A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME
“I don’t think this is going to enhance the ball game at all” David Pleat (George Graham (Arsenal))
“If the new rule is the authorities’ idea of how to foster better football, then the experiment will prove counter-productive” Howard Wilkinson (Leeds united)
PREMIER LEAGUE 1992 SEASON
The first Premier League season saw massive changes to the game. In Some people’s eye’s it was a new ball game all together. As you can see from the manager quotes above not everyone was onboard with the new back-pass law. The new law made it a foul for a keeper to handle a direct pass back from a team member. The law was passed to try and create a more flowing game and kill the time wasting tactics that had killed the 1990 World Cup tournament. Managers and sceptics were worried the law would create a game of long balls and goal keeper blockers.
The law changes effects on game play were immediately evident. Offences now pushed forward into advance positions, forcing pressure on defenders hoping for mistakes. Managers were now less inclined to play a stiff back line as they were now forced into playing deep into their own half with no back-pass for outlet. The game of football now opened up, giving midfielders much more room to play and be creative. The most notable change was to the speed of the game. Without the option of a pass back to kill time game play became non-stop.
The law change couldn’t have come at a better time. The Premier League division was created to bring football to a new wider televised audience. Sky Sports had big plans and gimmicks some of the most notable were: pre-game fireworks (shortly cancelled after a stray firework launched into a nearby petrol station at the Dell), pre-match and half time cheerleaders. The addition of the time and score in the corner of the screen however stuck and went global. Luckily for Sky Sports the introduction of the new back-pass law created all the razzmatazz needed was there on the pitch for all to see. Without the changes it’s hard to imagine that the Premier League would be the multi-million-pound powerhouse it is today.
Although the benefits were clear for all to see, there were some unfortunate victims. Pre-season 1992 Manchester City Keeper suffered a broken leg after being caught in 2 minds. City where [laying the League of Ireland 11 in a friendly. After a slow back pass caught Andy Dibble off guard, he ended up lunging in for a tackle, subsequently breaking his leg. Dibble went on to say “I wasn’t sure whether to kick the ball or pick it up” and the back-pass casualties didn’t end there.
It’s safe to say it took a season for teams and players to adjust to the new ruling. It really transformed teams and player stereotypes. The old school English 6 foot solid defenders no longer worked. Now managers were looking for defenders that were quick on their feet and could think just as fast. Without the rule change the birth of defenders like Rio Ferdinand just wouldn’t have been possible. Keepers also changed with the rule and became a lot more involved with players in training. Keepers now need to be able to use their feet when needed, think fast and create a good pass. Needless to say we would not have the game as we see it today without the back-pass rule change and the Premier League 1992 season.