50 Ways to Improve World Football
Following recent controversy during World Cup qualifying, the World Cup itself and in numerous leagues around the globe, everyone has their own opinions on how football should be improved.
Whether it's the way the sports is organized, officiated or played, there are always different changes that could help and make football better for both fans and players.
Arguably the biggest problem in modern football is the business side of the game. Ultimately the fans are paying the price of clubs being taken over and owners spending huge amounts of money to try and be the best in the world, and that is through ticket costs.
Regardless, this comprehensive list aims to point out the key rule changes that could make football a better sport for all involved.
Introduce Goal Line Technology
Quite possibly the most talked about issue in football today, goal line technology has been on the minds of fans, officials and executives right throughout the sport for a number of years now.
Frank Lampard's goal that was never given (and for that matter his recent "goal" that was given against Tottenham) just proves how much the sport is calling for some high quality goal line technology.
"Hawkeye" has worked wonders in tennis since it was introduced, and while the sports are obviously considerably different, there is still a good chance that similar technology would be very welcome in football.
Introduce Video Replays
Again, similar to the goal line technology, but video replays could well be used for decisions referees are uncertain on.
Quite how it would fit in to the sport is a problem for people to think about once it's been welcomed in already, but for now it's easy enough to say that video replay technology would give officials and governing bodies the chance to overturn wrong decisions.
It works in the NFL and while, like with tennis, the two sports are very different, they could still share a similarity in Video Replays improving the game.
Introduce a Salary Cap
Salaries are one of the most talked about problems with football nowadays, and it is a difficult one to argue around.
Players earning far more in salary contribute far more to a country through taxing, and without salaries as high as they have been, it's difficult to see how governments could afford the upkeep of key public sectors.
On the other hand, the amount many players earn after tax is still a phenomenal amount and it's always difficult to justify that, even with the tax argument. The best solution would quite possibly be a cap on salaries at an agreed upon and fair amount.
Introduce a Transfer Fee Cap
Much like the salary cap idea (and yes it is another picture of the most expensive footballer ever), a transfer fee cap would stop bids from becoming absolutely outrageous.
It doesn't matter how good Cristiano Ronaldo is, there isn't a player in the world that justifies an £80 million transfer.
A limit on transfer fees would ensure that there are no more outrageous sums of money paid out for one player.
Replace Sepp Blatter
Slightly controversial to some, but believe me it has very little to do with England losing the World Cup bid. It does however, have far more to do with Russia and Qatar winning the bids.
While Sepp Blatter may have made one or two positive moves for football during his (overly) long term in office at the FIFA Headquarters, his recent record of decisions and quotes has proven that he may not be the man for the job anymore.
This isn't supposed to be a slide to discuss the controversial decision to award the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 to the two most oil rich countries bidding, and I'm not going to suggest any conspiracy, but Blatter is not the leader he used to be, and the world knows it.
Reduce the Length of the Longest Seasons
The most under-performing players at the 2010 World Cup were, unsurprisingly, the players who had been playing week-in and week-out in the Premier League the previous season.
With some of the top stars having played over 50 games in a single season, then having to play in a World Cup, there was no doubt that players were going to be tired.
Shorter seasons would put an end to that completely. Whether it means decreasing the amount of teams in these leagues, or perhaps just taking the top tier teams out of the smaller domestic cups, there must be a way to have a shorter season considered by governing bodies.
Introduce a Mid-Season Break
Perhaps the best way to shorten a season would be to introduce an often mentioned "winter break." It would not only mean players have to play less games, but it would also mean that they get a longer stretch to rest as opposed to a week here and there.
Some people have argued against winter breaks, while others are for it, but either way it's definitely something that should be considered by the major leagues around the world.
This idea would have no problems throughout Europe either, with the Champions League and the Europa League both taking winter breaks between the group stages and the knock-out stages already.
Loan out Players to Foreign Leagues Only
Maybe a matter that would divide football fans, but it cannot be denied that younger players could greatly benefit from experiencing foreign styles of football as well as there own home style.
These younger players could come back far more experienced and, more importantly, knowledgeable about the game that is set to hand them a career.
Whether it would work could only be told by taking a chance by enforcing the rule, but then again it could be an absolute disaster. Still, it's a minor rule that wouldn't ruin the sport if it didn't work.
