Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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Change The Game Blog : Think Inside the Box

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Welcome to the Change The Game blog!  Today we are discussing the much talked about penalty.

The penalty has not changed much over the last several decades, so let us look at it now and how we might adjust it.  You might be thinking, what about penalties do we think needs changing?  Well, nothing really, but could we improve on it to make it more exciting for the fans? Yes.

For our money penalties have become too much of a sure thing, any penalty that does not result in a goal is considered a shock.  It brings up the question; do all fouls in the box deserve to result in an almost guaranteed goal? In a case where a clear goal is denied by a foul a penalty is clearly justified, and some might say that it is not enough to give a penalty in these situations.  The fact that about 25% of penalties are missed or saved incentivizes a defending player to stop a sure goal by committing an offense.  A great example of this is when Luis Suarez cleared a ball off the goal line to deny a clear goal against Ghana in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  Suarez cleared the ball off the line stopping a goal and as you can see the penalty was missed.  Uruguay held it together without him and eliminated Ghana from their deepest run ever in a World Cup. 

On the other extreme, there are fouls in the box where the player is not posing a real threat to goal.  Is a penalty kick really an appropriate punishment when a foul occurs with the player running away from goal?  What about a hand ball that stops a cross?  In summary, it might be too harsh or not harsh enough, but in either case a penalty kick is rarely an appropriate punishment for the offence in question.

Now you ask, “Ok so you do not like penalties Luc, we get it, but what is a better option!?” If we consider ‘making improvements’ to be ways of making the game more enjoyable for the fans, then a great option would be to move the penalty spot back.  It would give the keepers a chance to make a save with their athleticism rather than the resulting in the game of poker that the current 12-yard penalty creates.  Rather than forcing the penalty back you could also allow the keeper to come off his line, this would give them a chance to cut down the angle of the penalty and make more saves.  Certainly, either of these would be preferable when we consider fouls that are denying a less than sure goal scoring chance, but does that properly deter the Luis Suarez’s of the World? This is one of the trickier elements of the laws of the game, how do we set up the laws to appropriately punish the myriad of different offenses that occur?   

 We will be speaking about this at length in a future blog but for now, I will leave you with what the MLS came up with as an alternative to the classic 12-yard penalty.  It may be a bit convoluted, but I think we can all applaud (or roll our eyes) at the creativity.

What do you think about these penalties? Let us know in the comments!

Change The Game Blog: How VAR Should we go? Part 2

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In part one we established some issues we see with the current VAR system and now in Part 2 we will go through the three options are most discussed around the issues in VAR. Lets Go!

Taking Out Offside

The most straightforward change that could make a big difference for the fans and players alike is simply removing offside from the purview of VAR.  Although having offside as a part of VAR does get the decisions correct – almost always – there are two major issues with its use under the current system. 

It creates a feeling of suspended disbelief for everyone involved in the match after a goal is scored and takes away from the experience of instant joy after a goal.  The players, fans, managers, and everyone in the ground is forced to wait a few moments eyes locked on the big screen hoping that they will not see “CHECKING GOAL” or staring down the referee to see if they will signal for a review.  The greatest moment in any match is when a goal is scored and for a moment everyone behind the team is united in celebration. Taking that moment away is too high a cost for any corrected decision. 

Is there anything in football that feels more unjust then when a brilliant goal is taken away because of an inconsequential offside long before the goal? For me, there really is not. There is nothing in the world a football fan loves more than a moment of brilliance.  When that is taken away from them via VAR for something that really had no effect and no one noticed at the time, it just feels like we are robbing the fans in the name of BEING CORRECT.

Overall, I think this idea brings up a philosophical question more than a question of logistics of VAR.  What is the acceptable cost of being correct? How much of the flow and passion of the game are we willing to lose in the name of getting decisions right?

Only Reviewing Dangerous Play

In the 2006 World cup final Italy and France were in extra time, locked in a 1-1 draw.  After a brief altercation in the box with Italian center back Materazzi, France star Zinedine Zidane turned and headbutted Materazzi in the chest dropping him to the ground.  The main referee and assistant referees had not seen the incident at all, and according to the referee the only one who did was the fourth official on the day; Luis Medina Cantalejo.  Cantalejo made the referee aware via his intercoms of the headbutt and according to the officials he saw it with his own eyes.  However, there has always been a rumor that the referee or fourth official actually looked at the big screen in the stadium used to show fans replays, and saw the incident for the first time.  He brandished a Red card to Zidane and unceremoniously left the field for the last time. 

