Changes to the laws of football will be up for debate at the International Football Association Board (IFAB) Annual General Meeting (AGM) this week, with the Scottish FA at the centre of talks on the future of the beautiful game.
A plethora of potentially game-changing innovations will be discussed at the AGM, hosted this year by the English FA on Friday, 3 March at Wembley, with a variety of topics ranging from temporary dismissals to video assistant referees (VAR) up for discussion.
One of the main topics on the agenda will see discussion as to whether to allow individual national football associations more flexibility to modify aspects of the way their domestic football below the highest level is organised.
If approved, the change would allow for football below the top leagues in each country to modify the size of the field of play, the weight and size of the ball, the size of the goalposts, the duration of the match, the number of substitutes (up to a maximum of five) and the use of return substitutes.
The use of temporary dismissals – or sin bins – for youth, veterans, disability and grassroots levels of football will be discussed, having been trialled in UEFA Development tournaments in 2015 and 2016.
Attendees will also hear feedback on the VAR experiments that have taken place so far, with the technology used for the first time in the FIFA Club World Cup in December.
An update will also be provided by organisations who have experimented with the use of a fourth substitute in extra time.
The Scottish FA is one of a handful of governing bodies to have trialled the use of a fourth substitute in its competitions, having introduced it in this season’s William Hill Scottish Cup.
Four teams in Scotland have taken advantage of the fourth substitute option this season, with Ayr United becoming the first Scottish team to make a fourth substitution in their fourth round tie against Queen’s Park.
Scottish FA Chief Executive Stewart Regan said: “I’m looking forward to discussing modifications to the Laws of the Game, which could have huge benefits for the grassroots game in particular.
“It has potential to encourage participation, removing unfair aspects of the game or barriers. Allowing smaller dimensioned pitches, for example, could encourage people to play football later into their lives, allowing them stay fitter and healthier for longer.”
The IFAB is the universal decision-making body for the Laws of the Game of association football. It is comprised of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), holding one vote each, with FIFA holding four votes. Passing a motion requires a three-quarters majority.
A delegation from the Scottish FA will attend the AGM, including Stewart Regan, Scottish FA President Alan McRae, Vice-President Rod Petrie, Chief Operating Officer Andrew McKinlay and Head of Referee Operations John Fleming.
“The IFAB is a historical organisation that pre-dates FIFA, dating back to the founding fathers of the game,” said Stewart Regan.
“The Scottish FA’s involvement reinforces Scotland’s role as one of the original driving forces behind the game of football. A seat on the board of IFAB and being part of the group that actually determines the new rules and changes to the Laws of the Game is a high-profile and prestigious position.
“It strengthens our relationship with FIFA and ensures that the British associations have a very strong influence on how the game develops.”