Radical rule changes are needed for A-League success

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The A-League must follow the path of other Australian sporting codes in adopting revolutionary new rules to make the game more interesting for fans.

COVID-19 has had a largely negative impact on Australian sport, but it has also forced many codes to adapt and improve the way their competition is played.

The NRL has become a leader in this area, after implementing a series of rule changes both during lockdown in 2020 and now ahead of their 2021 season.

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Other codes like the AFL and cricket’s Big Bash League quickly followed suit with their own array of rule changes which have added a new dimension to play.

However, new rules in football are often seen as unpopular in the eyes of FIFA and traditionalists who look to maintain the purity of the game.

The A-League still lags behind other codes in Australia regarding ratings, advertising and revenue. The current product is not working and these rule changes could be a way to solve the A-League’s problems.

Relaxing the offside rule

The offside rule is one of the most hotly debated issues in world football and comes under a lot of scrutiny from players and fans alike.

With the introduction of the video assistant referee (VAR) we have seen games disrupted and goals disallowed for players being fractionally offside.

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Adjusting the rule to allow attacking players to be ruled onside if any part of the body is level with the last defender, would eliminate these close calls which cause so much controversy.

In his role as FIFA’s chief of football development, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in an interview with L’Equipe this radical change to the offside rule would transform football for the better.

“I would like it to be that there is no offside so long as a [single] body part which a player can score with is in line with the defender,” Wenger told L’Equipe.

“This could be too much of an advantage for an attacker, because that obliges the defenders to play higher up.”

This change would make life easier for referees and would dramatically increase scoring which creates for more entertaining matches.

Increase the goalpost size

It is all too common in modern football for teams to park the bus and grind out a goalless draw, which is unappealing to fans.

Michel Hidalgo, the manager who led France to a European title in 1984, said in a statement to The Guardian goals were the repellent to the dullness that can often occur in football.

“We must find ways to encourage audacious players and we must fight goalless games. It is goals that leave their mark on the memory,” he told The Guardian.

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Expanding the dimensions of the goal to compensate for the average height of most professional goalkeepers is the most obvious, yet contentious, solution to the problem.

The suggestion would be to increase the width between the goalposts by one metre (from 7.32m to 8.32m) which would represent a 12 per cent increase in the overall dimensions.

The height of the goalposts could also be increased by one metre (from 2.44m to 3.44m) to ensure that the current shape of the goal remains similar.

Goalkeepers would find themselves more at risk during set-pieces and long range shots, leading to more entertaining play and hopefully more goals.

60-minute matches

This rule change is probably the most radical suggestion, yet it could also be one of the most affective if given the green light in the A-League.

The idea of a 60-minute match has been proposed in the past to help eliminate time-wasting and ensure the game is played ‘fairly’.

A standard match would include two 30 minute halves, with the clock stopping every time the ball goes out of play.

This rule change was initially suggested by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) who said in an interview with The Guardian their aim was to increase respect, play time, fairness and attractiveness in football.

“Many people are frustrated that the typical 90-minute match has fewer than 60 minutes of effective playing time,” a spokesperson said.

“This strategy proposes measures to reduce time-wasting and speed up the game.”

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The most common examples of time-wasting include substitutions, kicking the ball away or feigning injuries.

This is a big problem in the A-League and it has gotten to the stage where time-wasting is used tactically to get results.

This 60-minute rule would eliminate the majority of the time-wasting techniques and allow the match to be played as freely and fairly as possible.

Feature Image Credit: supplied

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Angus Brien
Covering Brisbane Roar A-League and W-League matches during the 2020/2021 season. Currently studying Journalism at Queensland University of Technology. Big sports fan and lover of football.