The FIFA Task Force Football 2014 met for the third time on Wednesday, the gathering taking place at FIFA’s former headquarters in Zurich. Chaired by Franz Beckenbauer, the meeting covered a number of topics and began with a speech by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who welcomed those present and spoke of his memories of a building filled with history. “When I walked into this building, which opened in 1978, a lot of wonderful stories came to mind, from the time when I was Head of Development,” he said.

The FIFA President also spoke of the terrible recent events in the Egyptian city of Port Said, which cost the lives of football fans and which he described as a black night for the game. In Blatter’s opinion such tragedies are unacceptable, and every possible step should be taken to ensure they do not happen again.

On a lighter note, Blatter offered his congratulations to the President of the Zambian Football Association Kalusha Bwalya for the national team’s 2012 Africa Cup of Nations win: “Football showed us its many sides over the course of those 120 minutes: drama, suspense, twists and turns and great joy.”

The meeting also saw two new members join the FIFA Task Force Football 2014: ex-Ghana international Abedi Pele and Romanian star Gheorghe Hagi. With their vast experience at the highest level, both should be welcome additions.

“I’m delighted to be part of the Task Force,” said Hagi. “Football’s No1 concern should be the fans, and the simpler we can make the rules, the better.”

Honour has to be more than just a word.

Franz Beckenbauer.

Fair play to the fore
The meeting proper began with a discussion of a new Fair Play campaign. “We want to harness the power of football in a campaign focusing on fair play, and make an active contribution to school life by founding our actions on the values of discipline,” commented Beckenbauer, who suggested promoting the ten golden rules in conjunction with the national associations. “Honour has to be more than just a word, and what we aim to do is launch a FIFA-backed global campaign to reinforce the Fair Play Code.”  

The next topic up for debate was the offside rule and the objective of making it easier for referees to interpret. Following a discussion, the members of the FIFA Task Force Football 2014 agreed on a proposal to amend Law 11. 

The “triple punishment” of red card, penalty and suspension for offences inside the penalty box was also on the agenda. The general view was that a penalty and a yellow card should be awarded for the least serious fouls committed in the box, with a red card being reserved for only the most dangerous fouls.

The corresponding proposals will be put to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) for their approval, and included on the agenda of its 126th Annual General Meeting, which will take place on 3 March 2012. FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke also commented that the IFAB will be taking another look at goal-line technologies.

The Task Force members also suggested that coaches who have been sent off should not leave the stands at half-time and should not therefore have access to their team’s dressing room.

In accordance with a study currently being conducted by UEFA, it was proposed that abandoned matches completed on a later date should recommence at the point at which play was interrupted rather than being replayed in full.  Furthermore, as is the case at FIFA World Cup™ finals matches, a total of 12 substitutes should be allowed on the bench rather than the current limit of seven. This proposal will also be analysed at the forthcoming IFAB AGM.

Other topics raised at Wednesday meeting included the progress made by the women’s game and a raft of amendments to the rules of beach soccer, drafted by the Beach Soccer working group.

The FIFA Task Force Football 2014 meeting completed the round of meetings held by FIFA’s four Task Forces this week, the results of which will now be presented to the Independent Governance Committee.