VAR leads to World Cup rule change for goalie encroachment during penalty kicks

After at least one key VAR-assisted goalkeeper penalty in the group stage, the International Football Association Board has worked with FIFA to make a change for the upcoming knockout rounds. The IFAB announced on Friday that it has granted FIFA temporary dispensation from enforcing punishment on goalkeepers for encroachment during kicks from the penalty mark.

Currently, the rule requires that the goalkeeper be cautioned (given a yellow card) if a kick has to be re-done due to encroachment. But the change outlined by the IFAB now states that while the goalkeeper can be punished for the infraction, they will not be given a yellow card. Here are the reasons the IFAB gave for the change, via its website:

- the presence of VARs acts as a far greater deterrent than the caution

- the presence of VARs greatly increases the likelihood of any offence being detected and, as goalkeepers are likely to face a number of kicks during KFPM, there is a higher risk that a goalkeeper will be sent off for receiving a second caution if already cautioned in normal time, or two cautions during the KFPM

- unlike during ‘normal time’, when a sent-off goalkeeper can usually be 'replaced' by the team substituting an outfield player for a specialist reserve goalkeeper, substitutions are not allowed in KFPM so an outfield player would have to become the goalkeeper

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PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 24: Stina Blackstenius of Sweden celebrates after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Round Of 16 match between Sweden and Canada at Parc des Princes on June 24, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marianna Massey - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - JUNE 25: Shimeng Peng of China fails to save as Aurora Galli of Italy (not pictured) scores her team's second goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Round Of 16 match between Italy and China at Stade de la Mosson on June 25, 2019 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 24: (L-R) Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh of the USA celebrate victory after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Round Of 16 match between Spain and USA at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 24, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 24: Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates scoring a goal from the penalty spot after a VAR during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Round Of 16 match between Spain and USA at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 24, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Daniela Porcelli/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 24: Jennifer Hermoso of Spain battles for possession with Julie Ertz of the USA during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Round Of 16 match between Spain and USA at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 24, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Italy's Elisa Bartoli, right, jumps over China goalkeeper Peng Shimeng, second right, just before Italy's Valentina Giacinti scored the opening goal during the Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Italy and China at Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, France, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Italy won 2-0. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
United States'Tobin Heath, left, is challenged for the ball by Spain's Maria Leon during the Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Spain and US at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Monday, June 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
France's Griedge Mbock Bathy, left, and Brazil's Cristiane go for a header during the Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer match between France and Brazil at the Oceane stadium in Le Havre, France, Sunday, June 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Scotland's Caroline Weir, right, tussles for the ball with Argentina's Florencia Bonsegundo, left, and Vanesa Santana during the Women's World Cup Group D soccer match between Scotland and Argentina at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Scotland goalkeeper Lee Alexander fails to block a shoot from Argentina's Florencia Bonsegundo to score Argentina's second goal during the Women's World Cup Group D soccer match between Scotland and Argentina at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Scotland's Erin Cuthbert covers her face at the end of the Women's World Cup Group D soccer match between Scotland and Argentina at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. The match ended in a 3-3 draw. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Italy's Sara Gama, top, celebrates with teammates at the end of the Women's World Cup Group C soccer match between Italy and Brazil at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes, France, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Italy won Group C on goal difference over Australia and Brazil as all three nations finished with 2-1 records and six points. Le Azzurre will play a third-place team in the round of 16 on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Jamaica's Cheyna Matthews, foreground, fights for the ball with Australia's Steph Catley during the Women's World Cup Group C soccer match between Jamaica and Australia at Stade des Alpes stadium in Grenoble, France, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Norway's Caroline Graham Hansen, left, reacts as she is fouled in the penalty box by South Korea's Kang Chae-rim during the Women's World Cup Group A soccer match between Norway and South Korea at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Monday, June 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Spain's Irene Paredes, left, goes up against China's Yang Li during the Women's World Cup Group B soccer match between China and Spain at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France, Monday, June 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Norway's Isabell Herlovsen, right, kicks the ball clear of South Korea's Moon Mi-ra, and Kang Chae-rim, bottom, during the Women's World Cup Group A soccer match between Norway and South Korea at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Monday, June 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Erin Cuthbert of Scotland celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's third goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group D match between Scotland and Argentina at Parc des Princes on June 19, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Cathrin Mueller - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan, left, is congratulated by teammates after scoring her team's first goal during the Women's World Cup Group E soccer match between Canada and Cameroon in Montpellier, France, Monday, June 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Netherlands' Vivianne Miedemam, right, kicks the ball challenged by New Zealand's Rebekah Stott during the Women's World Cup Group E soccer match between New Zealand and the Netherlands in Le Havre, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider, left, and Brazil's Ludmila go for the ball during the Women's World Cup Group C soccer match between Brazil and Jamaica in Grenoble, France, Sunday, June 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Chile's Camila Saez, left, and Sweden's Nilla Fischer, right, go for a header during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between Chile and Sweden at the Roazhon Park in Rennes, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Christine Manie of Cameroon is challenged by Deanne Rose of Canada during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group E match between Canada and Cameroon at Stade de la Mosson on June 10, 2019 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 09: Nikita Parris of England celebrates after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group D match between England and Scotland at Stade de Nice on June 09, 2019 in Nice, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
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That last point is critical, because it seems like that’s the entire justification behind this change. Because VAR is meant to detect even the smallest offense, there are fears that teams will be left with no goalie during a vital moment. During the Nigeria-France game in the group stage, Nigeria’s goalie was given a yellow card when VAR caught her setting up just a few inches off the line during a penalty kick. If she’d been given one more yellow card during a penalty kick, a non-goalie would be defending the net during the re-do.

This temporary change may be a better way to execute the rule, but doing it in the middle of the biggest women’s soccer tournament in existence sets a terrible precedent. The rule was made, and living with the consequences — whatever they might be — was the point of making it in the first place.

We’ll see if the change makes any difference in how things proceed in the knockout rounds, which begins on Saturday. It’s possible goalies could be a little less cautious now that there’s no risk of a yellow card, or maybe we’ll see absolutely no material change at all.

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