What's new this season... and who's hoping to be as good as new

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The Independent Online

The 10-yard rule

The 10-yard rule

Or the 9.15-metre rule, which admittedly sounds less snappy. Football has at last taken a leaf out of the hockey and rugby law book; when a free-kick is awarded, instead of moving menacingly towards the referee like a Man Utd posse, the offending team must retreat smartly to a distance of 9.15 metres from the ball. If they fail to do so, without dissent or time-wasting, the kick will be moved nearer to their goal by the same distance and a yellow card must be shown. The rule was first proposed by an official in Jersey, where it has been successfully tried out, although in Auto Windscreens Shield matches it was used less than might have been expected - which suggests a good deterrent value. Two possible areas of confusion: unlike in rugby, the ball will not be moved more than once for any one offence; and if it goes into the penalty area, it is still a free-kick (direct or indirect) rather than a penalty. Fifa, the world governing body, are monitoring the experiment, which applies in the Charity Shield, Premiership, Nationwide Leagues, Worthington Cup, Auto Windscreens Shield, FA Cup proper and Scotland's CIS Cup.

Conduct crackdown

When Adam Crozier left Saatchi & Saatchi to take over as chief executive of the Football Association eight months ago, he admitted the sport had an image problem. His main contribution to improving it, apart from declining to wear a tie, has been in pushing for greater discipline on the pitch, and the FA have come up with what they hope is a clearer, more effective code. Implementing the 10-yard rule should help, but any player "jostling or holding" an official will be suspended for at least 12 games and fined four weeks' wages. Teams involved in confrontations with each other or match officials, risk fines on a sliding scale from £250,000 in the Premiership to £1,000 in thesenior non-League competitions. A second offence could mean the loss of two points. There are automatic fines for any side having six or more players booked or sent off in a match. Another new development is the panel of 12 former players, managers and officials who will study video evidence to advise on cases of mistaken identity or wrongful dismissal. There will be fines for insufficient crowd control, restrictions on betting and lifetime bans for touting.

Lighter balls

The Geo Merlin ball is being introduced to the Premiership, and threatens to make life even more hazardous for goalkeepers. The manufacturers, Nike, claim it will travel "straighter and truer than any other football" but they admit "it could be bad news for keepers". England's David Seaman agrees with them, having found it even lighter than the ball used at Euro 2000, with which Luis Figo beat him so comprehensively. The Geo Merlin has been tested at several big clubs, including Arsenal, whose manager, Arsÿne Wenger, says: "It's very stable and true in flight, more so than the previous Premiership ball. However, its response is quicker, making it faster. Strikers love the ball for this, but some goalkeepers will take time to adjust to it, because of the speed at which it comes at them." The technical reason is that the ball is mathematically rounder,the 32 panels having been rearranged to avoid uneven pressure as it inflates. The casing has also been revolutionised, allegedly making it "softer to the touch", which will please those who like to take a football to bed.In the shops from Thursday at£50 apiece.

Fan commentators

Keeping track of which matches are available on which television channels at what time will be no easier than before - well done to all those not subscribing to Sky Sports Extra who picked up Leeds' eventful European Cup tie against 1860 Munich on the German channel ZDF. Until next season's dramatic changes, however, coverage should be much as before, with the confusion coming as rival companies like the newcomers u<direct bid for individual European and World Cup matches. Match of the Day, Football Focus and ITV's On The Ball have all disdained big-money signings, but one innovation is the Fanzone feature on Sky Sports Extra, starting with today's Charity Shield, in which commentary is replaced with the views of one supporter from each team. "Who knows where it will lead?" ask Sky. Obscene chants? On-air punch-ups? Sky are also unveiling Clare Tomlinson as their first female touchline reporter. Radio 5 Live has a new presenter on Saturdays - Mark Pougatch. The programme will be sharpened up with more live inserts from matches and an early guess at team news at around 1.45.

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