The game you and I love could look very different in the years to come.
That’s if Marco van Basten has his way. In an interview with Bild that covered a lot of ground (here’s a decent sum-up in English), the 52-year-old former Ajax and Inter striker detailed plans to solve, what he believes, are some of football’s pernicious issues.
Van Basten is currently serving as FIFA’s technical director. Part of his mandate includes exploring changes to the rules and implementing new technologies in order to improve the game. The technical director’s office can be credited (or blamed, depending on your view) with such recent innovations as goal-line technolog and the current video replay trials. Van Basten took over the role in August of last year— bringing a 13-year career of management in the Eredivisie to a close— and has already proposed some fairly major changes to the sport. His ideas are meant to, in his words, “... make [football] more honest, more dynamic, more interesting, so that what we offer is attractive enough.”
Arguably the most controversial proposed change is scrapping the offside rule. (That’s right, kids, no more using salt and pepper shakers to try and explain how it works.) Van Basten says the rule, while well-meaning, incentivizes teams to park the bus. The result is a game which “resemble[s] handball where nine players, plus the goalkeeper, pack the penalty area and [the defense] is like a wall.” Van Basten didn’t address whether striking the rule would lead to an outbreak of cherrypicking.
Also mooted during the interview: replacing yellow cards with a sin bin. That idea has been floating around for a few years with mixed reception, but Van Basten’s apparent support all of a sudden makes it much more real and immediate. “That would frighten teams,” Van Basten said. “It is hard to play 10 against 11, let alone with eight or nine.”
Remember when MLS used to have hockey-style shootouts instead of penalty kicks Well, hold on to your butts, because they could be making a comeback. These shootouts were controversial in its day and can still sometimes work Soccer Twitter into a tizzy (especially once Alexi Lalas weighs in)
Other possible rules changes include:
- Cracking down on time-wasting (tough call)
- Reducing fixture congestion (this one will probably garner wide support)
- Specifying that only team captains can speak to officials (not… the worst idea?)
Obviously, Van Basten is only one man, and even with the influence of his office he’d have a huge mountain to climb implementing any one of these changes. It may surprise you to learn that implementing real changes that have a net positive effect at FIFA isn’t especially easy. There are also some real questions over whether some of his proposals— like nuking the offside rule— would just create more problems than they solve. Still, some of the suggestions are rather intriguing, and could make for smoother proceedings and a more exciting spectator experience.