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VAR, throw-ins, double cautions and more; the latest FIFA rules changes explained

Written by: Sabin Castelino

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The governing body of the sport's rules has approved these changes which are already in effect. 

As every year the International Football Association Board (IFAB) have released changes to the laws of the game for 2018-2019. 11 of the 17 laws have been changed to a certain extent, which will help contribute to the development of the game worldwide.

One of the first and major changes is in regards to grassroots football where now the national football association or FA has been given the right to determine the number of substitutes to be allowed in youth football. The Annual General Meeting in 2017 approved these changes as many of the countries were using seven substitutes whereas earlier the law restricted the substitutions to only five. This will enable more youth to get game-time on the field.

Law 1 has also seen important changes as the Video Assistant Referees (VAR) and Video Operation Rooms are becoming a part of the game. With regard to this, no substitute or substituted player or official is allowed to enter the Video Operation Rooms as they will be sent off with a red card for this. In addition, the on-field Referee Review Area is also out of bounds for the players and team officials and they will be cautioned if they trespass into this area.

In Law 2 we see another modification where now the fourth substitute has become official in extra-time regardless of three substitutes being used in the match during normal time. But, this is enforceable only on the condition that the FA has made them part of the rules of the tournament before the tournament begins.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system is being used in several countries throughout the world

A major change and clarification has come across with regards to use of on-field communication technology. Earlier in Law 4, team officials were strictly banned from using any electronic communication device whatsoever in the technical area, but with the new changes that have been introduced, technical support using communication technology is allowed as long as it is mobile and portable.

But none of these should interfere with the match officials and their decisions and should be authorised for use by the match officials and the national FA beforehand. Use of any unauthorised equipment will lead to dismissal from the technical area.

In addition to this in Law 4, FIFA and IFAB have added important restrictions with regards to slogans and the statements on jerseys. It also talks about what care should be taken to ensure that any religious, political or personal beliefs or views are not disturbed or violated. This is a very important statement with regard to protecting the game from being used for incorrect purposes.



Moving on to Law 5, the Video Assistant Referee is being permitted by the Law, but there is a catch. All the criteria of the VAR handbook must be met and verified by both, the IFAB and FIFA before VAR is used in any competition.

If no permission to use the VAR is taken but it is used by an FA in a tournament, it will be considered as a violation and the FA may face sanctions from FIFA. Also in addition to this, IFAB has prohibited referees from wearing cameras on their body during the match.

Another clarification provided is in context to cooling breaks that are permitted when matches are played in hot climatic conditions. IFAB has added the clause that the cooling breaks should never exceed one minute to prevent the game from becoming a coaching session. As always the rule has remained that the cooling breaks are provided only for the benefit of the players and not for coaching.


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Further, a new section has been added to direct free-kick offences. A direct free-kick will be awarded if a player throws an object at the ball or players or match officials and if the same is done recklessly, it might lead to a caution. Also, the biting clause has been refurbished to address any player biting one of his own teammates on the field, instead of an opposition player and a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team in such conditions.

The new additions to the laws also state that no player on the field is allowed to use the VAR signal excessively to force the referee to use the technology.

Another important change is the interpretation of the caution. Earlier referees were told to caution one of the offences when two or more cautionable offences were committed in close proximity. But, the new clarification states that each of the cautionable offences needs to be cautioned and a double caution will keep being interpreted as a sending off.

The biggest change has been saved for last. Many creative ways of taking a throw-in have been used by players which have included kneeling and throwing or sitting and throwing. But, with this new change, one has to be standing upright while a throw is being taken. With the new set of rules already in action, it will now be counted as on offence to throw a ball while not standing facing the field.

So, this was a summary of the important law changes explained in relatively simple terms. For a comprehensive read into the changes for 2018-19 click here.

Published: Thu Apr 26, 2018 06:43 PM IST

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