Blue cards in football: IFAB sign off sin-bin trial at elite level but FIFA reluctant


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Professional football could get a major shake up with news that lawmakers at the International Football Association Board (IFAB) have given permission for sin-bins to be trialled at elite level.

A blue card will join traditional yellow and red cards, which have been an integral part of the game since they were first introduced at the 1970 World Cup, almost 54 years ago.

However, FIFA have already moved to quash the idea that blue cards could soon be introduced to the very top level, citing reports to that effect “incorrect and premature” and calling for trials to be exclusively limited to a lower level of football.

“Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on 2 March,” a short statement from the world football governing body explained.

The Daily Telegraph earlier wrote that an IFAB announcement regarding the possibility will be made on Friday, following on from blue cards having already been trialled at grassroots level in Wales. The FA had already introduced sin-bins at grassroots level across England ahead of the 2019/20 season.

A player should receive a blue card for a cynical foul, threatening the very existence of the ‘tactical foul’ as an art form perfected by many individuals over the years. Players can still ‘take one (a card) for the team’ in that sense, but a blue card carries more severe punishment of ten minutes in the sin-bin.

A blue card can also be shown by a referee for acts of dissent as lawmakers attempt to stamp it out.

Two blue cards shown to the same player during a game will result in a red card, much as two yellows does already. A combination of a yellow and blue will also equate to a dismissal.

Although ‘orange card’ is a term often already known and used in football vernacular – when a yellow card seems too light a punishment but a red is too severe – the new card has been chosen as blue to clearly differentiate it from the existing colours.

Despite an IFAB sign-off, blue cards were already not going to be used in top flight leagues like the Premier League or WSL immedaitely in case of greater need for refinement.

But domestic cups like the FA Cup or Women’s FA Cup could have been prime for trials at elite level as soon as next season, although FIFA’s stance now makes that unlkely.

The blue cards will not feature at Euro 2024 this coming summer, nor will they be in use for next season’s Champions League competitions, with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin previously a vocal opponent of the idea being introduced into football.

Sin-bins are already used in a variety of others sports like rugby union, rugby league, hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, water polo and handball.

What we know

  • Elite level football could include sin-bins as a new punishment
  • Referees will be able to show players a blue if they commit certain offences
  • IFAB set to make announcement this week after trials in Wales.

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