Football’s lawmakers are set to readjust a ruling that has been blissfully ignored by the majority of football fans but has driven aficionados of refereeing to distraction.
That’s because one of the laws of the game is being blatantly broken in just about every game you see. And going unchecked by match officials.
When the International Football Association Board allowed the ball to be passed back from the kick-off from the start of this season, hardly an eyelid was batted. Most fans greeted it with a shrug of the shoulder.
What they failed to consider, and crucially the lawmakers themselves somehow failed to factor in, is that passing the ball back is almost physically impossible to achieve without breaking the existing law that all players must stand in their own half of the field at kick-off.
The tweaking of Law 8 actually meant that it was being flouted.
Now You Are The Ref understands that the IFAB, at its upcoming annual meeting in March, is likely to make another tweak to allow one player (the player taking the kick-off) to stray across the halfway line into the opposition half.
Keith Hackett comments: “I’m surprised there was even a change to Law 8. Was it really necessary? Surely there were more important considerations.
“It has created a lot of confusion and much comment within refereeing circles. Barely a day goes by without me receiving an email on this.
“Don’t forget that a change of law like this applies across the whole game. Referees at all levels have been faced with the technicality that, to apply the law correctly, they would have to order a retake of virtually every kick-off.
“Can you imagine the irritation and annoyance of players, managers and spectators if they actually did this?”
Another valid criticism of the Law 8 tweak might be that it has been, in every sense, a backwards move rather than one designed to bring the game forward and make it more exciting.
Allowing the ball to be passed back has seen nearly all games start in a sedate, sterile and arguably negative fashion. The focus has been on ball retention whereas some teams might attempt to be more adventurous in the past.
Hackett added: “Football seems to have forgotten it is in the entertainment industry.”