IFAB Criteria for goal-line technology and hijabs

At its 121st Annual General Meeting in Manchester, the International Football Association Board, the guardian of the 'Laws of the Game', set down criteria for all future experiments involving goal-line technology. Any proposed system seeking IFAB approval must meet the following four principles: the technology should apply only to goal-line technology; the system must be 100% accurate; the indication of whether or not the ball has crossed the line must be instantaneous between the system and the referee; and the signal is communicated only to the match officials. The Board also received a presentation from adidas/Cairos and England's FA Premier League on two different systems.

Among the other items discussed:

++ the next IFAB Sub-Committee will establish a common protocol for dealing with injured players;
++ the board stressed that any pitch-side monitors should not be visible from the technical areas;
++ FIFA raised the intentional use of elbows and presented the guidance to referees ahead of the FIFA World Cup. It was accepted that these guidelines should be uniformly applied.
++ Artificial pitches should be green in colour. This will be integrated into the FIFA Quality Concept.
++ A protocol for referees’ communication systems was established, specifying that the system should only link the match officials, that it is not broadcast and that it is not recorded.

The Board approved changes to the wording of the Laws of the Game in the following areas:

++ Prohibiting any type of advertising on the ground within the technical area;
++ Any undershirts or undershorts must be the same main colour as the player’s kit;
++ The player’s equipment must not carry any political, religious or personal statements;
++ A reserve assistant referee may be appointed under competitions rules but would only become involved if one of the assistant referees is unable to continue
++ A player may not celebrate a goal by covering their head or face by a mask or similar item

Under Any Other Business, the following issues were discussed:

++ A proposal by FIFA for two additional assistant referees was referred to the IFAB Sub-Committee for further study.
++ The wearing of a hijab is already covered by Law 4 on Players’ Equipment.

The IFAB is composed of representatives from the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as FIFA. The four British associations have one vote apiece, while FIFA, representing its 203 other members, has four votes, with any proposal requiring a three-quarter majority (i.e six of the eight votes) to be approved.

During a short, post-meeting news conference, reported by Chris Cobb of CanWest News Service, "members of the board seemed uncomfortable talking about the hijab issue and hurried away afterwards, refusing to give interviews to reporters" who were pressing for clarification of their position on hijabs.

Canadian interest was high because of the case of eleven-year-old Nepean Hotspurs player Asmahan ‘Azzy’ Mansour who was ordered by a referee to remove her hijab during a tournament in Laval, Quebec. The girl was banned from the competition by a Muslim referee after she refused to remove the headwear. The young girl’s team forfeited the game in protest after she was sent off.

"If you play football, there’s a set of laws and rules and Rule Four outlines basic equipment," said Brian Barwick, chief executive of the English Football Association, during the news conference. Rule Four lists basic football equipment — jerseys, socks and shin guards, goalie caps — as acceptable but adds: “A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or any other player (including any kind of jewelry).”

“It’s absolutely right to be sensitive to people’s thoughts and philosophies but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to and we favour Law Four being adhered to," cautioned Barwick.

IFAB spokesman Adrian Bevington told Canadian media it wasn’t the IFAB’s policy to comment on the decisions of individual referees and therefore could not say whether the Laval referee’s decision had been correct or not. FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola would not comment on the Mansour case either but said: “A referee has to apply the laws of the game and has to check players’ equipment. What a player can, or cannot wear is already covered."