Open Up FIFA
Very similar to the "replace Sepp Blatter" slide, FIFA needs to open up all of its functions and goings-on to both public and independent reviews.
Once again, I refuse to outwardly suggest any sort of conspiracy within FIFA, but it's difficult to imagine that there is not even a small amount of corruption within the most powerful sports body in the world.
With a FIFA election coming up later this year, it could be soon that the organization at least opens itself up slightly. Either way, any traces of corruption must be rooted out from the top governing body in football.
Revamp the World Club Cup
On paper it should be the most prestigious club tournament in the World (hence it's name). The champions from each confederation go head to head to decide the club champions of the world.
With the strength of the European leagues in comparison to other confederations, however, this setup has caused the competition to be largely European-dominated and therefore seen as less prestigious by European teams.
Despite some good performances from South American League teams and, more recently, TP Mazembe of Africa, the competition needs a complete overhaul to refurbish its image and it could change club football for the better.
Take Officials off Podiums Before Raising Trophies
One of the worst things to see when a team that completely deserves a trophy and are about to hold it up is one of the officials handing out the medals being crushed near the front of the podium. It's not necessarily the safety of the officials that's of concern, it's the fact that they're even still on the podium when the team that actually won the cup is celebrating.
While some stadiums have worked their way around this (Wembley's walkway for example), others haven't and it doesn't look good in review.
It should become an enforceable rule that all officials (including Sepp Blatter) should leave the podium before a team may raise their trophy. This would be simply for the sake of letting the team celebrate without having corporate executives trying to join in.
Stop Bookings for Celebrations
Now there's obviously a limit to this one. I mean, if a player went for the "corner flag javelin" routine, then perhaps he should receive a punishment; quite severely I'd imagine. However, when a player is simply pulling off their shirt or any other celebration which is simply out of ecstasy of scoring, yellow cards should not be required.
For a player to be booked for celebrating a goal (in certain ways) which could be vital to their team is a ridiculous idea in the first place, let alone having had the rule enforced for a number of years now.
It simply doesn't seem right that a player, who could well be on his way to a hat trick, could be sent off before his third goal just because he showed too much enjoyment.
Cap Stadium Food and Drink Prices
Perhaps it doesn't apply to every stadium around the World, but it's hard to say that you've never been to a stadium where food and drink isn't at least twice the price it would be just a few metres outside the ground.
With some prices reaching around £5 - £7 just for a burger, food and drink in stadiums, food prices have become another ridiculous extra cost for football fans to suffer through.
Maybe it's not something that is high on FIFA's agenda, but football is a fan's game and so clubs should look after their fans. If it matters to fans, it should matter to the sports governing bodies.
Squad Numbers Should Be Decided on the Day in Traditional Fashion
Again, it may not do much for the quality of the football itself, but bringing back the old style of squad numbers would stop this whole mentality of players thinking that some number is their number.
It would make players have to work each and every day for their number as opposed to just being handed their regular number 9 because they were an expensive signing.
On the day of the match, the manager will usually announce the team. The starting 11 are then given numbers related to their position, the same for all teams.
(In usual 442)
Goalkeeper - 1
Defence - 2,3,4,5
Midfield - 6,7,8,11
Strikers - 9,10
At Least One Home League Fixture Per Week Must Be Shown on TV for Free
Whether this happens in certain leagues around the World already, I'm not sure, but it definitely does not happen in the Premier League...yet.
Football is known as a fan's game. The way the sports has been going lately many people would stop and wonder why.
Even if it was just one game a week, there should still be some free-to-air league football on television every week for the nation to enjoy, as opposed to subscription services like Sky Sports airing all matches.
TV Should Have No Impact on the Scheduling of Matches
Matches are all too regularly scheduled in order to meet television demands. All too often these demands are from subscription services as well.
Fixture lists should remain more simple, with 3 o'clock Saturday kick-offs at the forefront. While matches could be scheduled at other times still, this should not be because TV companies are dictating that it should be so.
As a worldwide sport that all can relate to, games should be on a normal times with TV companies fitting themselves around these sporting spectacles, as opposed to the other way around.
Introduce an Independent Disciplinary Review Board: Less Stoppages in Games
Perhaps this contradicts the video replays idea. Or, perhaps it actually works directly alongside the video replays idea?
