SPORTS: FIFA's Marco van Basten proposes changes to enhance football

January 18, 2017
Dutch former soccer star Marco van Basten

Former AC Milan and Netherlands forward Marco van Basten is using his role as technical director at FIFA to propose a series of changes to soccer to stir a debate.
Rather than using his job to meddle, Van Basten highlights the need to preserve soccer as the world's most popular sport.

"I have spoken to a lot of coaches and players," Van Basten said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We have to promote quality instead of quantity. We are playing too much football now. We have to defend players because they have to play so much and are not fresh or fit anymore.

"That's bad for the quality of the game. Even in June when the big tournaments are played players cannot perform to their maximum because now if players are really successful they can play up to 75 official games in the year. I think that's a bit too much and maybe they should stop at 55 or 60."


IN PHOTO: Former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli (left) is shown a red card by referee Martin Atkinson. Former AC Milan and Netherlands forward Marco van Basten has proposed that FIFA introduces an orange cards to send players off for 10 minutes.


Although FIFA will expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams from 2026, that won't burden players with any additional games. Instead, clubs sides would have to explore reducing the number of fixtures, potentially by reducing the number of lucrative friendly games played on tours.

"That's all for money but we have to think about football and not money," said Van Basten, who was hired by FIFA in September. "For a lot of clubs that's not easy. But there is enough money in football.
"(Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi are earning so much money. If they are earning a little bit less but performing better that's good for football."


Here are some potential changes to soccer proposed by Van Basten:

PENALTY SHOOTOUTS___


Rather than burdening players with an additional 30 minutes of action when cup games are level after 90 minutes, Van Basten is suggesting going straight to penalties.
"I think everybody is pretty tired after 120 minutes," Van Basten said.

Now penalties are a test of nerves with players having one chance to beat the goalkeeper from the penalty spot.

"Maybe the player should start 25 meters from goal and then you can dribble the goalkeeper or shoot early," he said. "But you have to make a goal within eight seconds. It's more skill and less luck. It's maybe a bit more spectacular. It's more football but it's still nervous for the player."

NO OFFSIDE
Scrapping the offside rule could make soccer more visually appealing, Van Basten advises.
"I think it can be very interesting watching a game without offside," he said. "Football now is already looking a lot like handball with nine or ten defenders in front of the goal. It's difficult for the opposition to score a goal as it's very difficult to create something in the small pieces of space they give you.
"So if you play without offside you get more possibilities to score a goal."


FOUR QUARTERS
Soccer is increasingly intense and gruelling, with a single 15-minute break between 45-minute halves.
"We are trying to help the game, to let the game develop in a good way," Van Basten said. "We want to have a game which is honest, which is dynamic, a nice spectacle so we should try to do everything to help that process."


SINBINS
Now there is no middle ground between players being shown a yellow card and receiving a red card and then being removed for the rest of the game.
"Maybe an orange card could be shown that sees a player go out of the game for 10 minutes for incidents that are not heavy enough for a red card," Van Basten said.
Such an instance could be when a player commits repeat fouls that didn't warrant yellow cards or obstruct opponents. Five misdemeanours could earn a player a place in a sin bin for 10 minutes, Van Basten said.

NEXT STEPS
Any changes to the laws of the game cannot be forced through by Van Basten, however close he is to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. He said he wants to listen to the views of world before any proposals are taken to the game's lawmaking body, The International Football Association Board. FIFA controls half of the eight votes on IFAB, with the other four retained by the British associations.