David Elleray was the perfect figure to lead the team tasked with making the Laws of the Game more accessible, concise and clear by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), after he refereed with distinction at the top level of the English game for over a decade.
Elleray, who retired from refereeing in 2003, presented a new edition of the Laws of the Game at the 130th Annual General Meeting of the IFAB in Cardiff, and FIFA.com caught up with the former schoolteacher to discuss the changes.
FIFA.com: What impact will the revision of the Laws of the Game have?
David Elleray: The revision of the Laws of the Game is designed to make the Laws more accessible, not just to referees but to players, coaches and anybody that's interested in football so they can understand the Laws. We've also brought them up to date because they had fallen behind the development of football. They are briefer Laws, with 10,000 words removed but with much greater clarity so everybody understands what decision a referee makes.
Who was involved in the revision process?
It was led by the IFAB technical sub-committee who did all the work; I was charged with leading them. We had regular consultations over 18 months with the IFAB football advisory panel (FAP) and technical advisory panel (TAP). It was actually with their support, especially the FAP with the players and coaches, which enabled us to bring in some slightly more radical changes and move things much faster than we had anticipated.
How important are the two advisory panels?
They have enabled us to effectively consult the world of football. In fact, the revision of the Laws of the Game has gone further and faster than we anticipated simply because of the extent of support from players and coaches from the different confederations. IFAB now understands better what people think in different footballing cultures and I think that gives us a greater strength to feel that when we recommend something it’s a correct recommendation for football.
What are the aims behind the revision?
I think the original aim was an extensive tidying up to make the language and structure clearer to make the Laws accessible. As we went into it more deeply, we became aware of more contradictions and wording which was open to too many conflicting but equally valid interpretations. That wasn't going to help referees or football in general. We very much looked at making the Laws fair, encouraging Fair Play, and we had at the back of our minds the thought, "What would football expect?' We think we've moved the Laws much more to what people in football would expect to happen in certain situations.
Can you talk us through the most significant alterations to the Laws?
In a way, the change to 'triple punishment' is part of the revision but others include; a player who is injured by a yellow or red card foul can have quick treatment and not have to leave the field of play because that seemed unfair. Where a foul occurs off the field of play, as part of play, that is restarted with a free kick and not a drop ball. Also, trying to stop unfairness with penalty kicks, a stronger punishment if the kicker doesn't behave correctly, whether he scores or not it will always be a free kick. If the goalkeeper moves early and the kicker doesn't score it will be a retake but also a yellow card for the goalkeeper.
What benefits does the revision offer?
We should have a much more consistent interpretation across the world because we've made it much clearer what should happen in certain situations. That should reduce controversy and confusion. I think more people will be able to understand the Laws because the book is much clearer and if people understand the Laws they will be more accepting of referees' decisions, that's not just spectators but players and coaches. Also, for the first time ever, the Laws are gender neutral in terms of language and I think that makes a significant point that the Laws of the Game and football are not just for men.
Will the revision make future additions or alterations to the Laws easier?
I think so, because we used to have the front of the book which told you what the Law was, and the back which told you how to interpret that Law. Often people only read the front and not the back, so by bringing that altogether that makes it clearer and easier in the future.
Where can fans, players, coaches find the new version of the Laws?
In May we will be launching the IFAB website (theifab.com) and the whole book and each individual Law will be available for download. Increasingly, we'll have more educational material on the website, explaining the Laws with video clip examples of offences and how they're dealt with.