VAR has changed soccer, whether you feel it’s for better or for worse. And the game could be set for another major overhaul in the near future.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has approved proposals to trial a sin bin system whereby dissent and minor offences would be punished with a 10-minute timeout. The trials are part of a series of measures designed to help protect referees from abuse. Other such measures include taking a hard line on only allowing on-field team captains to approach the referee during certain moments.
IFAB announced on Tuesday that sin bins will be trialled at “higher levels” after successful grassroots tests.
According to statistics from refereeing body PGMOL, instances of dissent in English pro soccer have almost doubled from last season, up to 347 from 165.
Sin bins have actually already been in use, tested in English football since the 2019-20 season, where they have been applied solely as a punishment for dissent. A trip to the “sin bin” — not a physical space, so offending players must go to their team’s technical area or leave the pitch and watch from the touchline — means a player is issued with a yellow card and removed from the pitch for 10 minutes. A second temporary dismissal in the same game results in the offending player being dismissed for a further 10 minutes, after which they can’t return to the game but can be substituted if the team has substitutions remaining. Goalkeepers can also be sin-binned.
According to the English FA, the trials resulted in a total reduction in dissent of around 38 percent.
“When we were looking at sin bins. the areas we were looking at were dissent, where it’s worked very, very well in the grassroots game in England, said English FA CEO and IFAB board member Mark Bullingham.
“We’ve also spoken about other areas, particularly tactical fouls. I think frustration for fans watching games when they see a promising counter-attack that’s ruined by that and the question of whether a yellow card is sufficient for that has led to us looking at whether that should be involved in the protocol as well. The starting point was looking at player behaviour and dissent – we’re then looking at whether we should extend it into other areas, such as tactical fouls, as well.”
It’s uncertain at this stage exactly how the trial rollout will be facilitated, although The Athletic reports some kind of system could be in place as soon as next season. It’s also unclear exactly what “higher levels” means. Whether we’ll see sin bins used in the English Premier League or Major League Soccer anytime soon remains to be seen. There have been some suggestions the FA Cup and the Women’s Super League could be part of the first wave of high-level tests.
Meanwhile, the IFAB meeting also discussed VAR at some length. Although reports had suggested the use of VAR could be extended to decisions such as the awarding of corner kicks or yellow cards, IFAB has insisted there will be no changes that will further slow the game.