This story serves as an example of an incident that VAR is perfect for: reviewing incidents that happen away from the play that we can not reasonably expect a referee or his assistants to see.  Simply put instead of changing decisions this simply gives the referees a 100% field of vision. Under these laws the VAR would make the referee aware if there is something to review and they would review it on a pitch side monitor as now is common in many leagues.

The American Sports Method

Many sports have adopted a method of some sort of video assistant referee or review system for decades that involves ‘challenges’.  Challenges are the number of times a manager can direct the referee to use a video replay to look at a given decision again.  This is one of my favourite alternatives because it offers the possibility for a team to review things when they feel it is important.  Giving managers challenges (one or two makes most sense in my opinion) will reduce reviews and the players and coaches can almost self police.  Players know when there has been a dangerous tackle or something that should be review.  This would also eliminate many reviews (initiated by the current VAR system) happening in the game and limit them to times when the teams themselves feel it is necessary to review.  Ultimately do we need to be reviewing the 7th goal in an FA cup match? Or a tackle that has not even bothered the player or their manager?

The basic idea would be to give each team one or two challenges a game and allow them to challenge any specific aspect of a goal, dangerous tackle, or anything within the laws.  When I say specific, I think it is important that when we are challenging for offside for example the manager has to be specific about which player being offside during what pass. That way we do not have coaches challenging goals endlessly. Again, another option could be to take out offside from the purview of VAR to eliminate that suspended disbelief. Ultimately, this game is for the fans, so let’s talk about what YOU think is the best of these options or what would you change about how VAR is currently operated?  

Change the Game Blog : The Institution of Substitution Part 2

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The first part of substitutions that we will discuss is the least discussed idea, how many substitutes should a team be allowed to name for selection?  The current laws are restrictive. Usually between 5 and 9 players, depending on the competition, and I think they could be opened to more than that for several reasons. 

Our first reason for expanding the bench is simple: why not!? If we keep the number of substitutions that can be made in a match constant, I see no downside of allowing more players to be on the bench.  Consider the experience a youth player gets being on the bench for the first team. Even if he does not play, having an opportunity to be part of the match day squad can be invaluable.  Secondly, it gives first team managers an opportunity to give playing time to the less experienced youth players especially when the match is well in hand.  When there were very restrictive rules youth team players would never be on the bench on match day let alone see the field.  This is as a result of the manager not being able to risk leaving out a first team player in case they are needed for a tactical change or replace an injured player in a competitive match.  Now as the number of players on the bench expands, we see more and more young players making debuts for the first team and gaining valuable experience.  That is as a direct result of the (slow) movement from zero to a maximum of nine players on the bench. 

The second part of substitution rules that has been discussed much in the media as of late is how many substitutions can be made during a match.  I do understand the argument that giving more substitutions would benefit the larger clubs in many ways given the current restrictions – or lack thereof – via financial fair play.  This is a very reasonable argument to make at the club level and that is why we will touch again on this issue in a longer form article focused on financial fair play and its implications.  For now, I want to discuss this from the perspective of international cups rather than league play. 

When you are preparing to watch your nation play an international match, what is it that you are looking forward to?  For me, I am looking forward to watching the players be as dynamic as possible, make amazing plays, and hopefully to watch an exciting-competitive match.  Especially in cup final it is paramount that players can play at their top level.  These matches are a rare opportunity for FIFA and the football world in general to gain new fans.  With that being said, we should be optimizing these matches so that the players can play at their absolute best.  This is the main motivation for increasing the number of substitutes, giving managers the opportunity to impact the match tactically and getting as many fresh players on the field as we can.  No one wants to watch an exhausted – or worse, injured- player labour around the field to finish out the match.

