Football's law-makers have re-emphasised their determination to crack down on divers and cheats at this year's FIFA World Cup™ in Japan and Korea.

The International Football Association Board, holding its 116th annual general meeting in Zermatt (Switzerland), fully backed FIFA's call to World Cup referees to deal firmly with players seeking an unfair advantage bypretending to be fouled.

The Board unanimously backed FIFA's insistence that referees be strict indealing with this type of cheating. Match officials at the World Cupreferees' seminar in Seoul next week will also be told not to tolerateplayers demanding yellow or red cards for opponents for fouls, real orsimulated. It was also agreed that if video evidence clearly showed that aplayer had been unjustly sent off for having committed a simulated foul, theFIFA Disciplinary Committee would have the right to review his casesympathetically and not automatically impose a one-match suspension.

Another major topic of discussion at the meeting chaired by FIFA PresidentJoseph S. Blatter was the manner in which players may celebrate goals. Atits meeting last year, the Board had taken a lenient attitude towardsplayers celebrating in extravagant style as long as time was not undulywasted. While time-wasting is still the major consideration, with refereesunder instruction not to permit it, the Board was more concerned aboutplayers deliberately taking off their shirts to reveal messages on theirundershirts, sometimes of a political, religious, commercial or socialnature.

It was agreed that at the World Cup, and at all football matches worldwideas from 1 July this year, undershirts must contain no messages of any kind,but be of only one plain colour. In a similar connection, the Board agreedto draft a new Decision explicitly stating that advertising on players'equipment is permitted on the front of the shirt only, and reaffirmed thedefinition of a shirt or jersey as mentioned in the Laws of the Game as agarment with sleeves, long or short.

Other issues covered by the I.F.A.B. included :

  • Law 5 is to be amended to make clear that an injured player who has leftthe pitch for treatment may only return to the field of play when the gamehas restarted.
  • The Football Association reported in detail on the success so far of theexperiment conducted in England with regard to advancing a free-kick by 9.15metres if the defending team fails to respect the distance. The reportincluded the fact that a goal was scored in one of every 24 cases of thefree-kick being advanced, but just as important was the improved level ofco-operation between the referee and the players. It was felt inappropriate,however, to change the law in a World Cup year and it was decided instead tocontinue the experiment for another year, including during a FIFA competition(possibly the 2003 World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates) andin two countries in two different continents.
  • The Board insisted that temporary suspensions are not permitted in anycomopetition under the Laws of the Game, and three national associationswhere such a regulation had been introduced in youth competitions will beofficially instructed to desist.
  • It was reiterated that the Laws do not permit more than one person at atime to be on his feet within the technical zone in front of the team bench;any interpretation of the coach's comments to his players would have to bedone consecutively.
  • A draft document is to be prepared to better integrate the role of thefourth official into the text of the Laws of the Game, under Law 6(Assistant Referees).
  • The Board formally gave the customary special permission for FIFA topermit all substitutes to sit on the bench during matches of the FIFA WorldCup -- a total of 12 for this year's competition.
  • Formal permission was also given for mini-TV cameras to be fixed to thesupports of the goal-nets for World Cup matches, but it was stressed thatthis was for general coverage of the match and had no connection with theuse of cameras for decisions regarding the ball crossing the goal-line.
  • The Board endorsed FIFA's earlier stance that there should be no provisionintroduced into the Laws of the Game for interruptions in the play to allowplayers to take drinks.
Mr. Blatter closed the meeting as he had opened it, stressing the importanceof the International Football Association Board and defending its functionand concept, and adding that he would not support any change to the currentstructure as long as he remained President of FIFA.

Next year's annual general meeting of the Board will be in Northern Irelandon 15 May, and it was agreed that the meeting in 2004 -- FIFA's centenary year -- would be in a location to be selected by FIFA.