Captains only to be allowed to approach referees as football trials rugby-style rules

Arsenal players try to talk to referee Stuart Atwell after Newcastle United score during the Premier League match at St James' Park on November 04, 2023

Only team captains will be allowed to speak to referees about their decisions in a crackdown on dissent that will be launched by football’s lawmakers on Tuesday.

The International Football Association Board (Ifab) is set to approve a global trial of the rugby-style measure at its annual business meeting (ABM) in London, which could allow the Premier League to introduce it as early as next year.

Tuesday’s meeting will also see further discussions about the use of sin-bins in the game – they are already in place in grass-roots and youth competitions in England – although they are unlikely to be approved for trials in professional football in the coming year.

Allowing only captains to speak to referees about their decisions and rolling out 10-minute sin-bins for dissent would see football adopt an approach to managing player behaviour that has long been used in rugby union.

The former would go even further than a change in the professional game in England this season, where players risk being booked if two or more of them surround a referee.

Cracking down on dissent has become a priority for Ifab amid fears match officials are being driven out of the game by verbal and physical abuse.

Tuesday’s meeting comes a week after Howard Webb underlined directives to penalise it in the Premier League, beginning with a renewed focus on players waving imaginary cards.

However, there were incidents in which players had gone unpunished for waving imaginary cards.

Tuesday’s Ifab meeting is also expected to all but approve a change to the law relating to players handling the ball on the goal-line.

The offence is currently punishable by a mandatory red card, as well as a penalty, regardless of intent.

A change is expected to be agreed for rubber-stamping at next year’s annual general meeting that would see such handballs deemed to be non-deliberate punished with only a booking.

That would differentiate between the kind of offence that saw Luis Suarez famously sent off for punching the ball over the crossbar against Ghana during the 2010 World Cup and that for which Reece James saw red when he blocked a shot with his leg on the goal-line and it rebounded onto his arm in a Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea two years ago.

Ifab has again ruled out the introduction of penalty goals for handballs on the goal-line.

There will be an update on video assistant referee (Var) developments at Tuesday’s meeting amid talks over the first major changes to how the system operates.

As revealed by Telegraph Sport earlier this month, Ifab has begun a series of consultations over what changes should be made ahead of the first serious review of Var since its introduction seven years ago.

But, despite mounting calls for the system to be overhauled or scrapped, there will be no proposed changes put forward for trials on Tuesday.

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