The International FA Board (IFAB) have voted to introduce a number of rule changes which could have big impact on football next season. IFAB consists of representatives from the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish associations, as well as FIFA, and the alterations will take affect in the leagues of those four nations.
The main change applies to the handball rule, one of the most vague and debated laws in the sport. Under the new proposal, any goal created with the use of a hand or arm will automatically be disallowed, regardless of the intent of the player. The move should bring to end the debate over what constitutes a 'deliberate' handball, at least in one area of the pitch.
We have seen this subject come into debate recently after a Sergio Aguero goal against Arsenal, when the Argentine clearly used his hand to steer the ball into the net.
In a move to combat time wasting, substituted players will now be required to leave the pitch at the nearest sideline, bringing to an end the long, drawn out walks that we have become accustomed to late in games. Other alterations will affect areas such as walls during free-kicks, and the awarding of dropped balls.
A statement from from IFAB outlined the changes:
On the topic of defining handball, a decision was taken by the IFAB to provide a more precise and detailed definition for what constitutes handball...
For example, a goal scored directly from the hand/arm (even if accidental) and a player scoring or creating a goal-scoring opportunity after having gained possession/control of the ball from their hand/arm (even if accidental) will no longer be allowed...
The AGM also approved changes to the Laws of the Game related to a player being substituted having to leave the field of play at the nearest boundary line, yellow and red cards for misconduct by team officials and the ball not having to leave the penalty area at goal kicks and defending team free-kicks in the penalty area.
Additional approved law changes included: measures to deal with attacking players causing problems in the defensive 'wall'; changing the dropped ball procedure; giving a dropped ball in certain situations when the ball hits the referee; and the goalkeeper only being required to have one foot on the line at a penalty kick.
Simple stuff really. The handball and substitution rule changes will certainly have the largest impact, and it will feel strange to see players run off the pitch in random areas. I'm sure they will still find a way to waste some valuable time though...