Rumours are that the latest in a long line of madcap ideas emanating from UEFA headquarters is to be announced in the coming months, and it’s likely to be controversial to say the least. Since the laws of the game were originally codified, the size of the ball has remained consistent, but all that is likely to change soon if one of Michel Platini’s staff gets her own way.
Whilst not widely known outside of the corridors of power, Avril Pitre has been working behind the scenes at UEFA headquarters for a number of years, and many of the innovations emanating from the association’s Swiss HQ have carried her particular stamp of influence. The extra ‘linesman’ behind the goal-line in European competitions was something very much from the playbook of Ms Pitre, and the idea of them carrying a flag-stick without a flag was entirely her idea. Now, she’s about to throw a different ball in to play – in more ways than one.
Leaked documents from a Welsh source of mine leads me to understand that from the start of 2016-17 season plans are afoot to change the size of the ball used in all games that fall under UEFA auspices, and this will include all games regulated by the FA and Football League. The change will be dramatic and will inevitably revolutionise the game across the world as a massive reduction in the size of the ball is proposed. Current FA Laws of the Game dictate that the ball should be “of a circumference of not more than 70 cm (28 ins) and not less than 68 cm (27 ins).” The new ball will however be reduced to the size of a tennis ball, although still constructed of traditional materials.
The plans currently remain secret and will be launched at the World Cup in Brazil later this year, but a number of clubs appear to be wise to the upcoming change and many have been introducing tennis balls into their training programmes to ensure that all players are ready for the change.
Ms Pitre’s logic appears to be that reducing the size of the ball will drastically reduce costs for all clubs, and help to make the game more affordable at grass-roots level. It’s also thought that playing with a much smaller ball will enhance the skill level of players and lead to more goals, and hence increased entertainment. A contact has already been signed with a Spanish manufacturing company to produce the first batch of balls – to be called ‘the Cajones’ - which will be trialled during the European Under 10 Championships to take place in December in the Siberian city of Avinalaf.
UEFA are thought to be expecting a backlash of criticism to the new regulations, but are determined not to be swayed by any Luddite tendency to try and retain the old ball. Any associations or individual clubs not falling into line will be expelled from all competitions organised and authorised by UEFA.
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