Sin-Bins show the FA is serious about Respect to Referees

Sin-bins are coming to football.  The FA announced this week that from the 2019/20 season all leagues from Step 7 and below in men's football and Tier 5 and below in women's football will implement Sin-Bins for dissent.

2017/18 Trial

Last season was the first time temporary dismissals (sin-bins) were piloted in England across 31 different adult and youth leagues, something the FA were able to do as part of new Laws of the Game amendments from IFAB in 2017.  These new law amendments allowed national associations to choose from 2 different systems for temporary dismissals.  The first (system A) would see temporary dismissals be issued for all caution reasons.  System B, the one chosen by the English FA, allows for the governing body to pick specific reasons for cautions resulting in a sin-bin.  


The Results

We've heard from a number of referees that prior to the trial they were sceptical about sin-bins, thought it would be hard to implement and believed it would have no impact on dissent.  After just a few games the benefits seemed to bare fruit, with referees saying it reduced dissent dramatically, even just by threatening the player that they, as referee, had the power to remove them from the game for 10 minutes.  Many referees even said after a few weeks the players start to police themselves as to not get disadvantaged by playing with 10.  The results across the trial just re-affirm the sentiment from referees who were involved in the trials:

  • 25/31 leagues showed an overall reduction in dissent
  • 38% reduction in dissent across all leagues
  • 72% of players wanted to continue with the scheme
  • 77% of managers and/or coaches wanted to continue with the scheme
  • 84% of referees wanted to continue with the scheme

Why Dissent?

After choosing System B the English FA had the ability to pick a specific caution code reason that would lead to a sin-bin of a player.  In the 2016/17 season, the season prior to any trials, there were around 290k cautions administered across the footballing pyramid of which a whopping 25.4% (73.5k) were for dissent. 

Dissent is really an unnecessary element of our game and one that other sports look down on football for.  Dissent can also have adverse affects on the wider game, leading to referees leaving, players deciding to hang up their boots because they don't like the behaviour of team mates as well as fans leaving the non-league game due to the poor behaviour of what they see on the pitch.  All reasons for the FA to want to put an end to dissent once and for all and with the provisions in the LOTG for temporary dismissals, the opportunity to implement sin-bins for dissent seem a perfect mechanism to rid the game of dissent.

That being said, there was still a financial issue to consider, with cautions causing a fine in the region of £10, that's an income stream for the County FAs of just under £750,000 a year just for bad behaviour of players.  The new sin-bin guidelines suggest there will be no fines for players who are punished with a temporary dismissal, leaving a pretty big deficit for County FA budgets.  However it seems this gap is being plugged by the national FA to ease the burden and ensure that their is buy-in from their local representatives at County FAs.  A real show of commitment by the FA to improve the experience for all stakeholders come 3pm on a Saturday.

2018/19 Season

This year the pilot will continue and roll out to even more competitions, from 31 to 92 in total, at the time of writing.  This will see more and more referees, players and clubs go through training on the exact reasons for why sin-bins are being introduced and what the process will be.  Referee's up and down the country will be embarking on a new process for their matches this season and preparation is key.  You can find out more about the process by signing up to an FA webinar (ask your RDO for the links for your County) and see a high level overview in our video above.

The Process

The process definitely will take getting used to.  It's pretty simple if one player is sent to the sin-bin, the referee shows the yellow card and then points towards the touchline where the player will retreat.  They are off the field for a period of 10 minutes (8 minutes in youth football).  This period extends if there is a stoppage in play whilst the player is off the field.  The player can return after the period is finished and can rejoin while the ball is still in play, but only with the referees permission.  A sin-bin can be issued to all on-field players, including goalkeepers, but not subs.

It is possible for multiple players to be in the sin-bin at the same time, but the FA's research show that it would be an extremely rare case.  Less than 1% of matches have 3 or more cards for dissent and the chances of them happening in the same period is remote.

If a player receives a caution or dismissal during their time in the sin-bin the player can not return to the pitch and can not be replaced.

Now where it could get a little confusing is where a player picks up multiple dissent or non-dissent cautions.  Luckily the FA have produced this useful flow chart for the different possibilities should a player receive a combination of different cautions:


REFSIX Users  

If you're a REFSIX user you'll be happy to hear we've been working on adding the sin-bin functionality to our app over the summer and plan to launch the new update very soon!  Keep your eyes peeled for some video content explaining how we help you manage sin-bins in your games.  If you're not a REFSIX user yet you can head over to the App Store or Play Store to download the app and sign up.

The Future

At the moment the IFAB guidelines determine that temporary dismissals can be used in grassroots leagues.  It's up to each association to determine what they define as grassroots but what is clear is there is no evidence to suggest this will hit the Professional Game in the near future.  

In terms of grassroots, it will affect all of football next season when it is adopted by all Step 7 leagues and below in men's football and Tier 5 and below in women's football.  Currently the FA have defined this to be grassroots football but could also include leagues all the way up to and including the National League in this definition in the future.  Most likely, they will look at the data once it's been implemented more widely to see if it's having the planned affect on dissent and then take a decision from there.  One thing is for sure it's here and will have a big impact on the game.



Hassan Rajwani