FIFA approves player head covers in series of football rule changes | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.03.2014
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FIFA approves player head covers in series of football rule changes

Football's world governing body, FIFA, has approved head covers for players. Regulations on player shirt slogans have been tightened, and a proposal to alter the "triple-punishment" rule has been rejected.

On Saturday, FIFA announced that players would be allowed to wear head covers during matches for religious purposes. "It was decided that female players can cover their heads to play," FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said at a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Zurich.

The rule means that female Muslim players who wear a veil to cover their heads in everyday life will be able to do so during a match. Valcke said the rule will also extend to male players after a request from Canada's Sikh community, though they will not be the same as those worn day to day.

"It will be a basic head cover and the color should be the same as the team jersey," he said.

FIFA had completely banned the wearing of head covers until 2012, ruling that they posed a great risk of injury to the head and neck. The body then allowed them to be tested in a successful two-year trial period by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Their use will now be permitted worldwide.

Valcke said that Jordan's hosting the 2016 women's under-17 World Cup played a role in altering the rule.

"It was a plus for them to have the authorization from the IFAB for women to be able to play [wearing head covers]. It was a request from [Muslim] countries that said it would help support women's football there," Valcke said.

Despite FIFA's ruling, the French Football Federation announced that it would continue to ban head covers out of their respect for France's status as a secular country.

Shirt slogan rules tightened

IFAB also maintained that players would face disciplinary action for revealing any slogan or image on their undershirts, not just political or religious statements and advertising, as had been the previous rule. Although violating the regulation will not be a yellow card offense, players could be punished by competition organizers.

"We think it's the simplest rule for the image of the game to start from the basis that there is no room for slogans, images or alternative sponsor logos on the undershirt," said IFAB member Alex Horne, the general secretary of England's Football Association.

Players have been known to reveal phrases on their shirts after scoring goals, including on the sport's greatest stage: the World Cup. In the 2010 final in South Africa, Spain's Andres Iniesta took off his jersey after scoring the tournament-winning goal to display a phrase on his undershirt dedicated to a fellow player who had died that year. Such action will be punishable in the future.

No to 'triple punishment' ban

A request from Europe's ruling football body, UEFA, to change the "triple punishment" rule was rejected by FIFA. The triple punishment means a penalty, sending off and suspension for fouls in the goalkeeper's box that deny a goal-scoring opportunity.

Critics of the rule say it can completely kill a game, but IFAB ruled on Saturday that members were concerned that altering it would open the door for goalkeepers to commit cynical fouls and prevent clear goal-scoring chances.

"We don't want to flip back to where we were before where some goalkeepers knew that if they could not be sent off, they would simply take out the attacker," board member Stewart Rogan told reporters.

IFAB also rejected allowing referees to use video assistance, ruling that it would "change the nature of the game." Meanwhile, the possible future use of rugby-style "sin bins" that sideline players temporarily for some yellow-card fouls is to be further researched, with Horne saying trials carried out in amateur English football had produced "interesting" results.

dr/mkg (AFP, AP, Reuters)