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How the introduction of the referee influenced the rules

The introduction of the video assistant referee has had some impact on the Laws of the Game. Nothing new, because the introduction of the referee on the pitch (1891) has also led to new or changed rules.

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Briefly about the time before 1891

In principle, the captains first tried to come to an agreement. If that was not possible, they called the two (partisan) umpires on the sidelines. If no agreement could be reached here either, the one (impartial) referee decided.

Umpires and referee, however, were always at the side of the field and only reacted to some kind of challenge. It was not until 1888 that the umpire occasionally stepped into the field for a short time, because that was when the umpire’s ball was introduced.

Let’s move on to the period from 1892 to 1905: Here, there were some changes and innovations that were directly or indirectly related to the introduction of the referee. I’ll just list them:

Influence of the referee on football rules

Listed here are not only the rule changes, but also the discussions that took place during the Annual General Meeting (AGM). For example, on the very first point, the factual decision: it was not changed three times after its introduction in 1893, but three times there was a discussion about its poor acceptance and a theme that the

  • to exhort players and team officials to accept the decisions as final
  • would like to admonish referees not to revise decisions after the restart


So, here we go

➡️ Decision of fact (1893, was clearly admonished again in 1895, 1896 and 1897 because the referee’s decision-making power was apparently not always accepted)

➡️ Referee was admonished to watch out for the forbidden repeated touching of the ball after restarts (1892: penalty kick, 1897: free kick)

➡️ Introduction of goal nets (quasi GLT light): 1895 Goal nets are mandatory at international matches. 1896: Goal nets must be fixed to the ground.

➡️ Deliberate handball: What is intentional? 1897: Any handball that has been played „wilfully“. 1898: Any handball that is „intentionally“ played. (Unintentional has always been allowed).

➡️ Intentional foul play: In accordance with the adjustment for handball, this is now also specified for foul play: Any foul play that is „intentionally“ committed is prohibited.

➡️ Continuation of play only after signal from referee (1894)

➡️ Ball remains in play until match officials indicate otherwise (1895)

➡️ Ball remains in play even if it bounces against corner flag, match officials (1896)

➡️ Referee decides whether to award a penalty kick (1896)

➡️ Goalkeeper change only after permission of referee (1896). If not, penalty kick after handball in penalty area (1897)

➡️ Referee determines injury time (1898)


The changes listed here illustrate how often the referee’s decision-making power was questioned or not accepted in the early years. In fact, it was mainly wealthy players (gentlemen) who felt attacked by the introduction of an acting referee. Also the assistants – like the Umpires before them in the early days mostly biased – decided on throw-ins, kicks and corner kicks without being asked by the captains. .

Why did they feel attacked? Not only were they deprived of their decision-making power, they felt it was a snub that they were no longer trusted to decide fairly. And that was only because more and more men were playing football for money and the most important thing was to win – even with hidden unsporting behaviour.

For gentlemen, football and any other sport was a leisure activity and also, in a way, a demonstration of their gentlemanly virtues; after all, they had all the time in the world for their idleness. If they acted unfairly in sport, they would trample on their reputation. Why were they now presented with such a person who was both accuser and judge? I think this explains well why it took about a decade for the office of referee to gain general acceptance, but also for the powers of the referee to be clarified.

Kategorie: English


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