The International Football Association Board (IFAB) held its 117th Annual General Meeting on Saturday 15 March 2003 at the Culloden Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
FIFA was granted permission to experiment with the use of a two-way high-frequency radio communication system between the match officials, which will improve the co-ordination of actions between match officials in a more efficient manner. It is likely that the first test will be conducted at the FIFA Confederations Cup from 18 - 29 June 2003 in France.
Following discussions at the FIFA Referees' Committee meeting on 20 February 2003, when the members expressed reservations about the experiment with goal-line assistants, FIFA withdrew its request for this experiment at the request of the Board.
Another topic of discussion at the meeting was the use of video evidence to alter refereeing decisions, an item submitted by the Irish Football Association. The Board reconfirmed its previous position that the decisions of the referee, and in particular factual decisions related to the result of a match, are final.
The disciplinary aspects of video evidence were also discussed and the matter was referred to the FIFA Committee for Legal Matters for further consideration.
With respect to the Laws of the Game, the Board approved a proposal by FIFA to withdraw the regulations relating to advertising on players’ equipment. This matter will now be dealt with under the regulations for each competition. It was agreed, however, that football jerseys must have sleeves.
Another alteration was agreed in the procedure used to determine the winner of a match with kicks from the penalty mark. The team that wins the toss now has the choice of whether to take the first or second kick. In the Additional Instructions for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials, the Board has now added a provision reminding referees to apply the Law correctly in cases of infringements by players entering the penalty area before the ball has been kicked or goalkeepers moving off the goal line before the ball has been kicked.
The IFAB reconfirmed its support for artificial surfaces and mandated FIFA to draft procedures for its use that shall be valid for the whole world.
The Board also recognised the need for uniformity in the procedures used to determine the result of a match. The Sub-Committee of the IFAB was instructed to consider this matter and to submit recommendations to the Board.
The Board reaffirmed its decision, taken at the last Annual General Meeting, that temporary expulsion of players at all levels in the game should not be permitted.
The Football Association of England also reported on the experiment in the English professional leagues whereby play is moved forward 9.15 metres if a free kick is delayed by a player failing to respect the required distance or by showing dissent. It was decided to continue this experiment for one more year and also to hold the experiment at the FIFA U-17 World Championship from 13 – 30 August 2003 in Finland.
A detailed presentation was made by Professor Jiri Dvorak, Chairman of the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC), on the findings of surveys regarding injuries to players and ways that these can be prevented. The members of the Board were highly appreciative of the detailed information provided.
Finally, the Board amended its own rules to allow the Annual General Meeting to take place anytime during the months of February or March so as to give the associations greater flexibility when arranging a suitable date.
By special agreement, the Annual General Meeting of the International Football Association Board in 2004 - FIFA’s Centenary Year - will be held in Great Britain in recognition of the historical importance of the British Associations in the development of the game and of the Laws of the Game.