Sport | Comment – Sin bins to replace red cards in football?

This week saw the return of the Champions league with much anticipated games as Manchester City and Arsenal hosted Barcelona and Bayern Munich, arguably the two best teams in the world. Both games were set to be fascinating encounters – could City’s attacking prowess overcome Barca’s strangling grip of possession? Could Arsenal conquer the Guardiola revolution against last year’s champions?

The truth is we don’t know, and we didn’t find out as both games were compromised due to red cards. The question here is not whether the red cards were justified, which they both were, but whether the punishment itself is overly harsh. In both cases Martin Demichelis (regardless of being inside or outside the box) and Wojciech Szczesny clearly fouled Messi and Robben, denying clear goal scoring opportunities. The fouls were rightly punished with award of penalties being given but, as Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer has argued, that is punishment enough.

Up until the dismissals both games were in the balance at 0-0. However after it was only really a matter of time until the European visitors made the most of their man advantage winning 2-0, barring a miracle effectively ending the ties as a contest. This is why I believe sin bins should be introduced instead of red cards, as currently the punishment far outweighs the crime.

A sin bin lasting 10 minutes, which works so well in Rugby League and Rugby Union (2 minutes in Ice Hockey), with a penalty if the foul occurred in the box is a fair punishment. This would work particularly well in Champions League matches given the preciousness of away goals, but could work just as well in domestic league and cup games.

Whilst I agree the attacking players should be given the benefit of the doubt, defenders must also be safeguarded as the war on tackling continues, and soon football will be a non-contact sport. Although UEFA seem to loathe making any meaningful improvements to the game, this change would benefit them as well as fans as they know wouldn’t have two dead games on their hands. A change that could easily be implemented and could have a significant change on football is surely worth some serious consideration.

Joe Bookbinder

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