Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rule changes for soccer, part 2: the advantage rule

The advantage rule should be modified to more closely resemble the one used in hockey. This change is so glaringly obvious I can’t believe it hasn’t been officially adopted yet. Currently, the advantage rule actually provides a positive incentive to foul in many instances, whereas, a priori, the laws of the game should be designed such that punishments for infringements are sufficient to overcome that incentive. These instances occur most commonly when an opponent makes a pass a sufficient distance—say 40 yards or more—from a defending player’s goal. If the defending player is close enough to the player making the pass and thinks the pass will be successful, he has a clear incentive to commit a foul. As long as his foul is not blatant enough to warrant a yellow card, the maximum punishment is a free kick far from his own goal. But, assuming the advantage is played, the benefit to fouling is to disrupt the player who just made the pass and eliminate him from attacking play, and, more generally, to get a chance to kick an opponent, annoy him, or possibly incite a retaliation, all without fear of further punishment. What should happen in this instance is to “play the advantage” for the duration of possession, and then award the original free kick once the advantage is lost, no matter how long its duration. The advantage rule as it currently stands is a detriment to attacking and encourages excessive and disruptive fouling. Why hasn’t it been changed?

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