The IFAB rule change that will be a terrible idea for Man Utd, Liverpool, and Arsenal
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You never go full Eiffel 65, lads. From the twisted minds that brought you such Gordian horrors as 'VAR' and 'sanctions for impolite goalkeepers during penalty shoot-outs', get ready for a whole new cerulean terror. This autumn, brace yourself for the colour wheel omnishambles of the blue card.
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the concept, and that's perfectly understandable because up until about a week ago, it unequivocally wasn't a real thing. The rough sketch, as it has been outlined to us benighted peasants by IFAB, is that under their new proposals, players who receive a blue caution for dissent or cynical fouls will be sent to a sin bin for 10 minutes - presumably to rest azure-d, if you will. Upon returning to the throng, if they are handed a second blue card, they would then be permanently dismissed. Likewise, a yellow and a blue would also be equivalent to a red, despite what Richard of York says.
This alien system could be introduced as soon as next season, with suggestions that the English Football Association are exploring the possibility of trialling it in the FA Cup. For their part, FIFA have argued that it would be 'premature' to roll out blue cards in elite competition so swiftly, which, ironically, is an uncharacteristically mature response from the governing body. Upon hearing of this latest bolt from the, well, blue, I half expected to stumble across a video press release of Gianni Infantino openly welcoming the development, perched behind a lectern on some swanky stage or other, kitted out in nothing but a pair of denim hotpants and a gallon of cobalt body paint, like an alarmingly convincing Tobias Bluth cosplayer. Thankfully, the president has not blued himself. Yet.
But regardless of FIFA's reticence, IFAB look as if they will press on with their, ahem, blueprint no matter what. Football is a simple game that was doing pretty well for the first century-and-a-bit of its existence as a professional entity. Granted, there have always been innovations - the introduction of substitutions and the alteration of the back pass rule spring to mind like newborn lambs frolicking through the meadows of the mind - but for the most part, its skeletal legislative frame has held true.
In recent years, however, the tinkerers have taken over, gnawing at the table legs like bespectacled termites, mutilating common sense with a series of unnecessary modifications that have bordered on the space age and have predominantly made things more complex and worse. At this rate, there is no knowing where the fiddling will end. Purple cards for incidents of dissent that are worth slightly more than a blue card? Orange cards for standard fouls that are followed by a sarcastic eye roll? Green cards in case two players decide to get married during a fixture on American soil to ensure the permanent residency of one involved party? Perhaps we should not give IFAB ideas...
Ultimately, the issues with blue cards are twofold. Firstly - and probably most importantly - football does not lend itself to the enforcement of a sin bin. It works in rugby, for example, because the nature of the game hands a distinct defensive disadvantage to the team who are being punished. The inverse of this is that it encourages the attacking side to go for the jugular, to make hay while the sin shines, so to speak. It is, in other words, exciting.
The translation to football would be considerably duller. Instead of unleashing blood and thunder it would simply engender conservatism. Like a homeowner stung by a stock market crash, teams will drably cling to what they have, white-knuckled and frugal, sitting and hoarding until the prosperous times return. A sin bin in football would be like pulling into a lay-by to park a speeding bus for intermittent ten minute intervals.
Secondly, and much more shallowly, it will look ridiculous. Do you know who is menacing? Darth Maul, Freddy Krueger, Satan. Do you know who isn't? The Smurfs. Blue just doesn't work as an admonitory colour, unless the reproach is something along the lines of, 'Watch out there, chief, it's a bit chilly this morning! Don't forget your scarf!'.
And those poor referees; as if they don't struggle enough with their street cred, suddenly we're going to make them carry around half the storeroom of a Hobbycraft in their breast pocket? Every time they go to take a name they'll have to rifle through a primary school classroom wall display's worth of pigmented cardboard just to find their notebook.
In short, like so many things that IFAB become fixated with, this is a frivolous nothingness. The current protocol ain't broke, and yet here they are, trying to mend it anyways. A far better use of their time would be to find effective ways of turning their previous faux pas into functioning and workable processes. But where is the fun in that?
Instead, it is perhaps most accurate to regard IFAB as an unwieldy, attention deficient mad monarch mutated to the size of a kaiju monster - Godzilla with a Habsburg jaw. Every now and again, they wander onto dry land, smash up some perfectly passable infrastructure, then skulk back to the murky depths when the boredom sets in or the details get too strenuous. And when this happens, it is us, the powerless onlookers, who are left standing amongst the rubble.