Why introducing sin-bins to football may benefit the Beautiful Game

First written in February 2017

So, sin-bins are on their way in then.

My initial reaction is surprisingly positive. I’m not the type that thinks football needs a dramatic facelift (aside from using video technology to assist refs) but the notion that players who misbehave – without doing something bad enough to be sent off – don’t completely get away with their misdemeanor is quite exciting.

Do something bad, and your team suffers there and then. Seems fair. 

The idea needs refining. For me, legendary-striker-turned-football-gamekeeper Marco van Basten has hit the post with this the most feasible of his proposals to improve our Beautiful Game

The Dutchman, one of FIFA’s more credible technical directors, says yellow card offences should be accompanied by a ten-minute stint on the naughty step, AKA The Sin-Bin. 

This frightens me a little because tackling, a dying art as it is, would possibly become extinct. 

Given how quick modern referees are to brandish yellows for practically any foul, it may get a little too chaotic, confusing (and crowded) in the ‘Bin’. 

There is a flip side. It could make officials less gung-ho with their carding of players, and that’s a good thing. 

Knowing they will reduce a teams’ numbers for X amount of minutes, I’d like to think referees would be a touch more restrained or selective than they are at present. We have way too many soft yellows. 

Van Basten would have screamed this one into the top corner had he suggested instead that ‘Orange Card’ offences would constitute a sin-binning. 

What constitutes one of those? 

Diving for starters. The current yellow is no deterrent for cheats, and even if retrospective bans come into place for con artists (which they should) those caught red handed are content to pick up what’s usually an irrelevant caution. 

Send them to bin for 10, 15, or 20 minutes. That kind of repercussion will make divers think twice.

Timewasting is another. Take it from me; goalkeepers would take their goal kicks far, far quicker if the threat of an Orange Card loomed over them. Managers wouldn’t encourage it if they knew an outfield player would have to stand between the sticks for a bit. 

Tackles that are cynical, or made with excessive force would also fit the bill. 

While obvious leg-breakers should always be red-card material, too many dismissals are for challenges that look worse than they are. 

You can be sent off for taking the ball, providing you are deemed out of control. And that’s too steep in my view. Give those offenders an Orange; make them sit it out for a few minutes, calm down, and get on with it.

Leicester City lost Jamie Vardy at Stoke City for the rest of that game, and the following three. The punishment didn’t fit his crime. That’s one of many examples we could find. 

Dissent is another option, and the one that the FA have decided to take from the seventh tier down next term. Precious few referees use their power to send someone off for berating them, (players don’t care about yellows) but they would be less cautious if the sin-bin was available. It’s important we eradicate the intimidation of officials. 

There is one obvious fear. 

Would refs use ‘Orange’ as the default safe option, rather than dismissing individuals who deserve it? For fear of making a blooper, the temptation to choose the middle ground may be strong. 

It’s a good point, but what if we used that 10 or 15 minute spell in the sin-bin for a video referee to judge whether it actually was a red? 

If on considered viewing it was adjudged more serious, the card could be upgraded. Stay where you are son, you’re off! It sounds a bit silly, but I like it. 

The prospect of seeing 11 go at 10 with all their might, knowing their advantage will soon run out, is something that might just improve the spectacle too. The ebb and flow of matches could be enhanced by the plans that are taking shape. 

Think about the difference it could make to local football, where it’s set to be trialled in the coming months. 

Right now Sunday League players don’t get enough protection from referees. Amateur officials know that sending someone off could result in a hefty fine for the player, a ridiculously long suspension, and reams of unwanted paper work. 

For their £30 fee, they don’t need the aggro, so parks’ villains often get away with murder. 

Bring in sin-bins and the reluctance to dish out over-excessive punishment (unless it’s clearly deserved) disappears. I believe it would be well received. 

To be honest, I don’t like too many of Van Basten’s ideas for change, but this one could be a winner. 

Would sin-bins improve football? Yes, I think they just might.