The first change we would suggest is giving managers five total substitutions during a match.  Keeping it to only three opportunities (not including half time) to make those substitutions.  During stoppages of play managers can bring in up to five players at once or they have three opportunities throughout the match to make five total substitutions.  Keeping it to three opportunities to substitute ensures that play is not being stopped more than is already the case now, while giving the managers an enhanced chance to change the match.  Currently, FIFA has enacted a temporary rule change that closely mirrors our suggestions here, but we hope that this will become permanent soon.

Click to check out some of Jurgen Klopp’s comments on substitution!

The last dramatic change that could be made to help the players play at their best is allowing a player to re enter the match after being substituted off.  The general argument throughout this blog holds here; we want to see the best players playing at their best.  Often in order to solidify their defence to defend a lead a manager takes off an exciting attacking player, only to watch the other team storm back and score two goals to take the lead.  Now what is the manager to do? They have already taken their best attacking player off!  Some would say that the manager should consider such possibilities and leave himself attacking options on the field, and that may well be true, but should we punish the fans for the managers mistake?

To some, the element of this rule that is most compelling is player safety.  The best example in todays match is concussions and head injury in general.  When a player goes down in the current system the medical staff is always in a very precarious position.  They have an obligation to the player to make sure they are healthy enough to continue but there is always a conflict of interest because if you want to bring a player off to examine them, your team must play a man down.  To me there is not a more archaic rule in the match, must I refer to our good friend Bert Trautmann, and his crooked neck.

Click to read more about Jose Mourinho and his dust ups with medical staff.

Surely it makes sense to allow a team to bring someone on to relieve an injured player when they are getting treatment and then allow return to the field when they are deemed healthy enough to continue.  This would eliminate the conflict of interest for the medical staff and encourage players to be honest when they feel they may need treatment.   

The last consideration is extra time, and how might the rules change to suit matches that go into it.  After all extra time comes in the most important matches of the tournament (the knockout stages and final) with the most eyes on them. It should be of top priority to make sure these extra time periods are as captivating as possible.  Currently we see over half of the matches that go to extra time go to penalties, but why? 

I postulate that in extra time both teams are exhausted and desperately trying NOT TO LOSE.  Fans want to see excitement and watch their team go for glory rather than wait and hope the other team makes a mistake.  If we can grant teams additional substitutions in extra time it would create more exciting play and result in less penalty shootouts.  With an additional two substitutions per extra time period, we can have an additional thirty minutes of exciting football rather than simply watching two teams try not to lose.

Overall, the discussion of substitution needs to shift away from ‘what is fair?’ for the clubs, to making the game thrilling for fans and as safe as possible for the players. 

Change The Game Blog : How VAR should we go?

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Welcome to the VAR edition of the Change the Game blog.  This is #3 in this limited series!

Video assistant referee may be one of the most unanimously hated aspects of the modern game. Some fans may have varying opinions on whether it should exist at all, or what form it should be, but in general I think all of us can agree: something needs to change.

The way VAR currently works tends to leave fans in a football purgatory; every time a goal is scored instead of the instant jumping out of their seat in ecstasy there is a moment of waiting for the referee to raise his flag for an offside review.  The simple fact that VAR has the capability to go back several passes puts almost every goal in jeopardy of being overturned via the video assistant.  Often it seems that the offside can be almost be completely inconsequential to the goal, yet the goal is ruled out.

The other prominent issue I see with VAR is that it does not do what it was introduced to do, which is remove some of the impreciseness and help the referee make decisions objectivity.  The intention of introducing the video assistant does have some validity, however when we are dealing with decisions that necessitate objectivity, I do not think the video assistant can offer much more than the on-field referees.  The situations that VAR is unanimously useful for involve those laws that can be seen clearly on replay like if a foul occurred inside or outside the box, if a goal was scored with a hand, or any other black and white decisions.  This of course requires that there be a clear and concise laws.  For example, with hand ball if there is any implication that intent should be considered then VAR is not a good candidate.  Would a slow-motion replay allow you to read his mind? As far as I am aware that tech will not be available until at least the next smart phone OS updates.

Given the problems we have discussed thus far, what are the options we have with VAR? I believe there are two paths; first, we could do away with VAR all together and second, we could make some adjustments or reductions to the purview of VAR.  The first option would indeed rid fans of the issues associated with VAR, but I believe that completely removing it represents a step backward for the sport in terms of officiating.  With some adjustments to the mechanics of the video assistant referee system I believe we can make it worth keeping around.

