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Blue card ruling, for better or for worse?


Illustration by Andrew Mazariegos-Ovalle 


The International Football Association Board (IFAB), the global rulemaking body for soccer, announced a trial period for a new soccer rule, and it comes with a fun accessory: a blue card. This announcement has been met with backlash as soccer fans and players adjust to the potential of another massive change to their game. 


Soccer already has red cards to dismiss players from the rest of the game and yellow cards, or cautions, for less serious offenses. If a player accrues two yellow cards, they are also sent off. These cards have a special impact in tournaments, which can stack the card total between games, meaning if you get a yellow card for two consecutive games it counts as a red. 


The IFAB proposal focuses on certain penalties — namely cynical, tactical fouls or dissent towards match officials — that might be deemed to be at the more serious end of the spectrum when it comes to yellow card transgressions but not serious enough to give a direct red card. Under the new IFAB rule, a player would be shown a blue card and removed from the field for 10 minutes. Blue cards would stack the same way as yellow cards. If a player receives a second blue card in a game or a yellow and a blue card, they will be sent off.


There have been rumors in Europe that their top Premier and Champions League would be adopting the cards this season, but this has yet to be confirmed by the executives in either league. 


There are a few reasons this rule is garnering so many rumors and such a large public backlash. First off, the addition of a blue card marks the first new card introduced to football since red and yellow cards were adopted for the 1970 World Cup. Therefore, the addition would change the way the game is played and penalized would be altered after 50 years of stability. 


The introduction of virtual assistant referee (VAR) has already created major changes in the rules of the game. Penalties such as offsides and handballs are now reviewed by computers. VAR has already massively changed the outcomes of games, including a deciding penalty kick in the United States Women’s National Team’s World Cup Round of 16 defeat. 


It is yet to be seen if the blue card actually will get instituted in soccer around the world, but it calls into question the importance of changing the rules of professional games. Is tradition more important than accuracy or safety, and would the blue card actually create a better version of this most beautiful game? 

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