Whether a game of football is played at the FIFA World Cup, or on a park pitch anywhere in the world, the Laws of the Game are universal. How are they determined, and who decides them?
The IFAB (International Football Association Board) is the independent guardian of the Laws of the Game and the only body authorised to decide and agree changes to the Laws of the Game. Listening to the football community, their goal is to improve and develop the game for players, match officials and fans while protecting and strengthening the spirit and simplicity of football.
At its Annual Business Meeting (ABM) held at Wembley Stadium in London on 18 January 2023, The IFAB followed up on the recommendations made by its Football and Technical Advisory Panels in October 2022. It agreed that referees’ live communication of video assistant referee (VAR) related decisions to the public – both in the stadium and via broadcasters – would be trialled for 12 months in international competitions, and that it would initially be rolled out at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco, which began on 1 February.
With three matches now played in Rabat and Tangier, we spoke to FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina.
“We decided to have this trial because we received some requests to make the decision taken by the referee after a VAR intervention more understandable for all the football stakeholders, namely the spectators at the stadium, or in front of the television” he explained.
“As language could be one of the issues, we thought this FIFA Club World Cup would be perfect because it’s a multi-language competition, with teams and, of course, spectators involved coming from all six of the different continents.”
The trial is something that global fans of football will certainly consider as an innovation, though in some other sports, the use of such technology to inform fans of decisions by match officials is more common.
“I have to say that there are other experiences in other sports, namely the NFL in American football, who have been doing this for quite a long time. It seems that the referees are pretty comfortable with this” continued Collina.
“In football, language could be a problem, particularly when you have to make this announcement in a language which is not your mother tongue. This may not be that easy. But as the announcement will be quite concise, I’m very confident that the referees will feel comfortable with this.”
The trial will continue through to the final in Rabat on 12 February, with discussions currently ongoing regarding a further trial at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia later this year. Dependent on the outcome of these trails, utilization at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 in July and August has not been ruled out. Watch this space.
The IFAB explained
The IFAB is comprised of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) with one vote each, and FIFA, covering the remaining 207 national associations, with four votes. In this way, all five bodies ensure that Laws are preserved respecting football’s traditions as well as its international reality. Passing a motion requires a three-quarters majority.
In more recent years, the introduction of The Football and Technical Advisory Panels FAP and TAP has included experienced members from the football world, like former players and referees, that support The IFAB’s Technical Subcommittee in the decision-making process. Actual changes to the Laws can only be introduced during the Annual General Meetings (AGM), where the General Assembly formed by the key representatives of the IFAB take part and which are normally held every February or March in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland in rotation, as well as other locations decided by FIFA in years of the FIFA World Cup.
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