Football: Managers fear flood of red cards after rule changes: Rude awakening for English game as Premiership clubs discover that all of Fifa's World Cup directives will apply this season

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND's club managers last night gave a distinctly cool reception to the Fifa decision to implement its rule- changes, which were in force during the World Cup finals in the United States, virtually en masse in English club football in the coming season.

The Premiership managers met in London to be told by Rick Parry, the Premier League chief executive that Fifa directives on a number of key areas of the game would be adopted in domestic football. These are a change in the emphasis of the offside law, a clampdown on tackles from behind, increasing the penalties for dissent, abusive language and time-wasting and preventing injured players from being treated on the pitch.

Despite the general conclusion that the Fifa rule changes were successful in the World Cup, many Premiership manager felt there was little wrong with the English game and predicted an outbreak of early season red and yellow cards. They were also angry that the law changes were confirmed less than a week before the start of the Football League season.

Gerry Francis, of Queen's Park Rangers, one of eight Premiership managers to attend the meeting, said: 'I hope things are not going to be as bad as one or two of us felt in there. The World Cup was a success, but there was a real increase in red and yellow cards there. I hope that doesn't happen here.

'The rules on the tackle from behind have always been there. We must not put the referees under too much pressure to book players just for tackling. I hope that commonsense will prevail - because there is not much wrong with English football. It has always been an attacking game.'

Alex Ferguson and George Graham, the managers of Manchester United and Arsenal, respectively, both left the meeting in a downbeat mood and unwilling to comment.

Steve Coppell, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, said: 'Things are going to be totally different. We have just seen a season that was a success by any standards. Then we saw a World Cup played in totally different conditions. Now those conditions have been imposed on us by Fifa. The initial weeks of the season will be very difficult. Not only for the managers and players, but also for the referees.'

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said: 'Managers have every right to be worried. We are in danger of giving our game the wrong image. Referees will have full co- operation from managers and players if they show some consistency. But it would be totally wrong to take a heavy-handed approach.

'Defenders are going to have to change the way they play with the change in the offside law. I think there are going to be a lot of problems - I fear there will be a lot of red and yellow cards.

'If I was paying good money to watch a game I would not want to be watching nine men against 11, which is what is going to happen.'

But Parry said there was no turning back: 'These are not proposals. They are instructions coming down from Fifa - so it is not a debate. It is fact. We have to make these changes work. No one wants to see a proliferation of cautions and sendings off. That is not in the interests of the game.'

The new rules will be seen in effect for the first time in England on Saturday, when the Football League season starts.

League managers have already been told of the changes, and Andy Williamson, the assistant secretary, gave the modifications a thumbs up: 'In view of the fact that it was such a successful World Cup, there is little to argue with. We should start the season in a positive frame of mind.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- FOOTBALL'S RULE CHANGES ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 TACKLING a) A lateral sliding tackle with one or both legs is permissible if, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous. If, however, the player making the tackle, instead of making contact with the ball, trips his opponent, the referee shall award a direct free-kick to the opposing team and shall caution the offending player. b) A tackle from behind which is violent with little or no attempt to play the ball is prohibited and shall be punished by a direct free-kick and an ordering off. ----------------------------------------------------------------- 2 INJURED PLAYER Team officials may only enter the pitch if the referee has given them express permission to verify injury (and not to treat it) and then have the player carried off. A player who needs treatment must therefore be taken off the pitch. ----------------------------------------------------------------- 3 PLAYER IN OFFSIDE POSITION a) Being offside is not an offence as such. b) A player shall be penalised for being offside, if, at the moment the ball touches, or is played by, one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee involved in the active play: (i) Interfering with play or with an opponent, or (ii) Seeking to gain an advantage by being in that position. c) A player shall not be declared offside by the referee: (i) If he is simply in an offside position (ii) If he takes the ball directly from a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in. A linesman must not signal offside simply because a player happens to be offside. If a linesman is in any doubt as to whether a player is offside, he should decide in favour of the attacker. ----------------------------------------------------------------- 4 TIME WASTING Players guilty of time-wasting shall be cautioned for ungentlemanly conduct. -----------------------------------------------------------------