Should throw-ins be removed from soccer?

Should throw-ins be removed from soccer?

Throw-ins are the only time outfield soccer players are allowed to use their hands. Throw-ins have been part of the fabric of soccer since the 1800s when codified into the FA Laws of the Game. In the modern game, throw-ins are codified as Law 15 by the International Football Association Board. The art of the throw-in is quite technical due to constraints placed on throwers through Law 15. Typically there are between 40 and 50 throw-ins per elite-level match.

The problem with throw-ins

During an average game, the ball is only in play less than two-thirds of the time. The rest of the time we are waiting for delays from free-kicks, throw-ins, goal kicks, corners, injuries or substitutions. Of these delays we see throw-ins happen more frequently than any other. However, on average free-kicks do take up more time.

Time wasting

One of the biggest problems in soccer is time-wasting. Throw-ins can be used tactically to slow down the game and waste time. Throw-ins are statistically more successful in retaining possession when attempted quickly. When waiting longer to throw in the ball, more time is given for teams to set up defensively and take possession. Statistics from the Premier League show that after waiting more than 10 seconds to take a throw, teams have more than a 50 percent chance of losing possession. This is paradoxical because many long throw-in specialists take over 20 seconds to get the ball into play.

Long throw-in specialists

Perhaps the greatest throw-in specialist in Premier League history was Rory Delap of Stoke. In the 2008-09 season, nearly one in every four goals scored by Stoke were set up by a Delap throw-in. Stoke fared so well against Arsenal in the 2008-09 season their manager Arsene Wenger suggested Stoke had an unfair advantage. Stoke even had the touchlines at Britannia Stadium narrowed to the shortest distance allowed under Premier League rules. The narrow 64-metre field further played to this advantage.

The influence of Covid-19 on soccer

Many things have changed in life since the pandemic began. For soccer leagues around the world, it’s been a challenging situation to play in. Many jurisdictions have tweaked the rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19. One of the rule changes that I’ve had to adjust to is the elimination of throw-ins. Rather than players handling the ball, it’s considered less of a Covid risk to have players kick in the ball.

What are the implications of a match without throw-ins?

For more than the last year, I’ve played in a league that has eliminated the use of throw-ins because of Covid-19. The practical implications of this rule change aren’t subtle, especially when playing on a shorter field. The old adage ‘when in doubt kick it out’ has lost much of its validity deep in your own end. Players have adjusted and you’ll see more attempts to hold on to the ball, or attempts to deflect a ball off an opponent to win a kick-in.

Do kick-ins speed up the game?

Kick-ins provide a much greater offensive opportunity, and similar to free kicks, teams tend to take their time setting up offensively. For instance, they may want to wait for a defensive player who excels at headers to enter the attacking penalty area. So from what I’ve experienced, there’s certainly no speeding up the game with kick-ins. On the contrary, it would likely slow it down.

What could be done to speed up the game?

Implementing a six-second rule to get the ball into play could be introduced. This would be similar to the six-second rule goalkeepers have to get the ball into play once they have handled it. Futsal kick-in rules state players must deliver the ball within four seconds of being ready to do so. Which could easily be introduced into soccer. Kick-ins could also be regulated so as not to leave the ground. Low grounded kicks would have to be shorter and quicker to help maintain possession.

These ideas could be adapted to throw-ins

Kick-ins do sound like a novel idea. They make room for more offensive opportunities and undoubtedly lead to more goals. The rulebook and scoring record books would forever be altered. However, it would disturb the whole fabric and history of soccer when there are other options available.

Stopping the clock is the best solution

Since time-wasting is the biggest concern, referees could stop the clock when the ball is out of bounds. This is routinely done in many other sports and is a more familiar way of doing things in North America. Stopping the clock would ensure every match has the same amount of playing time, ensuring fairer league competitions. Since many matches currently run short of 60 minutes, this may be the best solution.

Will the laws of the game change?

Many media outlets have stated that FIFA and IFAB are looking at proposals to improve the game. Such as this report: It’s been said that removing throw-ins is something they are to consider. So is stopping the clock, as done in most popular sports. However, FIFA has released this statement saying there is no merit to these erroneous reports. However, two 30-minute halves, while stopping the clock, would allow for truer games. And it would also eliminate all the time-wasting from throw-ins.

Nathan Holowaty


About the Author /

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Nathan Holowaty is a writer and blogger, with a passion for everything soccer-related. He is a lifelong soccer player and fan, helping to grow the sport in a positive manner. Nathan began working on Top World Football in early 2021.

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