Sepp Blatter Wants to Make a Few Changes


It's not exactly shocking news to anyone who follows soccer at all closely that FIFA Grand Poobah Sepp Blatter has some ideas about changes he'd like to make in regards to the Laws of the Game.

Sepp always has a lot of ideas about a lot of things. Ideas spew forth from the man like ash from Mt. St. Helens or hot water from Old Faithful, and as we all know a goodly number of them are silly, sexist or downright weird, among other things.

But we need to be careful about laughing up our sleeves at the old boy. For while he is often heavy-handed, pompous and buffoonish, it's also true that he's an immensely powerful man with complete control over an enormous amount of money and near-dictatorial power over The Beautiful Game.

With the exception of one particular area.

This weekend the IFAB - the people who write the Laws of the Game, in case you're not following along at home - will meet to discuss and vote on some fairly fundamental changes that Sepp would like to see.

For example, he and his creation, UEFA President Michael Platini, think that halftimes should be extended from 15 to 20 minutes. Purists are howling, saying that it "changes the flow of the game and is too long for the players to stay warm.

Blatter - although he's not saying it publicly - wants 25% more commercial time to sell. The IFAB doesn't particularly care how many minutes of beer and tire commercials the sponsors get to air, and are known to be somewhat skeptical about the whole deal.

They'll also be discussing the recent "two extra referees" experiments conducted at various under-age tournaments and at full internationals in Slovenia, Cyprus and Hungary.

Sepp is opposed to the idea of using video cameras or electronically bugged balls to review whether the ball crossed the goal line and to verify disputed PK calls, and wants to see one extra official at each end whose sole job is to monitor the penalty area.

Additionally, they're going to vote on the so-called "sin-bin" or penalty box idea, whereby some fouls would get you a little time out, and also try to change the wording of the offside rule to clarify the kind of call that came up on Rudd van Nistilroy's goal in the 2006 World Cup when Italian defender Christian Panucci was all the way off the pitch.

You'll recall that although the referee did indeed make the correct call, according to FIFA, the rule is less than clear in that particular and the IFAB aims to correct the problem.

The Law will now read:

"Any defending player leaving the field of play for any reason without the referee's permission shall, until he returns to the field ... be considered to be on his own goalline or touchline for the purposes of offside."

All of which is modestly interesting, but also illustrates the point that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are making as they continue to adamantly refuse to field a combined Olympic team with England: that Blatter wants them out of the way.

The IFAB consists of eight members: four are appointed by FIFA (ie. Sepp Blatter) and the other four are the representatives of the four "home nations". And it takes six votes to insert or change a rule.

So even if England, which has been in full-grovel mode for months now trying to shmooze Blatter into getting behind their World Cup '18 bid, goes along with whatever it is Sepp wants at a given time they, combined with the four stooges Blatter personally appoints, still can't rewrite a single punctuation mark in the LOTG.

They need either Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland to go along.

Is this something of an anachronism? Abso-bloody-lutely. At this point there is no Earthly reason why Wales has a bigger claim on that seat than a hundred other countries. They and their fellows are there because of tradition, nothing more. And Sepp wants them gone.

With them out of the way, he can appoint the rest of the IFAB himself - or have his puppet Executive Committee do it for him - and then one of his fondest dreams would have come true: he could literally sit in his office, come up with an idea, make a phone call to the IFAB and have it made law.

And if you think that Blatter doesn't want that power, then you need to talk to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They'd be happy to explain it to you.

Keeping those federations independent of England is important to all of us who love the game, because their existence keeps Sepp Blatter's hands off of a set of powerful reins he dearly wishes he held.

And that's all the reason most of us should need.