The Stupidest Rule In Football

It’s the 4th minute of injury time and you’ve scored the winner, it just so happens to be the best goal of your career too. I think it’s fair to say emotions will be running very high. Opting to celebrate by running around like a lunatic and removing your shirt swinging it round like a mad man is instinctive. But when the celebrations die down you are met with a yellow card from the referee. Talk about a mood killer.

Now I know in the spur of the moment the footballer may not give a flying monkey about it. But those yellow cards tally up for sure. But I fail to see the problem really, how is it still a rule in the modern, beautiful game?

I was always unsure what the game’s rules actually were for defining why the short removal in celebration is a bookable offense. Was it taking a really strict view on nudity or something?

According to FIFA on the matter:

The IFAB, the body responsible for the Laws of the Game, decided to add a detail to Law 12 relating to 'Fouls and Misconduct’, stating: "A player who removes his jersey after scoring a goal will be cautioned for unsporting behaviour."
Under the section "Additional Instructions for Referees and Assistant Referees", the Laws clearly state: "Removing one’s shirt after scoring is unnecessary and players should avoid such excessive displays of joy."

Allow me to elaborate why I think this is a load of rubbish. In fact, I’ll call upon an example from one of today’s games.

In the Premier League the game at Carrow Road between Norwich City and Liverpool finished 4–5. Action packed game with 2 goals in stoppage time, one an equaliser from Norwich and the other a winner from Liverpool soon after. Unbelievable jubilant scenes from all those associated with Liverpool. The goalscorer Adam Lalana didn’t hesitate in whipping his shirt off and running over to the Manager Jurgen Klopp who was well and truly in the thick of the celebrations. Then the ref books Lalana of course.

In the above scenario, I want someone to express their discontent at the player removing his shirt. The minute we start hampering emotion and joy, is where the game loses one of the elements that makes it beautiful. Football can be a roller coaster of emotions for all involved, but I challenge anyone who watched that game to truly stand up and say they were offended by Lalana removing his shirt.

I think it’s fair to say that the Norwich fans would have been feeling particular down and miffed about conceding that late. But is it the act of removing a shirt in wild celebration that annoys them? Or the fact they were unable to defend and subsequently conceded a late goal? I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

According to FIFA’s rules, if this warrants a yellow card then surely a backflip after scoring should receive one too.

A backflip, if anything, is even more excessive and unnecessary. But I’m not phased at all, the cathartic elation of scoring a goal should be celebrated however, as long as it doesn’t cause harm or offense like an offensive gesture. Removal of the shirt is totally acceptable in my eyes.

Just to make things extra annoying, FIFA define the shirt removal as if it comes over the head, even if it remains on the body. Now in this case it is more likely that you see some inconsistency in whether a referee will decide to book the player or not. Sometimes they bare messages on another shirt underneath. Often touching tributes to someone, somewhere in the world for whatever reason. If referees are booking players for this I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

Now I’m not suggesting that because loads of people do it, it should therefore be acceptable and the yellow card abolished. That would be like saying racism or homophobia are fine because they are such a prevalent part of society and therefore should escape consequences.

I’m just saying that in today’s modern game the rule seems absolutely silly and unnecessary, more unnecessary than someone removing their shirt. Just get on with the game.

The yellow card that comes with this behaviour can prove costly. There have been occasions where players have been sent off as part of 2 yellow cards in a game, and also of course the tally of yellow cards for the season leads to suspensions so they will have an impact.

I leave you with this hilarious incident to heighten my case: a player was being substituted and removed his shirt as he approached the touchline to leave the field. He wasn’t bearing his chest or anything, he wasn’t being overly joyful or expressive yet the ref came over and booked him.

He already had one yellow card from previously in the match so this became a red card and they couldn’t make the substitution. Shocking capitalisation on an already shambolic rule. You can watch that video here at:

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