Overhauling a bland World Cup product

This year’s World Cup was ok, not great, not rubbish. But I suspect the long term trend is towards a blander, cagier ‘product’. Tier 2 and 3 teams playing for a draw. This is not good. Some thoughts on change, with four main objectives:

·    Feature a wider variety of playing styles
·    More coverage for smaller teams/players
·    Support the referees with technology, but not to burden them with any extra subjective decisions. Make some things simpler, give the attacking team more of the advantage
·    Encourage new approaches to the game

These changes accept the World Cup must be set apart from the rest of the football calendar; there should be no problem with it having some unique rules.

Increase WC to 64 teams:
16 groups of four
Six games per group = 96 games in the group stage. Six matches played most days (2 on opening day, 4 on last day of the group stage), no problem with matches played concurrently.
Knockout rounds of 32 – 16 – 8 – 4

Draw for knockout stages comes only after group stage is finished; top teams are seeded (1-8) by the number of goals scored in group stage, top seed gets to chose which runner up it prefers. Seed 1 plays 8 in the next round (2v7, 3v6, 4-5).
Why: more teams, more good & bad, more opportunity for small countries to progress. May make it easier for ‘top’ teams to qualify, therefore allowing more time/scope to develop new systems. Group games can be played in smaller venues. Seeded draw makes for more TV drama, and rewards goalscoring

Group stage points:  1pt for draw, 2pt for win by more than one goal, 3pt for win by 2+ goals. Why: creates more risk/reward

Knockout stage: Teams reduced by one man if drawing after 90mins. Opposition managers to choose which outfield player to be removed; reduced by a further player after first period of extra time. Then penalties
Why: creates more space, throws up new tactical options

Technology: To be used if the ball has crossed the line. Play to carry on as normal, but brought to a halt by 4th referee (off field, watching the video replay) if evidence says ball was in.
Offside: microchips in shoes (& ball) should be able to detect real-time position of players; player onside if his foot is behind the foot of the last man. Again, play until off-field ref says its off (should be <1 second). This last one needs serious tech trails, but should be possible

Scrap the 6-yard box: keeper takes kick from the line between his posts
Why: limits distance of these kicks

Free-kicks: players can take from anywhere within 5 yards of where foul was committed – but no nearer the goal.
Why: may help create better shooting angle for attacking team

Throw-ins taken one handed: Why: speeds it up, allows option of longer distance throws

Finally, use a ‘proper’ ball: Official ball to be in use, worldwide, for full season prior to the event.

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