- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2016

LONDON (AP) - More than 10,000 words have been cut from the “Laws of the Game” ahead of the European Championship, but don’t expect the changes to make the games in France any less controversial.

The biggest change introduced by IFAB, the body that writes the rules of soccer, helps defenders when they try to prevent an attacker from scoring. Until now, when a defender fouls an opponent in the penalty area, he could concede a penalty, be sent off and face a one-match suspension.

Now, IFAB has ruled that if a defender is making a genuine attempt to play the ball, the referee can choose to only show him a yellow card.

The referee’s interpretation of what exactly is a “genuine attempt,” however, is sure to cause endless debate.

Tournament referees will be briefing players and coaches about the changes this week as teams arrive in France to prepare for the Euro 2016.

“The main reason for the change,” IFAB said, “is that a penalty kick is a very good opportunity to score a goal so it ‘restores’ the goal scoring opportunity that was lost by the DOGSO (Denial of a Goal-Scoring Opportunity) offense.”

If a player handles the ball in the penalty area, or doesn’t try to get the ball when you tackle, it’ll still be a red card.

“Our aim was to make it easier for everyone involved with football to read and understand the Laws and to achieve this,” IFAB said.

IFAB is made up of the four British soccer associations and four FIFA representatives.

The editing process has resulted in dozens of minor tweaks that could cause confusion at all levels of the game, not just the professional matches at the European Championship or the Copa America in the United States.

In advice to match officials accompanying the new laws, IFAB urged referees to use common sense and to apply the “spirit of the game” when making decisions.

“This is especially true for the lower levels of football, where it may not always be possible for the Law to be strictly applied,” IFAB said.

Here’s a look at some other changes:

- Kick-off: The ball can now be kicked in any direction, including backward. Previously the ball had to be kicked forward.

- Offside: Players’ arms and hands are not considered when an assistant referee judges if a player is offside. Even a goalkeeper’s hands are not considered.

- Penalties: If a goalkeeper moves early and causes the penalty to be re-taken, he or she will be shown a yellow card.

- Fouls: If a foul involves contact with the opponent, it is a direct free kick.

- Equipment: Any material covering the socks must be the same color as the socks. This includes tape or any other material.

- Leaving the field: If a player is injured and the culprit gets a red or yellow card as a result, the injured player does not have to leave the field of play after receiving medical treatment.

- Sending off offenses: A player may be sent off as soon as the referee enters the field of play for a pre-match field inspection.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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