The expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams is the first major change that the mandate of Gianni Infantino in the FIFA presidency has brought to football. But it may not be the last or the most shocking. The governing body of world football is working on a series of changes that could revolutionise the sport.
The proposed adaptations (outlined below) were recognised by Marco van Basten – who was appointed in September as FIFA’s Director General for Technical Development – in an interview published this week with Sport Bild.
Replace penalties with a ‘take-on challenge’
In the result of a draw in a knock-out competition, the match would not proceed to penalties following extra-time, but a head-to-duel between keeper and attacker, who would be able to dribble the ball from 25 metres out and try to shoot or take it past the opposition goalie into the net (rather similarly to a hockey shootout). There would be a time limit of 8 seconds and each team would have five attempts.
Remove the offside rule
"Football is more and more like handball," Van Basten told Bild. "Personally I'm curious about how football would work without offside," who again put forward the example of field hockey and said he believed teams could adapt with time. "The game would be more attractive, the attackers would have more chances and there would be more goals. That's what fans want to see," says Van Basten.
Downgrading of punishment for deliberate handballs
A feature of the handball rule that does appeal to Van Basten are automatic sending offs, which he says could be replaced with yellow cards or the possibility of a ‘Sin-Bin’ type sanction of 5-10 minutes.
Introduction of a basketball-style foul system
Van Basten has the idea that “like in basketball, a player can only make five fouls and then has to leave the field"
Captains speak with the referee only
Again taking inspiration from other team sports, the Dutchman wants to end the constant protestation from players towards the referee, allowing only team captains to speak to the official, as is the case in rugby.
Reduce the number of games
As FIFA plans to expand the World Cup, Van Basten says that to ensure greater “quality in the game…we should reduce the number of official matches per season from 80 to a maximum of 50." Last season, Portugal played 18 games between official and friendly matches on the FIFA international calendar, while a Spanish club can play up to 67 official matches in a single campaign.
Increase the number of subs
Van Basten is in favour of increasing the number of substitutions per match, but is reluctant to waste time. "We talked about one or two additional changes in the case of extra time.”