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Explaining the logic behind sin bins and why it’s a welcome change for referees

Explaining the logic behind sin bins and why it’s a welcome change for referees

Football is an ever-evolving sport that constantly adapts to improve its fairness and accuracy. Recent initiatives by football authorities such as the introduction of VAR, goal-line technology, and Semi-automated offside technology, have been aimed at achieving precise officiating and reducing mistakes.

Modifications in rules pertaining to offside, handballs, deliberate time-wasting, and player concussion protocols have also been recently introduced. Now, there’s a new potential addition to this list- Sin Bins.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB), the entity responsible for determining football’s laws, has suggested the introduction of sin-bins in the professional game as a means to curtail player misconduct and enhance respect towards match officials.

The rule of sin bins is not new in sports concept but was introduced to the Rugby Union in 2001. The rule is in existence in games like ice hockey, rugby, basketball, and roller derby. Now, its introduction to professional football will lead to significant changes in the conduct of the game.

Sin bins are designed to address issues like excessive dissent directed at referees or deliberate fouls aimed at disrupting the game’s flow. Sin bins is another name for temporary dismissals in football. If a yellow carded player show excessive dissent in front of referees, they can be sent off the field temporarily.

The temporary expulsion is typically of 10 minutes. It serves as a middle ground between a caution (yellow card) and an outright dismissal (red card). After ten minutes, a sin-binned player can return to play. During this period, the offending team is left a player short.

This is similar to an approach normalized in sports like hockey, where players are often sent off for a short period of time in which their team must play with a player short.

The primary aim is not merely punitive but to foster fair play and respect among players. According to the English Football Association, sin bins aim to “improve the match day experience” and support the “respect program”.

In the 2016/17 season, there were over 73,000 cautions for dissent – making up around 25% of all cautions. With this in mind, the English FA decided to test the rule of sin bins across the grassroot level. In this attempt, in the 2018-19 season, the English Football Association’s trialed sin bins across various levels of the game including Step 5 and below of the National League System and Tier 3 and below of the Women’s game.

The trial surprisingly yielded extremely positive results with a 38 per cent reduction in dissents. A survey carried out to obtain feedback from around 1,400 users showed that with 72 per cent of players, 77 per cent of coaches and 84 per cent of referees wanting to continue with the trial.

The introduction also resulted in significant shift in player behaviour and a more harmonious playing environment. Following the successive trial, IFAB are now plotting to do the same higher up the football pyramid.

As a part of further measures aimed at improving player conduct, the IFAB also supported a proposed trial for only team captains to approach the referee. The IFAB will also launch a proposal whereby only the team captain can approach the referee to discuss ‘major game situations’ to stop players crowding around. With a successful trial of referees wearing body cameras at grassroots level, the authorities are in contemplation about extending it to professional football as well.

Speaking at the IFAB’s Annual Business Meeting in London, former referee Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of global governing body FIFA’s referees committee expressed his optimism about this transition.

He said: “The trial was very successful in grassroot competitions. We are now talking of bringing it to a higher level.That was a great experience, but an experience with kids. Now, we are talking of a higher level – very probably professional, or even high professional football.”

“This is a major positive step forward in addressing poor behaviour in our game. Well done to all involved.”.He added.

However, apparently not everyone reciprocates with his views. The proposal has elicited diverse responses from various stakeholders.

John Terry took to to express his skepticism and concerns about potential inconsistencies in refereeing decisions and its impact on team strategies.

“I personally don’t like it because the level of tolerance and inconsistencies from referees will differ every week.”Tweeted the Ex-Chelsea Legend. He further added that he could see teams becoming more defensive after being reduced to 10 men, making a match less entertaining as a result.

Former Liverpool defender, Jamie Carragher have also voiced a different opinion. He tweeted “I’ve never been a fan of sin bins before, but we are watching too many games that have cards & for me it ruins the game … I wouldn’t want the Red Cards for those so the Yellow card could be the sin bin.”

“Totally for only allowing the captain to talk to the referee, I do know that’s very hypocritical coming from me!!” Added the pundit for Sky Sports.

Others pointed to the fact that, given the controversy around handball and video assistant referee (VAR) decisions, the sport would only be adding another layer of complexity to its laws with the introduction of sin bins.

“Considering football can’t decide what is clear and obvious from one week to the next, sin bins and the threshold for being banished to one have no chance,” CNN Senior Sports Analyst Darren Lewis wrote on

The proposed changes by the IFAB are poised for consideration and approval at their upcoming Annual General Meeting in March. If sanctioned, these alterations will be incorporated into the Laws of the Game from July 1, 2024, marking a pivotal moment in football’s attempt to instigate fair play.

The IFAB’s move towards sin bins alongside the proposition of allowing only team captains to approach referees comes at a time when incidents of dissent and referee abuses have sparked concerns within the sport.

While opinions on these changes may differ, the bigger picture is to promote a more disciplined, respectful, and fair sporting environment that benefits players, referees, and fans alike. However now its upto the IFAB and the referees to promote a fair implementation of this rule.

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