Sin-bins will have sponsors salivating and see time wasting rocket

The sin-bin at Leeds Rhinos home games used to be sponsored by West Yorkshire Police. It was a neat piece of tongue-in-cheek community promotion by the boys in blue – even if they stopped short of going the whole hog and putting bars up to put prop forwards behind.

Football being the commercial animal it is, there will be marketing departments rubbing their hands at the new sponsorship opportunities opened up by IFAB’s decision to bring the sin-bin in next season. It is though in every other respect a mistake.

The premise of improving player behaviour towards officials is laudable – heaven knows football with its culture of complaint and intimidation needs it – but the sin-bin is the wrong tool to use to reach that goal.

The theory goes that players will think twice before haranguing the referee over a decision if they know a ten-minute spell on the sideline awaits but the rule-makers do not seem to have considered the unintended consequences. In professional football it is always best to assume the worst of human nature.

Teams reduced temporarily to ten men – well maybe not Tottenham, but most non-Postecoglou teams – will circle the wagons, hold on to what they have and try to keep their opponents at bay with a stacked defence.

They will waste time any which way possible to navigate their way through the ten minutes until they are back up to a full complement again. In what sense would that be a positive move for the game?

IFAB think they are onto a winner with sin-bins on the evidence of trials in grass-roots football but they are reckoning without the cynicism and cunning which pervade the pro game.

Before you know it Evangelos Marinakis will be demanding Nottingham Forest hire a specialist sin-bin coach to ‘manage’ the minutes as effectively as possible. A better idea would be to stick with a yellow card deterrent for dissent but to prosecute offenders with an automatic one-game suspension for the next match.

No totting up. One strike and you’re out. Mouth off and you clear off. In that way players are punished more harshly than at present – and, with 90 minutes missed rather than ten, more harshly than under a sin-bin system – but crucially games aren’t disfigured by ten versus 11 scenarios.

And what of the inevitable sin-bin creep if it was brought in? While it is only intended to cover dissent and specific tactical fouls next season, as sure as a bad night for Andre Onana night follows a good one there will inevitably be an extension of the sin-bin’s remit – as has happened with VAR.

The rule-makers won’t be able to help themselves. Before long, other offences will be tossed into the sin-bin basket and the shape of the game will be changed again.

This has happened in rugby union where the original target – eradicating cynical ball-killing – has been allowed to spread so that the ten-minute sanction has become a catch-all naughty step.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with football borrowing from other sports and rugby, in general, is a good place in terms of referee respect. IFAB’s other experiment to zone off the official, rugby-style, to all players other than the team captain in flashpoint situations – is a good one. As might marching whining players back ten metres be for backchat.

But the sin-bin, for all the good intentions to make life better for put-upon referees, should remain a no-go zone for football.

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