If video replays came in after matches, as opposed to during them, then there could be an independent disciplinary review board that can make retrospective decisions.
How these boards would be made isn't to decide yet, but if Formula One can successfully use ex-drivers as stewards, why can't ex-players who want to give something back to the game have something to do with this?
Bookings Should Be Introduced for Players Protesting the Referee
Referee's should never be protested against...ever. It's not difficult to understand that, while in the heat of an important match, tempers are bound to flare, but there must be some sort of order between the players on the pitch.
Instead players should calmly speak to the referee without protest and explain their side of the story. That way referees would not be cornered by players, and they could instead make far more educated decisions on important matters.
The "Respect the Ref" campaign may not have been a complete success so far, but this, combined with an independent disciplinary board after each game, could lead to huge strides forward for the sport.
Clubs Must Declare the Fees Behind Each Transfer
Far too many times now a club will make a signing and then announce the fee as "undisclosed". It makes it harder and harder to tell just how much a player has moved for, especially with all the new transfer clauses of late.
Fans are key to a club, so for a team to hide how much they spent on a player joining said fans' team, it's just not right.
Again, perhaps it's not at the top of FIFA's priority list, but with a similar theme to so many slides on this article, if it's important to the fans, it should be important to the sport's governing bodies.
Referees Should Have a Microphone on at All Times During Play
Another good addition to the "Respect the Ref" campaign, if referees wearing microphones would not only help them keep control on the pitch, but could also highlight any serious abuse they receive, bringing it to the attention of a disciplinary board.
Referee's in Rugby and American Football (among other sports) wear microphones with great success, so it should at least be given a trial run in football.
With players knowing that they can be heard through the microphone, they may not only tone down their language and abuse a little, but they might also choose to give the ref a more calm and thoughtful account of events from their perspective.
Only a Captain and the Player Involved May Approach the Referee
So technically it's already a rule, but if you've seen a match over the past year or so, you wouldn't believe it.
Just to add even more emphasis to the "Respect the Ref" campaign, it should be enforced that only the team captain and the player involved in an incident should be able to approach the referee after a decision.
This would stop certain players from running across the opposite side of the pitch just to protest the referee unnecessarily. It could seriously help with matters getting out of hand and with a mic'd up ref it could be another big move forward for the game.
Punish Managers for Not Giving Interviews
The picture of Sir Alex Ferguson combined with the slide title is pretty self explanatory. Sure managers have a lot of pressure on them, but there's still a need to clamp down on the small minority of managers who choose to act like petty children.
It's not only Sir Alex though, a number of managers in the past have also chosen to ignore media during press conferences.
The fact of the matter is that part of the job as a team manager is to report to the media with team updates and the like. If a manager refuses to do this, then they're not doing their job fully and it should most definitely be punishable.
More Stringent Fit and Proper Persons Tests
Quite how Thanksin Shinawatra managed to become the chairman of Manchester City before their mega-money takeover is anyone's guess.
It just stands as an example of some of the characters that can buy their way into a sport which, at it's current stage, really doesn't stand up well to further tainting.
More stringent and thorough Fit and Proper Persons tests would stop these chairman and businessman with controversial past records from getting into the sport. Football has had its reputation damaged enough over the last decade without letting these characters in.
Ticket Prices Should Be Capped Based on Level of Competition
It would be foolish for ticket prices at Champions League level to be capped at the same amount as English League Two for example, but there should still be some sort of cap on ticket prices throughout football.
Many fans have to pay ridiculous amounts just to see their team in action for 90 minutes, added to the extra costs of stadium food and drink as well as programmes.
While teams have to make their money some way, it is simply not fair on those supporting the clubs that they should have to foot these huge bills for their team. Capping ticket prices at each stage of football would ensure more interest and perhaps therefore, more income.
Fan Groups Must Be Given a Stake in Their Club
Obviously any law brought in along these lines would have to have far more detail in terms of percentage stake and how the fan group is organized, but regardless, there should always be fan input into any club.
Even if fans only receive 25 percent of the club, not enough to make any key decision themselves, they could at least have a significant input into the running of the club that they give so much for.
There has been so much talk recently of how businessman come into clubs and run them like generic companies is damaging the sport, but FIFA have yet to do anything about it. Giving fans a stake in a club would at least give them a chance to have their voices heard.