There are many options for how VAR will work.  Let’s break down a few groups of changes to be discussed as a whole, because often with these adjustments one change necessitates another.

Check out some of the VAR decisions from the last few seasons in this video.

In part 2 of this blog we will go through the options that have been most mentioned when discussing VAR. Check it out in recent posts!

Change the Game Blog : The Institution of Substitution

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Welcome to the Change The Game blog #2! 

Today we are discussing substitutions; the historical rules that might surprise you, the various substitution rules of today, and what we might improve to better suit the modern game.  

The first step in understanding the substitution rules we have today is learning where we came from and the original ‘substitution’ rules.  The first use of substitution goes all the way back to the 19th century where players who did not show up for matches could be ‘substituted’ by essentially any able-bodied player they could find.  One of the most famous instances- and the first substitution ever- was  when Jim Trainer did not turn up for Wales’ match against Scotland in 1889.  The Welsh played with local amateur Alf Pugh for more than twenty minutes until Trainer finally showed for the match replacing the amateur ‘substitute’. 

Some sixty years later the professional match finally came around to allow in match substitutes.  Before that there was no in match substitutions allowed at the international or professional levels of football.  It meant that not only were there no tactical substitutions, but there were also no substitutions for injured players.  If a player picked up an injury mid match, they would either play through the pain or their team would have to play with one less player.  This caused many players -especially goal keepers- to play through serious injuries for nearly entire matches.  Even today the cutthroat nature of becoming and staying a professional leads to many players putting their long term health at risky to stay in the match.  The most extreme example of that uninhibited competitiveness is Bert Trautmann.

Trautmann, a German born Manchester City keeper, broke his neck going in to win a ball against Birmingham City forward Peter Murphy.  Although it was a heavy collision and Bert was experiencing significant pain in his neck he played on, through the entire match.  It was so significant that while Prince Philip was giving Trautmann his winners medal the prince commented that his neck was ‘crooked’. Believe it or not the brave keeper failed to get any medical treatment until days later.  He ended up living a long life afterwards as a City legend, but it was only a piece of his vertebra wedged perfectly in his neck that saved his life. This incident along with many others lead to the FA of England and many other governing bodies to introduce a rule that allowed for substitution for an injured player.  Considering the more than 150 years since the first substitution the rules have not evolved as much as
you might think. 


Readers, I like to be honest, I began writing about the various rules and regulations that exist at the different levels of football but simply put I could write an entire novel surrounding substitution in different football associations and leagues.  There is anything from the 3 substitutions with only 7 on the bench (the English premier league pre-COVID rules) to unlimited substitutions with 11 on the bench (North American youth leagues, even at high levels).  This begs the question, why is it that there is such a variety of rules in substitution?  Critiquing all the different sets of rules is possible but, I think a better use of our time is distilling all of the options down for each particular level.

In this blog, and in the entire ‘Change the Game’ series of blogs, we are aiming to present as many options as possible as starting off points for discussion.  This is not an all-or-nothing approach and any of the elements that we discuss could be taken out and evaluated on an individual basis, especially when we consider the different levels of football.  A youth level and a professional level should not have the same substitution system for the simple fact that the players have different needs and abilities.  This is the same reasoning that we think there is a better way to do substitutions than was introduced decades ago; the players are vastly different than when those rules were introduced. 

That is all for now but, in part two of this blog we will discuss some different options for substitution systems that will deliver the most entertaining game possible. Click the latest posts to check it out!

Change the Game Blog : Golden Goal

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Welcome to the Change the Game blog #1! Today, we are taking a closer look at the format of extra time and the penalty shootout.

Your humble blogger must admit, penalty shootouts provide suspenseful, fingernail shortening, heart stopping moments. However, as nerve racking as a penalty shootout can be, I would venture to say that when your club wins on penalties the feeling is more relief than joy.  Rather than screaming “YEAH” at maximum volume, when that winning penalty hits the back of the net most fans are saying “thank god its over”.  Our aim in this blog is to encourage FIFA and other governing bodies to implement formats that you can not take your eyes off, rather than ones you can barely stand to watch. 

