Why don’t we have two referees on the football pitch instead of VAR? This sounds like a plausible idea that is worth thinking about. But it’s not a new idea.
Not new at all
Since the 19th century there have been repeated discussions and attempts to run the game with two referees on the field. Reasons were on the one hand to make the stoppage time for decisions shorter and on the other hand to have a “back-up” to penalise fouls, which neither the referee nor his*her assistant referees noticed during other games.
Football offside – the history started in the public schools of England in the 19th century, when football was a mix of rugby and soccer.
The public schools attended by the sons of the gentlemen took advantage of the football game, among other things, to stay fit in the cooler months. But each of them had its own set of rules. Not everyone mentioned an offside and sometimes the rules were the same.
About the early football rules, Charles William Alcock’s wrote a short piece: The Book of Rules of the Game of Football, here online in a 1871 edition from New York. The well-known footballer of the first decades of the FA republished seven contemporary rules. For most of them it isn’t mentioned when the rules were lastly changed, but for some of them I could trace it back.
These are the rules of early football mentioned:
- FA Rules, 1870
- Sheffield FA Rules, 1869
- Eton Field Game, 1862
- Winchester College, before 1871
- Rugby School, between 1863 and 1870
- Harrow School, before 1871
- Cheltenham College, before 1871.
Cards in football were introduced not until the end of the 1960s. Cautions and dismissals were given orally. This was not always easy in international games due to language barriers.
At the 1966 World Cup, German referee Rudolf Kreitlein tried in vain to send Argentine player Antonio Rattín off the field. But he Rattín did not understand or did not want to understand. He was a whole head taller than referee Kreitlein (who measured only 1.60 m / 5’3”) and finally had to be escorted from the field by the police.
Since the 2019/20 season there have been new discussions in several countries about the offside rule. The reason for this is the introduction of the VAR and the calibrated line: this is much better for the human eye in tight offside situations. But it is not perfect, because you cannot travel back in time yet. You can rewind the recording and rewind it very slowly, but in the end it’s just single frames. 50 or 150 frames per minute.
So suggestions like:
You only shall be offside [certain distance] meters in front of the goal!
Abolish the offside rule!
Neither are new ideas.
The evolution of the FA Rules starts in December 1863 with the introduction of the first FA Rules. One-and-a-half month after the foundation of the FA in London, the first Football Association in England.
As further regional FAs were founded around 1870, it was also called the London FA for the purpose of differentiation. This is because most of its members during the 1860s and early 1870s came from London and the surrounding area.
1863 the FA Rules were published as the first association football rules. But even before 1863, there were already various sets of rules that prohibited the handball from schools, universites and football clubs. For example the Cambridge University Rules or the Sheffield FC Rules.
This article compares these sets of rules thematically structured.
The introduction of the back-pass rule in the early 1990s
As early as 1981, at the Annual General Meeting of The IFAB, the issue of the back-pass and wasting time was discussed.
In this year, the committee was of the opinion that it was not a waste of time, as the opposing players had the right to intervene. This opinion changed significantly during and after the 1990 World Cup. In 1991, The IFAB allowed FIFA to prohibit the back-pass as an experiment at the 1991 U17 Men’s World Cup. The experiment was successful and since the 1992/93 season, the deliberately back-pass is prohibited.
At the end of the 19th century, the people were amazed at the English skills. The art of English game of football gained more and more ground on the European continent. Today we can’t help but smile at the phrase:
„What the English teach us most of all was that the ball must not be kicked in the air, but rolled. That’s the quintessence of the game.“
But around 1900 it was really the big aha effect of how to play football successfully and respectably.
Two reports from the General Sports Newspaper of Vienna (“Wiener Allgemeine Sport-Zeitung”) illustrate the leap in thought between – in this case – 1899 and 1908.