Kits Must Last at Least 2 Seasons Without Changing
All too often fans will buy a teams kit, only for it to be old news just 9 months later. So £45(ish) a year doesn't sound too damaging on the pocket, but when it's for just one t-shirt, it really is.
There is absolutely no reason for a change of shirt design each and every year other than money-making for the club.
If shirts were to only change design at the very most once every two years, it would show a club's dedication to fans far more now than some of the current "business" clubs.
Songs Should Not Be Played over the PA When a Team Has Scored
Perhaps a choice that's slightly more according to taste, but the roar of the crowd and the players celebration should be all that's needed after a goal has been scored, perhaps except for the announcer's voice booming the name of the scorer around the stadium.
There shouldn't have to be tacky or corny music played after each and every goal a team scores to make anything more atmospheric.
Many fans are sick of hearing the same overplayed songs on their team's PA over and over again, and making sure that there aren't unnecessary tunes played around the stadium after a goal has gone in could be a good move for clubs to take.
Sponsorship Should Be Limited on Kits and New Stadiums
Believe it or not, kit sponsorship can be even worse in some parts of the world than it is in the Premier League.
Some shirts will have multiple sponsors plastered all over the kit. In fact, many teams currently go one further and have new stadiums sponsored causing some ridiculous names (i.e. Sportsdirect.com @ St James' Park).
While sponsorship is no doubt important to teams for bringing in money, there should be a limit on what can be sponsored and by how much. Football's already far too close to being "just a business" without stupid corporate names.
Players Should Not Have to Leave the Pitch for Minor Injuries
Perhaps the injury in the picture was more serious, but so many times in modern football you'll find a player has to leave the field of play for just a minor cut.
As soon as blood is drawn then a player must leave the field of play until the cut is seen to by a physio. With minor injuries, this is completely unnecessary and the rule really doesn't do much for the "pansy players" image that football is getting today.
There should be a new rule brought in by FIFA stating that minor injuries should not require a looking-at unless the player asks for it. That way there would be a cut down on pointless stoppages and teams playing with ten men unfairly.
Simplify the Offside Rule
It would have to be made very clear to players what is offside, but there should be no added rules as to what is onside and what is offside.
Obviously, it would still largely come down to the judgment of linesmen because it would be ridiculous to rule a player offside who is nowhere near a ball or a defender. But if a player is in an offside position and near the play, then they should be flagged offside.
There shouldn't be any "first phase" or "second phase" garbage. Instead, if a player is near a defender or near the play, then they should be ruled offside for interfering with play; even if they don't touch the ball.
Remove the Extra Officials Behind the Goals
They do nothing for the sport and a number of key decisions have somehow been missed by these officials already since their introduction.
Quite why FIFA chose to add two more (pointless) officials in the place of video technology is absolutely beyond belief.
It's unnecessary and the poor linesmen relegated to this job have very little to do each game, enough to probably bore them to death before their only chance at a decision comes during a game.
Each Televised Football Match Should Come with a Foul Language Warning
Footballers swearing on live football broadcasts has been a problem many times in the past and has been brought back to public attention recently through the Wayne Rooney saga.
While sitting on the fence as to whether Rooney was right or wrong, if matches had a foul language warning before them, then the incidents would not catch as many people by surprise.
During live broadcasts, there is always a risk of problems such as foul language, but with a fair warning displayed by TV companies beforehand, the problem could at least be minimized.
Scrap the Away Goals Rule
Quite simply the away goals rule should not apply to football. Sure it helps separate the teams but is it really a big enough matter to decide which team should progress to the next stage of a major competition?
Many people will say yes, and for those who are used to the rule that's understandable. When it's looked at from a performance perspective though, the rule comes to a whole new light.
Instead of teams having to attack more, the rule has led to teams actually playing far more defensively in fear of conceding a goal which, despite a draw over two legs, could send them out of an important competition.
No Unecessary Added Clothes
Luckily "snoods" (as pictured around Samir Nasri's neck) have been banned from the sport already in a move which, although not hugely important, has shown that at least some executives take the sport seriously.
Sepp Blatter labeled the clothing as "too dangerous" which, as ridiculous as it may be, still helped stop one of the most recent atrocities in football.
