The tactical foul, where a player is advancing dangerously and the opposition feel the only way to stop him is to illegally bring him down, needs to be eradicated.
It is all too easy for a player to ‘take one for the team’, accepting the mere punishment of a yellow card in exchange for a free-kick to the opposition in a non-threatening area, rather than a potentially lethal counter-attack.
So, with all the discussion and innovation taking place in modern football at the moment, why has a sin-bin not been introduced for these tactical fouls?
It is clear that a yellow card is not enough of a punishment, especially when it seems likely that the opposition would have scored, so a sin-bin, meaning that the offender would spend 10 minutes off the pitch, would surely benefit the team that suffered the foul, and hopefully, entirely get rid of such fouls from the game altogether.
Two years ago, the Santiago Bernabeu hosted a huge clash between arch rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona in a game that was likely to have a big effect on who would go on to clinch the La Liga title that year – the stakes were high.
In the 92nd minute, the game was 2-2 and Sergi Roberto received the ball deep in his own half before advancing up the pitch in tremendous fashion, dodging multiple challenges from the Real Madrid players who were hoping to disposess him.
An outstanding move ended up with a crucial goal from Lionel Messi to win Barcelona the game; a potentially season changing goal.
However, after the game, it emerged that in the immediate aftermath of Messi’s winning goal, Cristiano Ronaldo could be heard lamenting the fact that his team-mates didn’t foul Sergi Roberto whilst he was on his crucial run to set up the goal.
By fouling him they would have stopped the goal and their only punishment would have been a yellow card, which, at such a late stage in the game, would have not helped Barcelona at all, so looking at the situation in the unethical manner that Ronaldo did, the right option was clearly to foul the player – Barcelona would not have won the match if he had been brought down.
Although he was not fouled, the fact that such a memorable and important goal could’ve been stopped is a horrible thought.
If the sin-bin rule is brought in, soon enough players will stop doing these fouls at all and it will not be a natural instinct for them to do this.
This rule would not be a necessary punishment for all yellow card offences, but it could also be used to help rid the game of certain other things that don’t warrant red cards, such as persistent fouling perhaps.
Football has recently learned from rugby by introducing VAR just like rugby uses the TMO, and it could certainly take another leaf out of the same book and use the sin-bin rule that rugby already has.
For the good of the game, football needs to wake up and stop these tactical fouls with this easy solution.