Sports Letters: Rule changes in football

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Sir: I am writing to you after reading the interview with Trevor Francis (9 January).

I refer to Mr Francis' suggestion of amending the offside law by introducing a 35-yard offside line. I agree with Mr Francis that the problem with British football is that because so many sides 'press', as near to the half-way line as possible, the game is reduced to a small area either side of the half-way line. The 35-yard line would at least give a 40-yard 'football zone', where midfield harriers would find it more difficult to stop touch players.

As the game has got faster and the players fitter, so the touch player has been edged out by the player who will not lose possession in the defensive and midfield areas, so that hoofing the ball forward is no longer a laughable attacking option. Maybe we have lost sight of the problems the rules of the game are causing. The current laws were by and large framed in the last century and the dimensions of the pitch and the number of players on each side need reviewing.

I recently played in a nine-a-side match on a full-size pitch with above average Sunday players. It was one of the most enjoyable games I have played in. Playing in midfield I was able to come to the player with the ball, receive it without too many players near me, and so have time and space to develop an attack. I never felt too pressured as the opposition was strung out, all looking for possession. Like me, they knew they had time and space to express themselves]

As an added incentive to skilful players, I would be in favour of cutting out a lot of the more dubious physical contact in tackling. So if a tackle is mistimed and the tackler makes contact with the player in possession, no matter the intention, a booking should be forthcoming, so encouraging interception and positioning. I am nursing a broken leg due to a clumsy challenge, and another of my fellow players also broke a leg in a late challenge, neither of which were punished.

What about experimenting with these changes? Maybe a summer tournament, with teams selected by four managers exemplifying the passing game. I believe television would be interested, and the results would certainly be interesting. Yours sincerely,


London SW18

11 January