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Would the implementation of blue cards and ‘sin bins’ be a good move for football?

With a new disciplinary system set to be trialled, including a new colour of card and the use of ten minute ‘sin binnings’, would it be a positive development for the game? We asked our writers for their thoughts

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Andrew Smithson says...

I can understand the thinking behind sin bins, but I have serious reservations about whether this is the right step.

We’ve all seen incidents that feel worse than a yellow card but aren’t bad enough to warrant a red, but they’re not nearly as common as other gripes regarding the officiating of games and I’d rather they were looked at first, instead of adding more confusion and inconsistency.

As for brandishing them in instances of dissent, why would this be any more likely to have an impact than the measures already in place? We see incidents every week where individuals go over the top when remonstrating, and yet it’s brushed off.

Too often, we see initiatives introduced, only for them to fade away a few weeks later, mainly because they’re not applied correctly or because the referees don’t get the support they need from their superiors.

The issues are then compounded because the bad referees don’t get a chance to retrain and the good ones get thrown under the bus because their criteria and decision making isn’t communicated properly.

I daresay the sport would benefit from other aspects being tightened up as opposed to this. At this stage, blue cards would only seem to add an extra layer of subjectivity that the officials could probably do without.

The offside and handball laws, for example, could be a lot clearer, whilst time wasting and ‘ball in play’ statistics are two other obvious areas where quicker and more substantial benefits could be reaped.

Sadly, I get the impression that these proposals aren’t about improving the game for those overseeing, playing or watching them in the stadium.

Rather than tackling long-term gripes, we’re using solutions from other sports that aren’t necessarily transferable but will certainly create talking points and intrigue.

Rarely do big changes improve football.

VAR didn’t fix the main problems and people raised concerns that it would cause more problems, yet it was still ushered through.

Armchair fans and social media drive the soap opera that brings in the big sponsorship, and the clamour for flashpoints and controversies seems to take precedence over those who just want their sport to be keenly fought on a level playing field.

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Ewan Bowman says...

I’m strongly against the idea of a blue card.

The game thrives on the passion displayed by both players and fans, and I feel that IFAB and the officiating bodies are killing the game that I know and love.

In the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, player conduct towards match officials was a lot worse than it is now.

At the start of the season, the directive was to give yellow cards to players who showed dissent towards officials. In both the Premier League and the EFL, this approach seems to be working.

For me, it’s been decided by morons in suits who should stay well clear of rule making. Former Premier League referee David Elleray is involved with IFAB and his decisions are as hopeless as they were on the pitch twenty five years ago.

Referees already have a tough job to maintain control and apply the laws of the game, and this will just increase the confusion as dissent can be interpreted differently from one referee to another.

I want to see referees showing more authority and personality on the pitch, and not being dictated to by VAR and so-called rule makers.

To sum it up, I’m completely against it.

Jon Guy says…

The premise of blue cards might be a positive, but they just blur the line between a red or a yellow.

They talk about a blue for a tackle that stops an attack, but I think we’ve all seen these incidents. If your player is tackled, it’s cynical, but if it’s our player making the foul, they’re ‘taking one for the team’.

Quite frankly, if you get two yellow cards, you’re off.

A blue, then a yellow and a red isn’t really different and I think it’s simply a device to engage with fans who wouldn’t watch football and don’t understand it. The excitement of a team down to ten men for ten minutes is a gimmick.

For rugby, where there are tackles which are dangerous but aren’t deemed worthy of a sending off, players get a yellow card and are sent to the sin bin, but football doesn’t need a third level of punitive action.

What I would say is that officials need to clamp down on dissent and abuse, as it’s becoming a huge problem in the amateur game, and behaviour in the parks tends to mirror the professional game.

We don’t need a blue card. Instead, we need clarity and uniformity when it comes to what’s acceptable and what merits a red or a yellow.

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Malc Dugdale says…

After the sending off of Dan Neil for two yellow cards against Middlesbrough, which was very dubious and led to a hiding, I think this is worth a try but I’m not sure how well it’ll work.

On the plus side, it’s very well established in rugby (both union and league), and it goes without saying that the respect between players and officials in rugby is many levels above what we see in football.

On the downside, it feels like a bit of a cop out.

Referees have rules to deal with dissent and ‘professional fouls’ but they aren’t very good at applying them consistently.

Adding another card and more complexity to the decisions a referee has to make may just add to the inconsistency across games, and between officials.

The FA will need to be very clear about what constitutes a ‘blue card offence’, and make it obvious and easy for players and clubs to understand.

While this all settles in, it could be very messy and some clubs will benefit while others will suffer.

I’m not massively against this and as a former semi-pro rugby player, I wouldn’t dream of treating an official in the same way that modern footballers do, but I do feel it’s potentially a sticking plaster to go alongside substandard refereeing and VAR, which isn’t really going as well as was hoped.

Existing refereeing and VAR decisions are already causing more discussion than the actual games, so if blue cards can be more effective than VAR, maybe they can help, but that seems like a low bar.

Phil West says...

No. Absolutely not.

I think it’s a ridiculous idea, and the notion of multimillionaire footballers effectively being banished to the naughty step for ten minutes (and being told to ‘think about what they did’ in the process) is completely stupid.

It would also give broadcasting wordsmiths such as Peter Drury extra cause to dip into their Scrabble bags and somehow turn a simple case of dissent into a heinous and unforgivable offence, and that’s something we don’t need, either.

Just imagine...

‘And it’s a ten-minute cooling off period for Luke O’Nien, as the Sunderland skipper is shown a blue card and is left to rue his barely-justified backchat towards Darren England.’

‘A costly case of letting your mouth run wild when icy restraint was needed, and he can only hope that his verbal barbs aren’t game-changing for his crestfallen teammates.’

Football has already encountered enough problems with the implementation of VAR and all of the inconsistencies that accompanied it, so I see this new ‘blue card’ system as a further muddying of the waters and frankly, it feels more like a gimmick than a serious attempt at cleaning up the game.

To me, it suggests that confidence in referees is extremely low, and it simply feels like an extra safety net that’s designed to protect them from the kind of criticism that we see on a weekly basis.

I’m very much of the opinion that officiating needs to be improved dramatically, and the only way that’s going to happen is through greater accountability and ensuring that referees and assistants are held to a very specific set of standards. The ambiguity needs to be cleared up and we need sharply-defined boundaries.

I’m an old school football fan and for me, it’s very simple: one yellow card and you’re in the referee’s book, and a second yellow means that you’re heading down the tunnel for an early bath. Nice and simple, just as it’s been for years.

Is that too simplistic a stance for the modern era? Maybe, but why complicate things when there’s no real reason to?

Keep the sin bin for rugby. It’s got no place in football.

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