Obviously gloves are understandable, but when players go so far as wearing long, garishly coloured under shorts (amongst other ridiculous clothing items) it just looks stupid, and it distracts from the real reason people are at the match; to play and watch football.
Players Must Have a Certain Education Before Being Allowed to Play
I can't say how clever Mario Balotelli is, he may actually have a surprisingly high IQ, but based on the famous bib escapade, I highly doubt that.
Either way, players should be made to attain certain grades before they can compete at the highest level. It's not only to stop them from embarrassing moments like said bib escapade, but also to ensure that players have something to fall back on should their careers not work out.
It happens in the NFL, players going through college must reach a certain grade to play, and it could do no harm to the world of football. It may well also help motivate some struggling youth to perform academically as well.
No Professional Singers Leading the National Anthem
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against singers doing the national anthem at the Superbowl or other big sporting events, but during international football matches, it's really not necessary.
All that should be needed to get a national anthem going should be a small, but sufficiently loud band to get everyone started and then the magnificent roar of a patriotic crowd singing their national anthem.
Quite why professional singers, often from foreign countries, are brought in to sing national anthems during international matches is beyond both me and many other football fans. If a team and their supporters can't show enough patriotism to sing the anthem, then why should a paid singer bail them out?
It Must Be Mandatory for Players to Sing Their National Anthem
Along the same lines as the past slide, but it should become mandatory for players to sing their nation's national anthem.
It's an honour to be able to pull on your country's shirt and perform on the biggest stage of all, so regardless of singing talent, there should at least be enough patriotism and respect shown by the players to sing the national anthem of the country that has given them so much.
Sometimes it just seems like international matches are "just another match" for all too many teams. While friendlies may sometimes be pointless, that shouldn't take away from the privilege of pulling on your nations jersey to represent them in a match.
Players Must Be Smartly Dressed for Pre and Post Match Interviews
So this interview happens to be on a training pitch, but when interviews are done pre- and post-match, then it should be made mandatory for all players to be dressed smartly.
Even if it just brings in a small amount more respect from players the rule would be worth it. Sure TV companies would have to wait a longer time to get post-match interviews, but players should look their best at all times when representing their team (obviously it's more difficult running around a pitch).
All around, the rule would not hugely impact the game, but it would most definitely at least mean a bit more respect from players, as well as giving them the chance to cool down from the game's events as opposed to having aggressive rants during interviews.
FIFA Presidency Must Be Limited to 2 Terms
No medals should be handed out for thinking that Sepp Blatter has spent far too long in charge of FIFA. While most opinions on the man may be quite bad at the moment, this slide is not about him in particular.
Instead, the rule should be that no FIFA president can stand for more than two terms. That way there would be less time in charge for people such as Sepp Blatter, but more importantly would mean that there is less chance of corruption.
It's hard to prove anything but it's clear that the longer amount of time spent in a key position in such an organization, the more susceptible to corruption a person will become, and that's just what this rule would be able to help cut out.
Disciplinary Slates Wiped Clean for Semi Finals and Replaced by Fines
It seems completely unfair that a player who was booked in, say, the group stages of a major competition, should then go on to miss the final if they happen to be booked in the semi finals as well.
While the yellow card limit may differ between tournaments, players should not have to miss what could be the biggest game of their careers just because of a silly booking far earlier in the tournament.
Understandably though, players should still receive some sort of punishments. So for that reason, fines should be brought into play after the quarter finals, meaning that players who pick up a yellow in the semi-finals would not miss the final. The only (understandable) exception would be if a red card is received in the semi finals.
Players Should Not Be Booked for Tackling Pitch Invaders
OK, so it only happened once to my knowledge, but it could well happen again. Whether it's actually a law or not, only people who've studied the rule book will know, but if it really is, what a stupid idea.
If some drunk fans foolishly do decide to invade the pitch, then they're ruining the match for everybody, making it more important to get the player off the pitch quickly.
Sure, the players will be at risk when tackling any pitch intruders, but if it's their own choice then who would choose to book them if it helps the game restart quicker? I can't guarantee it's actually a rule at the moment, but players should not be booked for helping stewards with pitch intruders.
Resell Executive Tickets That Have Not Been Accepted
Sadly it's becoming more and more common in football to see the executive parts of the stadium half empty, with a lack of interest often coming from these businessmen.
