I had a brief discussion with @mikey recently in the comment section of his post about draws (ties) in sports. In my comment, I brought up a rule change about points for a win in football and it got me thinking about other changes over the years that have shaped the game we see before us today. I went off and did a little bit of research and have put together a list of my 5 favourite rule changes in football.
#1. Three Points for a Win
These days, three points for a win in football is a standard reward across the majority of leagues around the world. However, it wasn't always that way. Until 1981, teams were awarded two points for a win and one for a draw in English football. The rule change was an idea by Jimmy Hill and was implemented in England by the Football Association before it was broadly used across many other leagues after the 1994 World Cup finals.
The reason for this rule change was due to the fact that the previous reward of two points for a win wasn't enough of an incentive for teams to play more offensively when they could settle for one point for a draw. However, by offering three points for a win, teams were much more likely to play aggressive football. A draw was much less appealing following this rule change and paved the way for the attacking football we all love to see in the modern game.
#2. Back-Pass Rule
In 1992, a rule regarding back-passes was introduced that changed the game in a massive way. The rule is pretty simple. A goalkeeper is not allowed to pick up the ball if a player on his own team deliberately passes the ball to him. Players are able to circumvent this rule by heading or chesting the ball back to the goalkeeper, but all passes back are unable to be picked up.
This rule was implemented to stop teams from time wasting. In the past, a team could score a goal and then try to see out the rest of the game by passing it around in front of the opposition before passing it back to the goalkeeper who would pick it up. As this is no longer able to happen, you will see opposition teams pressing the defenders high up the pitch. If the ball is passed back to the goalkeeper then he can either kick it downfield/out of play or try to find a pass to a teammate.
#3. Offside Rule Changes
The offside rule is confusing to people who are new to football but it's quite simple. A player is considered to be in an offside position if any part of his body, except hands and feet, are closer to the opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. In simple terms, there needs to be two opposition players closer to the goal line for a player to be considered onside. These players usually consist of a goalkeeper and defender but can be any opposition players.
In the early years of football, however, there was no offside rule at all. This meant that clubs would put out a team full of attackers, some of which would hang around the oppositions' goal. This sounds very similar to how football is played by children and is far from the strategical version of the game we know today.
#5. Virtual Assistant Referee
The most recent addition to football and one that will change the game in a major way, VAR allows a referee behind the scenes to review footage of an incident to inform the on-field referee about what the correct action should be.
I was not very fond of this addition to the rules when it was first trialled as it took a long time for a decision to be made and really slowed the overall pace of the game down. However, having seen it work smoothly at the 2018 World Cup, I am excited to see how it goes when it is fully implemented in the Premier League. It can be frustrating to concede offside goals and give away penalties that shouldn't have been awarded so VAR will go a long way to adding some consistency to the refereeing decisions.