-mate, who is surrounded by opposition players, and the ref screams "play on, advantage".
This is not an advantage. Clearly what the defending team wants is a free-kick, especially when they then find themselves in danger of being instantly dispossessed. It would be one thing if the player could hack the ball away, and effectively accept the free-kick for his team, but if he tried this tactic invariably the ref would say he had the ball and therefore an advantage that he had has now passed. It's also not an advantage to not be awarded a free-kick plum in front of goal but instead have a player quickly hustled off the ball on the edge of the box.
We often see refs refuse to play advantages when they should, but this reverse advantage is equally as damaging.
While on the topic, it would be worth experimenting with a longer advantage rule, like in rugby. This would encourage referees to play more advantages, without being worried that the team he's given the advantage to is about to lose possession.
Encroachment on penaltiesThe rules state: "the referee must check that the players other than the [penalty] kicker are located: Inside the field of play [and] Outside the penalty area."
If it's a rule, enforce it. It's not hard to police as it only happens at penalties which start with everyone standing still, and yet often players are not punished for entering the area before a penalty is taken.
The solution? If an attacker enters the box before the penalty is struck and it is scored or he gains an advantage at a rebound, retake it. If a defender enters the box before the penalty is struck and it is missed, retake it.
Foul throwsAnyone who has played Sunday League football is unlikely to have ever completed 90 minutes without a member of the opposition piping up 50 yards away from the action with a strangled cry of: "Foul throw ref!" You see, the rules in amateur football are simple: A player is allowed only to launch a throw-in long down the line. Any attempt to go short, throw the ball to feet or in any way promote anything other than lumped, long-ball football is to be immediately pulled up for a foul throw under the rule that "It didn't really look right".
Oddly, the professional game appears to adhere to a completely different interpretation of the rule, namely that anything goes. And by anything I mean ANYTHING. At which point it seems right to bring in Patrice Evra:
Really this is all a load of unnecessary nonsense isn't it? The benefit to be gained from one angle of release compared to another is negligible at best and there is a simple solution: Everyone should just chill out. Of course that isn't a rule that can be formally implemented so instead let's propose a new simplified regulation that states: "The thrower must deliver the ball with two hands from behind their head". As long as the two hands start from behind the head it should make no difference at what point the ball is released. It can be released behind the head, over the head or in front of the head. IT DOESN'T MATTER. Just let the ball re-enter the field and allow play to continue.
As long as you don't do what Evra did. That should literally never be allowed.
Goalkeepers coming off their line at penaltiesIt's less the act itself that is so frustrating and more the seeming total inability of linesmen to pick goalkeepers up for it. At the point the penalty taker's boot connects with the ball, regulations state that the keeper must be on his line. If he has encroached in any way then the penalty will be retaken (unless it has been scored, in which case the goal stands). In reality the goalkeeper will come off his line approximately 99 per cent of the time and be penalised for the offence approximately two per cent of the time (those statistics may or may not be totally accurate).
The assistant referee positions himself on the goal line with the sole purpose of watching the keeper. Where goal-time technology is in use, he literally has nothing else to do aside from watching the keeper. Just watch the keeper. Watch him step off his line and raise your flag. It's simple. Stop allowing goalkeepers to cheat.
Players getting booked for taking their shirt offTempting as it is to sigh at a goalscorer for removing their shirt when an automatic yellow card (and shrug of the referee's shoulders) inevitably follows, it's hard to fathom exactly what this clause of Law 12 is trying to achieve. Even less understandable is the mandatory caution for any goalscorer whose celebration takes them into the crowd - as if any visible blurring of the boundaries between star players and humble supporters could possibly be tolerated in the modern game.
Law 12 does allow for referees to apply "common sense" to goal celebrations but, with the dreaded assessor sat in the stands looking for cold-blooded consistency, there seems little opportunity for football to throw caution to the wind when it comes to unbridled goalscoring joy.
Defender holding off forward as ball trickles outBack passes, tackling from behind - these have been addressed down the years by law-makers as they encourage attacking football. But there is one ugly, glaring exception. How many times do we see a defender blocking a forward while making no attempt to play the ball as it trickles out of touch for a goal-kick or throw-in?
An exciting, attacking possibility fizzles out in a moment of undiluted negativity. It could be described as an art, of sorts, but in reality has nothing to do with the skill of football. The remedy? Revive and enforce the old obstruction law. Any player who refuses to play the ball while impeding an opponent should have a free-kick awarded against him. And make it a yellow card for a second offence.
Players wasting timeThis is an offence that gets me irrationally angry, partly because there seems to be such an easy deterrent. If a goalkeeper or defender continues to waste time, book them. A referee can then say to the offender, “keep doing that and I’ll send you off.” Instead what happens is referees allow players to time waste until the very last minute, and then decide to book them, by which point the yellow card is entirely useless.
Referees should also crack down on players taking an age to leave the pitch when being substituted. Again, all it would take is a quiet word with the player telling him to hurry up or be booked. The deterrent to time wasting exists, please can referees start using it.
Time for substitutions not being added onInjury time is always stated as "a minimum", yet it is hardly ever extended beyond the minimum; it is almost always exactly that amount. A favoured time-wasting tactic for managers is to wait until stoppage time to make a pointless substitution because it isn't seen as time wasting and usually doesn't result in more time added on. Such a substitution can waste as much as a minute of crucial late play.
The clock should be stopped when the ball is out of play during injury time - like in rugby. Play the exact number of allotted minutes, to the second, unless a team is on the attack. Once that attack ends, blow the final whistle.
Who decided technical areas were a good idea?All they do is provide a job for the fourth official, obliging him to tell managers earning up to £7m a year to stand inside a white dotted box.
It also lessens the chance of a Jose Mourinho/Arsene Wenger style incident, and who doesn't want to see more of that?
Get rid of them. Or, if they are to stay, make managers share one during the last 10 minutes of games.
Six second ruleOften the gripe of Sunday League footballers the country over, the six second rule is rarely enforced as we know it.
Interestingly, however, the six seconds only starts once the goalkeeper is in control of the ball and able to start looking to release it back into play, which is up to the referee's interpretation.
The six seconds should be enforced more stringently but given the ruling it is rare for keepers to hold onto the ball that long.
The answer to this one is to stop letting it wind us up so much.