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How UK football fans feel about shorter matches, sin bins, and other potential rule changes

FIFA plans to test out a quintet of rule changes, some of which would substantially alter the game of football should they be implemented across the sport. New YouGov polling suggests that while some of these changes may be welcomed by British football fans, others may just push fans’ tolerance for messing with the beautiful game.

The federation is testing out the rule changes at the Future of Football Cup, a youth tournament which includes PSV, AZ Alkmaar, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.

30-minute halves

The first time-related rule change being tested is a shorter game — two 30-minute halves rather than two 45-minute periods, to speed up and intensify matches.

This rule change isn’t likely to make many fans happy at all. A whopping 96% of UK respondents who follow football say 90 minute is the right length of time for a match, while just 3% (close to our margin of error) say it’s too long.

Further to this, the vast majority (92%) also say one 15-minute break remains the preferred format, rather than two breaks of seven minutes (4%) or three breaks of five minutes (3%).

Sin bins

Taking a page from rugby and other sports, FIFA is testing out ‘sin bins.’ Under this rule, players would receive a five-minute temporary expulsion when given a yellow card and forced to watch from the sidelines.

This rule proves popular among UK’s football fanbase, with 59% indicating support for such a change. Almost a quarter of fans oppose such a change (22%), while a significant proportion are not sure either way (19%).

Stopped clock system

Instead of adding time at the end of each match, FIFA is testing stopping the clock every time the ball goes out of play. Again, this rule change could be popular, with 60% of football followers indicating support. About a third (35%) oppose and just 5% are not sure.

Unlimited player changes

FIFA is also mulling the use of unlimited player changes. During COVID-era gameplay, teams were allowed as many as five subs per game depending on the country. In the wake of these changes, the federation is exploring whether to lift sub limits altogether.

But there isn’t strong support for this potential rule change, with just 17% voicing support and 82% in opposition. Very few (2%) are unsure.

Kick-ins rather than throw-ins

Nearly as controversial as unlimited player changes, FIFA is also testing allowing players to kick in dead balls, rather than restarting play with throw-ins. Most (56%) of football followers oppose such a change, while 19% support the idea. It’s worth noting a quarter (26%) don’t know, suggesting many could be convinced one way or the other.

It’s highly unlikely all of these changes will become widely adopted since the sport, steeped in tradition, is slow to evolve. But fans won’t balk at all changes, namely a stopped clock system and sin bins, suggesting they’re open to some adjustments.

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Methodology: YouGov polled 1,200 British adults who follow football online on between July 19, 2021 at 10:10 p.m. BST and July 20, 2021 at 10:36 a.m. BST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade. The margin of error is 2.8% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct.

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