There have been a lot of “crazy” ideas bandied around recently about how we could make football better, and some crazier ones that were actually implemented. Remember when they decided the offside rule wasn’t complicated enough in 2003 and so added the whole “interfering with play” thing? Or remember in 2004 when they realised the idea was stupid and dropped it?

Instead of experimenting with all this nonsense it’s time that FIFA got its head out of its backside and realised they could learn a thing or two from other sports. For example:

#5 Icing

What is it?

Icing comes from – you’ve guessed it – ice hockey, and prevents players from knocking the puck from one end of the rink to the other without it being touched.

Why would it help?

There’s nothing more miserable to watch than a team that plays the long-ball game; and the reason it’s so miserable is because it works. If teams that played the long-ball game kept losing no-one would complain, and so you can’t blame the managers for doing it.

However, if you outlawed the long ball – or more specifically, booting the ball to no-one in particular from inside your own third, then it would force teams to play a more technical game and one that wouldn’t make us want to gouge our own eyes out. Speaking of which:

#4 Unsportsmanlike Conduct

What is it?

It’s a term used in a number of sports and is a sterile Americanism for what cricket would call “the spirit of the game.” Officially unsportsmanlike conduct is a violation of the rules of good sportsmanship or participant conduct. Or in other words, this:

Why would it help?

You might not realise this, but amongst the sports implementing this law is football. The problem is, while examples of unsportsmanlike conduct in American football include excessive celebration, i.e. the surprising regularity with which props are used; misconduct in this country is almost exclusively issued for diving or removing your shirt when celebrating, and is punishable with a yellow card.

Now are you telling me that removing your shirt and deliberately diving are both worth yellow cards? These “unwritten rules” tend to be by their very nature ambiguous, and while eye-gouges are easy to spot, dives are harder to determine and harder to punish. On top of that, the penalties that are given for misconduct are wildly inconsistent; in American Football any form of misconduct is a 15-yard penalty which, if committed on defence greatly increases the chances they will give up points, while if committed on offense make it almost impossible to score. However, the punishment in football is the possibility of a yellow card when you give away a free-kick in the opposition’s half, while if you succeed you get a free-kick in a dangerous position and a card for the opponent. In other words, the penalty is so small and the reward is so huge that it doesn’t deter players at all. It’s a sad state of affairs in any sport that you’d need to lay down such heavy punishment to encourage sportsmanship, but if the system works…

#3 Sin Bins / Enforcers

What is it?

Everyone knows what sin bins are and they’re not very interesting: “the temporary punishment for minor infringements,” and are again found in ice hockey (as well as both Rugby codes). However, I’ve bunched it with possibly the greatest sporting rule of all time – the enforcer.

The enforcer is an unofficial term for “a one-dimensional fighter who is a liability as a scorer and a defender.”

What you might need to learn here is that fighting – while very much illegal – is a common activity in ice hockey, which is surprising given the number of Canadians who play it. Fighting is in fact so common that the NHL have very precise rules about fighting because, in the words of Jayne Mansfield, “if you’re going to do something wrong, do it big” (which presumably included driving cars.) The NHLs rules of engagement include the insistence that players put down their sticks in an act of laying down the gauntlet, and the removal of gloves which could cause damage.

The reason fighting remains so prominent in ice hockey is that both parties, no matter who instigated the fight are penalised to five minutes in the sin bin, and can therefore be deployed tactically – even if you are cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Why would this help?

Are you kidding me?! If players are encouraged to fight each other then they won’t be arguing with the refs – and arguably the biggest problem with football at the moment is a lack of authority. The ice hockey referee is the bartender overseeing twelve paralytic drunks – and when the bartender tells you it’s time to go then you better listen.

#2 Video Replays

What is it?

Videos that show replays of stuff. As of 2012 video replays are being used in basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, baseball, tennis, rugby league, rugby union, cricket, Formula 1, Formula 2, Formula 3000, NASCAR rodeo, American football, Canadian football, Gaelic football – but not association football.

Why would it help?

More than enough has been said about the merits and demerits of video technology that I won’t give a lengthy discussion about why FIFA are being archaic and ridiculous. And if you still don’t agree, just listen to Michel Platini say that we don’t need it and tell me honestly that you could possibly agree with him.

#1 Microphones for Referees

What is it?

I’m not talking about those microphones that allow the referees and the linesman to communicate with each other during the game – that’s just common sense. I’m talking about the microphones used in American Football (and rugby) that allow the viewing public to hear what the referees are saying to the players – or perhaps more intriguingly what the players are saying to the referees.

Why would it help?

Do you remember Anders Frisk? He was the referee in the infamous Chelsea vs. Barcelona Champions League game in 2005. I say “infamous” because it’ll best remembered for being the game that ended Frisk’s career. Barcelona scraped a victory, which led Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to accuse Frisk of being corrupt, and subsequently to Frisk receiving death threats.

Are you telling me you wouldn’t want to hear what Frisk said during that game? It certainly would have provided valuable information into his integrity, and generally the integrity of all decision making during games.

However, this is only a fringe issue that microphones would solve. When you watch live football, either in the stadium or on television you often see fouls being given, but exactly what the offence was can be confusing; “Was it handball? Was it a push?” Was it misconduct – did he gouge someone’s eye out?” When you know what the referee is saying it makes it a lot easier to understand his decision making and therefore to sympathise with decisions he makes. Sure, refs write match reports following the game but that doesn’t help during the game. Rugby and American football are remarkably similar in the treatment of referees; every foul is followed by an explanation to both player and audience as to what they’re being penalised for and acknowledges the most vital thing about sport – it’s about the fans as much as the players.

You can throw in all the rule changes you want but it won’t help if it makes it less attractive for the fans One of the biggest criticisms of video technology are the long delays to the game, but it’s no worse than the long delays where the referee has a chat with a player who’s just committed a foul, while we’re left trying to hone our lip-reading abilities because there sure as hell isn’t any football being played. Worse yet are goalmouth scrambles that dissipate into a conversation between referee and linesman over by the corner-flag, which will no doubt be interrupted at least half-a-dozen times by players shouting their mouths off. Throw in a headset for the refs and you’ve automatically solved swearing, insubordination, confusing decisions and long delays while keeping the game flowing and being affordable for most tiers of football.

You can thank me later, FIFA.