Football’s lawmakers set to ditch blue cards from sin bin trials after furore

Blue cards were negatively received when reports surfaced on February 8.

IFAB’s directors are set to ditch plans to introduce blue cards to signal a player is being sent to the sin bin
IFAB’s directors are set to ditch plans to introduce blue cards to signal a player is being sent to the sin bin (Aaron Chown/PA)

Blue cards are set to be dropped from sin bin trials planned by football’s lawmakers. the PA news agency understands.

The cards were set to be unveiled as the method used to signal a temporary dismissal in trial protocols originally scheduled for publication on February 9, a move which would have marked the biggest change in managing player discipline in the professional game since the introduction of red and yellow cards for the 1970 World Cup.

However, there was a largely negative reaction when reports about blue cards surfaced on the eve of publication, and the International Football Association Board, which sets the game’s laws, opted to delay publication of the protocol.

The cards are now set to be scrapped following further talks between IFAB’s directors on the eve of the organisation’s annual general meeting in Loch Lomond, PA understands.

The trial itself has not been revoked, but it is expected it will take place at a much lower footballing level than was anticipated by the original February 9 protocol, which was set to encourage applications from all but the very top-level competitions.

The Football Association, one of the five bodies which makes up the IFAB, was understood to have been interested in running a trial in the men’s and women’s FA Cups in the future, before the furore around blue cards.

There is also set to be further talks on Saturday about whether any sin bin trial should include tactical fouls, as well as dissent. Under the original protocol, all players on the pitch, including goalkeepers, can be temporarily dismissed.

Sin bin trials were one of four protocols set for publication last month before the blue card story broke.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants improved player behaviour at higher levels
FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants improved player behaviour at higher levels (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The IFAB is also seeking to trial allowing referees the option of creating a ‘captain-only zone’ around them when they feel threatened or intimidated, and a trial where referees can send teams to their respective penalty areas to cool off in the event of mass confrontations.

All of these, including the sin bin protocols, are ultimately intended to improve player behaviour at higher levels, something FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said is essential to set the right example to young players and ensure people still feel safe, and encouraged, to be referees.

Another trial that had been set for publication on February 9 concerned how long goalkeepers can handle the ball, and how play should restart when they hold on too long.

Currently keepers can hold on for six seconds and anything over that is supposed to be penalised with an indirect free-kick, but lawmakers are concerned this is not being properly enforced which is why a trial has been developed.

The management of head injuries is also on the AGM agenda.

The World Leagues Forum and world players’ union FIFPRO have again written to the IFAB asking for permission to trial temporary concussion substitutes, something which was again rejected at last year’s AGM in London.

The player union and domestic league in Scotland, this year’s host nation for the AGM, are among those seeking the right to conduct such a trial.

“From our perspective, we have a responsibility to those former players who are sadly living with dementia,” PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said.

“But we also have to take responsibility as a game – whether it’s the unions, leagues, the government bodies – for current players and future players, to minimise the chances, as much as we possibly can, of players getting dementia. We’re involved in this initiative because we do feel that temporary concussion subs are the next step forward.”

Trials of permanent concussion substitutes were first approved by the IFAB in December 2020.