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If you play Sunday League Football in Worcester, you’ll know that we are now a month into the trial of the rolling substitutions system. Due to the huge number of hits my last article on the subject received you are probably familiar with my stance on the whole subject, however, if you missed it, you can catch up here: An Open Letter to the Worcestershire FA.

I still don’t think the system is working. We’ve had teams throw on a field of attackers or defenders in an attempt to kill the game off and for me, that just isn’t right. It’s not the game I know and love. It’s also a problem for club secretaries who charge match day fees based on the time spent on the pitch. It can get a very complicated process and then only allows for more complaints or confusion.

I have been thinking a lot of the rules of football and how we came to play the current game, it’s fascinating. I saw this tweet earlier and having recently reviewed the sports history, I found it rather interesting.

It was only in 1866 that catching the ball became illegal. Before, if players caught the ball before it bounced they could get themselves a free kick. So whilst the game we play today is football, it could also have been named catchball. (The egg bit though, that still stands).

Then I was thinking about how to encourage further participation in Sunday League Football – how the FA might like to change the rules of the game in the future to make it nothing like the sport you see on TV and want to play. I found the following rules that might be useful.

1912 – A goalkeeper can now only handle the ball in his own penalty area, instead of his entire half.
1912 – A goalkeeper must wear different colours than his teammates. Before, players could simply take over the duty of goalkeeping by notifying the referee.

So prior to 1912, a goalkeeper could handle the ball in his own half. Lets bring that rule back into the Sunday League – this would mean keepers (like myself) don’t have to just fumble around in their area. They get to run around the entire half of the pitch, grabbing the ball where-ever they want. That’d encourage participation for keepers, getting them more time on the ball.

Also, anyone could be a keeper – so lets bring that into Sunday League – lets have ‘Rush Goalies’! We all played this in the playground growing up because nobody wanted to go in goal so we’re all used to it. This would then allow for players to be more involved on the pitch doing what they love to do and not having to worry about being stuck in goal all the time.

1992 – Goalkeepers banned from picking up a pass with their hands

Probably my most serious point I want to get out of this is the rule above. I can’t believe it was only in 1992 that keepers could pick up a back pass. This rule needs to come back into Sunday League. Why? Because the standard of football is by no means Premier League, goal-keepers can have very little to do as the shots are either blasted over, wide or straight at a keeper. So allowing a harmless back pass, the goalkeeper can get a bit of extra time on the ball and gain some confidence.

Lets investigate a possible scenario. Team B has a one nil lead, the game has ten minutes left to go. Team A are tall and good in the air but Team B has used the rolling sub rule to bring on all their defenders and are now putting every man behind the ball. Team B hoofs the ball clear from danger, the goalkeeper, in his own half could grab the ball from the air and hoist it forward into the box to create a goal scoring opportunity.

Or, the long ball is mopped up by a central defender and passed back to his goal keeper who is a great kicker from his hands, not on the ground. He can pick the ball up and loft it back up the pitch.
Or, the goal-keeper has come up to play as an extra attacker as he is full of energy from standing in his goal. One of the puffed out wingers takes a break and covers at the back. Team B hit a long ball forward, the keeper needn’t panic, his winger will play ‘Rush’ and do his job for him.

Do these rule changes sound ridiculous to you? Well rolling substitutions sounds ridiculous to me. By changing rules we ruin the game. I’d love to know some statistics, has the Worcester League got more participation this season? Are players spending more time on the pitch? Is it being properly policed?

As a goal-keeper I’d welcome the rules above being brought back in, like all goal-keepers I think I’m a better striker, so the three rules above would allow me to play football like I want. There are so many times I want to come out of my area and play with the ball a little, if I could catch it in my own half, I’d settle for that. If I could throw myself up top for every corner and know that I have someone watching my back at goal, I’d be happy. If I could just pick up a back pass, I’d be so much more content.

But this is all something that I’ve no doubt will be laughed at. Why? I don’t know. These changes are no different to allowing rolling substitutions. They will allow for more participation from all players on the field. Most teams will have one or two goalkeepers, but there are more than likely loads that don’t have a team who are sitting at home thinking they’re not good enough or that it’ll be hard work to break into a squad and displace their current number one. But if the role of the goal-keeper is changed to become a more active outfield player, it could be the change that those at home need.

Football has an interesting history and it is this past that has shaped the current game. Right now football is at its pinnacle in my opinion, there is so much money to be made at the top level, there are sponsorship opportunities and if England can ever win a major trophy, it’ll be great for the economy. It is the journey the sport has taken which has led it to being the best in the world, we shouldn’t change it. We should nurture it, take care of it. By messing with the system you are going to turn people off. Let’s leave football as it is.

Archived: The Ever Changing Game of Football - archived
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