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IFAB delays trials of blue cards and sin bins until March

Football legislators have postponed until next month the publication of information regarding sin-bin experiments, which were supposed to entail the introduction of blue cards at higher levels of the game.

It was anticipated that trial protocols for sin-bins and other measures to address unruly player behaviour would be released on Friday. However, it is believed that these protocols will now be further discussed at the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) annual general meeting, which will take place at Loch Lomond on March 2.

In order to provide more time for discussion, IFAB has decided to postpone the proposals’ release.

Although sin-bins have been effectively utilised in grassroots football for some years, the IFAB expressed a willingness to try them at higher levels during its annual business meeting in November.

It is anticipated that players will receive blue cards for tactical fouls and dissent during these planned trials, as was the case with Giorgio Chiellini’s cynical tug on Italy’s Bukayo Saka during the Euro 2020 final.

If the blue card is incorporated into the rules of the game, it will be the largest single modification to player discipline management since the red and yellow cards were implemented during the 1970 World Cup.

It is known that the original idea was to stress test sin-bins in lower-level tournaments rather than testing them in elite competitions.

This is thought to be due to worries about how players might react, for example, to different regulations being applied in a domestic league and a continental competition.

Although the exact level that IFAB had in mind for these trials is unknown, it was undoubtedly higher than the grassroots game.

Discussions on the trials agreed at November’s ABM for sin-bins, captain-only zones around referees, and the testing of cooling-off intervals as a means of handling mass conflicts were reaffirmed in the agenda for next month’s AGM, which was announced earlier this week.

The best way to address the issue of goalkeepers hanging onto the ball for extended periods of time is also expected to be discussed in relation to a new experiment.

On Thursday night, FIFA made a post on X stating that the claims concerning the use of blue cards in top football were “premature and inaccurate.”

The international governing body stated: “Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on March 2.”

Beginning with the 2019–20 season, sin-bins were implemented at all grassroots football levels in an effort to raise standards of fair play and respect for one another.

On Friday, managers voiced their opinions about the possible implementation of blue cards, and they weren’t very enthused.

“Introducing a new card would just give more opportunities to fail because the discussion then would be,’should it have been a blue card, or a yellow card?'” suggested Jurgen Klopp.

“It does not sound like a fantastic idea but I can’t remember when the last fantastic idea came from these guys, [or] if they ever had one.”

Mauricio Pochettino echoed Klopp’s thoughts, saying: “I think it is going to create more divides, be more complicated to the referees, the players and the fans. My feeling now is that it’s not a good idea but we’ll see what happens.

“Give it an opportunity to see how it works and after to have a better idea about how they want to apply it during the game.

Ange Postecoglou: “One team being down to 10 men for 10 minutes, you know what it’s going to do to our game? It’s going to destroy it, mate.

“You’re going to have one team just sitting there trying to waste time for 10 minutes waiting for a guy to come on.

“Every other sport is trying to declutter. All we’re trying to do is go the other way for some bizarre reason.”

Mikel Arteta said the tests need to be rigorous before blue cards are introduced into the elite game, saying: “I don’t know if we’re going to get there. We’ve got a lot going on now with decisions, with technology – I don’t know if we’re ready for that yet!

“Hopefully it’s going to be tested very, very well before it’s introduced at this level.”

Jonas Eidevall suggested the lack of application of the rule preventing goalkeepers from holding the ball for more than six seconds was a bigger issue, saying: “There is one rule in football that takes time into account as a consequence at the moment – it’s the amount of time that the goalkeeper can control the ball with his or her hands. That’s very clearly stipulated in the law of the game that it needs to be six seconds.

“If you see how that law is followed by the referees, I think that there’s room for improvement.”

Brendan Rodgers joked the introduction of a blue card would cause additional problems in Scotland, with the Celtic boss saying: “As soon as I saw it I thought ‘I work in Scotland so I’m sure they better have a green card as well as a blue one or we might be in trouble’.

“Just don’t complicate it. Just make a decision whether it’s a red, yellow or no card. We don’t need a blue card up here, that’s for sure.”

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