The 131st Annual General Meeting (AGM) of The IFAB took place at Wembley Stadium and was chaired by Greg Clarke, Chairman of The Football Association. The British representatives as well as FIFA’s delegation unanimously approved a future IFAB strategy, using the Laws of the Game to develop the game by focusing on fairness and integrity, increasing universality and inclusion, and embracing technology. A major initial feature of the strategy will be the behaviour of players and, in particular, the role of the captain and how her/his responsibilities could be enhanced to help improve on-field behaviour and create better communication between players and referees. Methods to tackle time-wasting will also be considered as it is an area about which many fans complain. The members strongly supported this initiative as the next step in delivering “what football wants” following the extensive revision of the Laws of the Game. Other major areas which The IFAB will focus on include handball and a potentially fairer system for kicks from the penalty mark.
Central to the IFAB strategy is also a robust evaluation process for potential future Law changes and initiatives. As part of the ‘what football wants’ approach, the AGM extended the “Modifications” section of the Laws allowing national football associations more freedom to modify the organisational Laws for the lower levels of football e.g. number of substitutions and duration of play, to help them develop their domestic football by encouraging more people to take part. National football associations will decide at which levels the modifications are applied in their domestic football. This does not include competitions involving the first team of clubs in the top division or senior ‘A’ international teams. Additionally, as part of “Modifications”, the proposals to allow temporary dismissals (sin bins) for yellow card offences were approved for youth, grassroots and disability football, as it is the case for return substitutions. The AGM also approved the use of electronic communication systems in the technical area for player welfare and safety, acknowledging the importance of technology in assessing potential injuries with the help of medical data and video material.
On the topic of video assistant referees (VARs), the AGM was updated on the first phase of experiments, including reports from the workshops and more than 20 test matches organised to test the VAR protocol which was approved one year ago. The members also received detailed information on the key learning areas which will be incorporated into the ‘live’ experiments starting in almost 20 competitions from around the world in 2017.
The ‘success’ of the change from a red to yellow card for a penalty awarded for the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity if there was an attempt to play the ball, led the members to extend the principle by removing a yellow card for a penalty kick awarded for a ‘stopping a promising attack’ if the offence was an attempt to play the ball.
The AGM also approved the development of the first minimum safety standard for electronic performance and tracking systems (EPTS) which will regulate the safety of devices worn by players on the field of play.
The modifications to the Laws of the Game made at this AGM will come into effect on 1 June 2017, except for competitions which have started before that date.
The 132nd Annual General Meeting will be hosted by FIFA in February or March 2018