The prospect of being sent to the sin bin and letting down teammates following the punishment’s introduction by the Football Association is encouraging players to cut out dissent.
According to the latest statistics revealed in The Non-League Paper on Sunday, the Football Association’s decision to introduce ‘sin bins’ at Step 5 of the National League System and below since the start of the 2019-20 season is having the desired effect.
North West Counties League chairman Paul Lawler has been studying the evidence gathered by his own competition during the first half of the current campaign and reckons players are definitely behaving better.
Assessing the initiative’s impact, he told Sunday’s NLP: “It’s hard to argue with the numbers. The bigger picture, beyond the data collected so far, goes further; lads are changing how they conduct themselves on the field.”
By the end of November, there were 95 recorded instances of dissent in his competition that resulted in a player being dismissed temporarily. At this stage last season, a total of 246 yellow cards had been shown for the same offence.
Lawler added: “The feedback we’ve had so far from our members it that the impact has been positive. However it’s probably too early yet to draw firm conclusions.”
The FA trialled sin bins across 31 grassroots leagues during the two seasons prior to this one. Of those, 25 reported a reduction in dissent. More broadly, there was a 38 per cent fall across the competitions that took part in the pilot.
A survey of close to 1,500 participants afterwards revealed a significant majority of players, managers and match officials wanting the sin-bin rule to remain.
The governing body then chose to implement the change up to Step 5 of the National League System.
“It’s been brilliant,” said Steve Wilkes, manager at Northwich Victoria. “There is no screaming in the referee’s face any more.”
Midfielder Harvey Whyte was sent to the sin-bin as punishment for sarcastically applauding a decision by the referee when Vics visited Longridge for a Premier Division fixture in October.
The score was 1-1 when he left the field, and Elliot Pond scored a winning goal for the hosts while the youngster watched from the touchline. Wilkes told Sunday’s paper: “It hurt us.”
He believes his players are even less likely to err as a result. It is a view shared by Joe Doran, his counterpart at Bootle.
He said: “When it happens to one of your players, it’s definitely an effective deterrent.”
Ryan Jones was the first goalkeeper to fall victim of the new rule during the Bucks’ defeat at Runcorn Town back in August.
However he returned wearing an outfield shirt, having to wait for a stoppage in play before putting his gloves back on.
“He’s 6ft 5in and we put him up top until there was a throw-in,” said Doran.
He is unconvinced sin-bins are a solution to the problem of dissent in football, predicting the experiment won’t work.
He added: “I’m all for nipping it in the bud but dissent has always been a bookable offence, it’s just referees have been too scared to caution people for it. This feels like a halfway house.”
Lawler agrees, but reflected more optimistically. He believes that providing referees with another tool to manage games effectively can only help.
“We may not stop dissent, but if sin bins are making people think then that’s the main thing,” he said.