There should not be any special treatment beyond their seating area though, so if executives do not claim their tickets by a certain date, it should be a rule that clubs may resell these tickets.
Perhaps they'd be sold at a premium price, but at least these tickets would be sold and the atmosphere within these stadiums could be salvaged somewhat.
Introduce NASL Style 1-on-1's Instead of Penalty Shootouts
This is perhaps more controversial than many points on this list, and it would no doubt be a big reform to the game, but at least these 1-on-1 style shoot outs would require more talent than the current penalty shoot outs.
They give the goalkeepers a far better chance and are much closer to match scenarios than a normal penalty shootout.
It wouldn't mean an end to all penalties though. Professional fouls in the 18 yard box and all the usual infringements that can be committed during the 90 minutes should still result in penalties, but shoot outs should at least be made fairer to both sides.
Change World Cup Qualification
Having said that season's are too long, it could be a big help to reformat the World Cup qualification stages. Although exactly how to do so would vary between opinions.
Some people have suggested a two-stage European qualification competition for example, giving smaller nations like San Marino another round before having to play the "big guns" of European football.
It would give them more of a chance to pit themselves against teams their level and would stop embarrassing results with each international break. There could also be reforms on how many teams from each confederation qualify for the World Cup, as Europe already have almost half the teams in the tournament.
Include a People's Representative Within FIFA
FIFA and its policies could no doubt be improved and understood by fans, if at least one people's representative was voted into the executive committee at FIFA.
As opposed to businessmen from each confederation uniting, it would no doubt help to include a number of members elected by fan groups to put forward the fan's voice in meetings.
The bonus would also work the other way around as the people's representative could report back to fan groups and the public with more reliable and comprehensible information from FIFA headquarters.
Organize at Least One High Profile Charity Match Each Year
I don't necessarily mean like Soccer Aid, but more like the Football for Hope matches that are seen every once in a while.
The sport has had its reputation tarnished in the past thanks to players' attitudes, wages, transfer fees, among many other things and could do with something, even once a year, to redeem its image.
No sponsors, no rich executives trying to take control, simply a football match with the world's top stars that is put on once a year to encourage giving. With enough players from around the world signing up, it wouldn't even cause too much extra fatigue.
Put More of an Emphasis on School Football
In the USA, college sports are hugely promoted. While that may be due to the size of the nation and not all areas having professional sports teams, it has done wonders for the young players coming through the country's sporting structure.
If that were introduced, not only in England, but around Europe and perhaps even in other areas of World Football, teams would be able to bring up far more homegrown talent.
I'm not suggesting that we aim to get huge attendances and stadiums for school teams, but perhaps that more funding and more interest from top clubs in school teams would help promote this area of the game.
Economical Equality Between All FIFA Nations
It's been reported in the past that sometimes young players in poorer nations cannot afford to spend most of their free time playing football and some very talented youngsters have in the past simply had to go into a normal full time job due to lack of finances.
If FIFA separated its wealth fairly between all nations, and perhaps even if some of the richer footballing nations helped out the poorer ones, then it would give these poorer youths more of a chance in the game.
There are a number of reasons that a footballer's career may not work out, but lack of finances should not be one of them. Just because a talented player was born poor, it's unfair that they may not be able to perform at the highest level because of that.
Youth Players Must Spend at Least Two Full Seasons Playing Five a Side
If all youth players would spend at least two or three full seasons playing five a side matches, it would very much help their ball control.
Some of the places with the richest footballing heritage like Brazil, have had that because of teaching their young players real ball skills at a developmental age. Other places however, often throw young stars straight into 11 a side matches just aiming to get the ball forward and score.
If all nations had to enforce that youth players must play at least two or three seasons on a five-a-side pitch, the game would be much more enjoyable for it.
Introduce Sin Bins
It works in rugby, it works in the NHL, why can't it work in football? When a yellow card is picked up it does usually scare the players into being calmer, but at the same time there are often repeat offenders.
If a sin bin was introduced, players would know that they are at risk of missing key parts of the game and putting their team one man down, likely making the players want to behave more.
Maybe it wouldn't have quite the same effect as it has on Rugby, but if it was even given a trial run the stats for fouls and infringements would likely drop dramatically.