[MY VIEW] In preparing to referee the futsal competition of the World Police and Fire Games at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan last month, I thought how soccer should experiment with futsal's accumulated-foul rule.
I have never officiated a soccer game in which I heard a coach tell his players before the game, “Do not foul!” But this is a relatively common occurrence in futsal, five-a-side soccer that is the only indoor version of soccer approved by FIFA.
That’s because futsal uses an accumulated-foul rule. With a team’s sixth penal foul (a foul that is punished by a direct kick or penalty kick) in each half, the team gives up a direct kick from the second penalty mark 10 meters from the goal. With the exception of the goalkeeper, all other players must be behind the ball so the defense cannot set up a wall to block the kick. Should the referee use the advantage clause, the “foul” is counted as well.
Every penal foul committed by a team after five of these fouls per half results in a kick from the second penalty mark.
Futsal is a free-flowing version of soccer partly because of the accumulated foul rule. And should a team get to five fouls, they will make a real effort not to commit another foul. Persistent infringement and tactical fouls, sadly all too common in soccer, are virtually non-existent in futsal.
Basketball uses an accumulated foul rule on a team basis (a squad being “over the limit”) and an individual basis (a player fouling out). Speaking of basketball, the size of the court is approximately the size of a futsal field. So let’s say the red team has five fouls and a red attacker pushes a blue defender near blue’s goal. After the whistle blows for the foul, the ball is then moved to the second penalty mark 20 or so meters away. But if soccer adopted this rule exactly as futsal does, the ball would need to be moved nearly the length of the much larger soccer field, breaking up the flow of the game.
So I propose experimenting with the accumulated foul rule this way:
* To simplify matters, soccer would not distinguish between penal fouls and indirect kick fouls in counting fouls.
* Should a team commit its 10th foul of the game, the player committing the foul is sent off and the team plays down a player. That player, though, is not suspended for the next game.
* Should a team commit its 20th foul of the game, the player committing the foul is sent off and the team plays down another player. That player, though, is not suspended for the next game.
* Players would continue to be sent off by the referee for offenses such as violent conduct, serious foul play, denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, etc. regardless of the number of fouls at the time
A professional soccer game averages nearly 30 fouls total -- 35 or so when you consider the advantage situations not whistled for fouls. Should soccer adopt the accumulated-foul rule, games such as the Netherlands’ 2006 World Cup war with Portugal and the 2010 World Cup final with Spain would be a thing of the past.
I welcome readers’ comments on whether FIFA should experiment with an accumulated foul rule for soccer and what the punishment should be.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to six-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book, Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/.)