Having said all that, a penalty at the youth level can be exciting; will the strike be on goal at all, can the keeper react to make a great save?  In contrast, at the elite youth and professional level players have become extremely proficient in all aspects of the game. Gone are the days where a manager would not dare let a center back take a penalty (now some of the best penalty takers in the world are defenders or defensive midfielders; Sergio Ramos). 

In the professional game the only chances a keeper has to deny a pen are guessing correctly – which is only one in three to even have a chance to make a save – or if the taker happens to be called Baggio or Zaza (apologies to my Italian readers). There simply is no time for the keeper to wait and react to make a save before it hits the net. 


Games should be decided in a moment of brilliance, not by luck or by the other team failing to make a play.  Fans always prefer our heroes to have taken the glory rather than being given it.  I am certain that any Russian football fans reading will agree with me whole heartedly after they were eliminated via a penalty shootout loss to Croatia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they were hosting the event.

Considering those thoughts, what tie breaking format would keep the suspense penalties and still is the game of football that is loved the world over: continuous Golden Goal.  

Instead of two periods of extra time and then going to the a penalty shootout, the teams play 15 minute extra time periods until a goal (the ‘golden goal’) is scored.  Golden goal offers be best of the suspenseful penalty shootout while maintaining a cohesive format with the game itself.  Would basketball fans want to watch overtime if they settled a tie in a free throw contest?  Or how would American football fans react to a field goal contest to decide a game? Sports fans of pay to see the game being played at its dynamic best!

At this point, you probably have as many questions as answers about how extra time should be played, and that is exactly the point of this series of blogs.  I hope to get as many readers questioning the current laws of the game as possible.   Comment below with issues you can see with our proposed Golden Goal format (i.e., what needs to be changed to suit this format? Substitutions? What will this format look like at the youth level?), or any ideas that might offer alternatives to current format.  Each additional edition of this blog will strive to answer those problems and continue to build on itself to create complete sets of laws and formats to deliver the best version of the beautiful game possible.

Let’s change the game.

Change the Game Blog

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Welcome to our Change The Game Blog!

I am your newest 2026 NAWC team member Luc Goyeau.  I am so excited to announce I will be writing an ongoing series of blogs about how we can adjust the rules, environment, and all elements of Football to produce the most attractive game for the 2026 World Cup and beyond.   

A little about me before we get started; I have worked within the game of Football in Canada and the USA for the last decade coaching, as an agent, and now I could not be more excited to be a content creator for 2026 NAWC.   The mission of this blog is one that has been close to my heart; how can we change the game at all levels and to be more exciting to watch and play.

“Change our beautiful game, but why!?” I am sure several you are wondering this by now.   

As much as we recognize the traditions of the game and their importance, the fact is football has always evolved to suit the next generation fan and to give the worlds’ top players the opportunity to play at their maximum potential. 

This blog will cover subjects ranging from the much talked about – substitution rules and the dreaded VAR – to topics you may not have ever considered – the size of the pitch or how youth players are treated differently around the world. I would like you to use this post as a place for people to leave comments suggesting topics that you would like to hear discussed.  Anything that would improve the game for fans is not out of the question, nothing is too outlandish!

Feel free to comment below or contact me with any suggestions on our Contact Us page, my Twitter @goyeau_luc, or by email at lucgoyeau@gmail.com. 

The New Generation Fan

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What does it mean to be a New Generation Fan? The New Generation Fan wants a more exciting football game, with more scoring. By raising the excitement level several notches, the sports fan in the USA and around the world will now pay much more attention to football.

As the fan interest increases, the professional team revenue increases in the USA and elsewhere, then they can afford better players, then the fan interest increases, then the team revenues (including television revenues) increases, etc. You can see the virtuous cycle.

The 2026 North American World Cup is the key. This is the time when the American sports fans are drawn to football for one month. The 2026 World Cup is a once in a generation opportunity. When the US sports fans see the New Generation game of football, their interest will remain well after the World Cup is finished. The world’s 3.5 billion football fans will be the big winners. The prescription is laid out in the book; 2026 North American World Cup – Capturing the New Generation Fan – World Football Edition.

Peter