It’s one of football’s least likely rule changes, but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has sparked debate by claiming that sin bins should be introduced in the game.
Not the first time the concept has been suggested, the Frenchman is unlikely to be alone in spotting a number of potential advantages that could come with dismissing players for a ten-minute period during a match.
Other sports, such as Rugby Union, Rugby League and Ice Hockey, use the sin bin with varying degrees of regularity, and all have a positive impact on the way the game is played, changing the dynamic of what is happening on the pitch and providing one team with an advantage for the given period of time.
"A sin bin is worth thinking about in my opinion. Sometimes you see a guy is on the fringes of his temper, on a moody day,” noted Wenger on the official Arsenal website.
“Maybe if the referee can take him out for 10 minutes – like in rugby – then it would be a chance for the manager to tell him to calm down, focus on his game. That would be better in the long run."
The longer-term implications of a red card are also not lost on Wenger, with an additional suspension of either one or three matches handed down depending on a straight red card or two bookable offences.
Whilst a disciplinary panel look at specific incidents and have, on occasion, rescinded on-field decisions, mistakes continue to be made, leading to players missing matches because of a red.
"There are other advantages too, for example, [at the moment] if a guy gets a second yellow, he’s suspended for the next game. But, he might be facing Man United in his next game, so they have an advantage, yet the team that he fouled against on the day has no advantage,” added Wenger.
"On top of that, they are at a disadvantage because one of their rivals has benefited. So sometimes you think 'where is the logic?' It would be better to take the punishment on the day, and give the advantage to the team that has been offended against.
"That’s why the sin bin is more logical for an immediate punishment."
Of course, Wenger’s argument is slightly floored in that the advantage on the day comes from the opposition being reduced to ten-men.
But, to some extent, ‘the professor’ has a point. So frequently we see mistakes made, that the introduction of a sin bin would give referees the opportunity to find a half-way house, a balance when not 100% sure if an offence should be a red card.
Former World Cup official Graham Poll went as far as to say that it’s an introduction that every official wants, but will never get, back in January.
“Unfortunately, the International Football Association Board, the body that determines the Laws of the Game, are unlikely ever to afford referees sin-binning as a tool,” wrote Poll is his Daily Mail column at the turn of the year.
“IFAB insist the laws of football are uniform, no matter the level. If a player is sin-binned in park football, who manages that player? Where does he serve his 10-minute sanction, and who is he allowed to talk to?”
The IFAB have discussed this rule change in the past, back in 2009, but it appears to have dropped dramatically off the radar with all the focus on goal-line technology following the disaster of Frank Lampard’s ‘phantom goal’ against Germany in the World Cup the following year.
It won’t be on the agenda in July when the next IFAB meeting takes place either, quite simply because there is not enough support for the idea. In many respects, Wenger’s comments have come completely out of the blue, with no recent incident available to directly highlight where it could be used.
That said, Shaun Derry’s red card for QPR against Manchester United, as well as Alex Doni’s dismissal for Liverpool at Blackburn, are examples where perhaps a dismissal is too harsh a punishment for a minimal crime.
There is definitely an argument for not having a player sent off when they are the last line of defence and accidentally bring down an opponent. Is a penalty not enough, but a red card too much? Surely a sin bin would fit the bill.
The problem is that this one type of offence isn’t enough to implement reform to the laws of the game. Football doesn’t like change, and the time it’s taken to get so close to introducing video technology proves that.
To then add a sin bin card would give the powers that be in UEFA and FIFA a heart attack.
And, where goal-line technology is specific to the professional game and teams that can afford it, sin bins could open up a whole new can of worms in the semi-professional and amateur game. Who would implement the time period off-the-field? Who could the player speak with, and could he be 'coached'?
They seem like small issues, but would become massive problems for local Football Associations when the issues start to stack-up. Maybe ignoring the idea of sin bins would be the best thing for everyone - not least the referees.
Being the man in the middle is a thankless task, and adding an additional card could make things even more complicated for the referee. Maybe the bigwigs have done us all a favour by brushing this idea under the carpet.
Wenger will have to sit tight on the sin bin because, let's face it, it's not going to happen.
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