Playground football: Which rules would make Premier League better?

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May 18, 2020
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    Playground football

    Playground football was an art which included the ability to avoid slides

    Remember when football was just a never-ending game with your mates in the park, playing with a battered leather ball and the aim was to put it between two piles of jumpers?

    There were no rules in playground football but there was etiquette. Whoever owned the ball was in charge. They were the manager, captain, referee and fourth official.

    And whether you played in full kit, rocked up in your jeans or just stuck some shorts on – you were part of it.

    As the Premier League contemplates a return to competitive football, there have been discussions about introducing some new rules – including more substitutes and scrapping VAR.

    So it got us thinking, if you could bring any of your favourite playground or five-a-side football “rules” into the professional game, what would they be? Read our suggestions and rank them below.

    Rush goalie

    It was rare anybody actually volunteered to be the keeper so this was a collective effort from everyone involved.

    “Rush goalie” or “fly keeper” (there are several names for it) meant you could still play outfield but when your team lost possession you would sprint back into position to produce the heroics in net. Often a role that was rotated.

    Only GKs can take pens

    Peter Schmeichel celebrating

    Former Manchester United player Peter Schmeichel is one of five keepers to score a Premier League goal

    Is there anything more exciting than a goalkeeper scoring a goal? The answer is no.

    So what if they were the only players allowed to take a penalty? The glory, the surprise, the wild celebrations… just think about that.

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    Next goal wins

    It didn’t matter if you had been playing for six hours and the other team were 45-3 up; the “next goal wins” rule meant there was hope, drama and motivation until the very end.

    You threw the kitchen sink at it – there was nothing to lose. If you scored the next goal, the win was yours. The previous 45 goals conceded were irrelevant.

    One-step penalties

    Neymar taking a penalty

    No messing about. Just hit it

    This was to the advantage of the keepers.

    No long run-ups and no stuttering to try and put them off. It was a simple one-step penalty. You had to be clinical. It separated the real goal scorers from the “hit and hopes”.

    Jumpers for goalposts

    Jumpers for goalposts

    Lack of proper equipment is essential to playground football

    A classic. Did you have a cage in your local park with actual goals? Lucky you!

    For mere mortals it was a case of piling up some jumpers – maybe a few T-shirts thrown in as well – and strategically placing them an equal length apart. Many debates were had over whether it had gone in off the inside of the “post”.

    Pay your subs!

    Premier League stars are paid millions to play football. For the rest of us, we rocked up to five-a-side and Sunday league games with our £3 subs to pay for the pitch hire.

    Can you imagine Jurgen Klopp’s men handing over a few quid every Saturday to play at Anfield? Jordan Henderson sat in the corner of the changing rooms working out who is yet to pay up?

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    No offside


    This led to the demise of the “goal hanger”

    Who REALLY knows the rules of offside these days anyway? Final phase of play? Interfering with play? Armpits? Saves the linesman a job and it means you won’t have any arguments between VAR and the underside of your shoulder…

    Mess up and you’re off

    This remains a strict rule in five-a-side.

    Miss an open goal? You’re off. Gift possession to the opposition? You’re off. Let a goal in through your legs? Yep, you’re off for that too.

    High standards must be maintained at all times. Substitutions are endless.

    Captains pick teams

    Another classic.

    Everyone wanted the best player on their team. If you were less concerned about being fair, two nominated captains took it in turns to choose their teams. If you were picked last, you weren’t any good.

    Those looking for a fairer method did it randomly. Everyone had a number or a word, the captains would call them out and have to settle for who they were given.

    And if you got battered in the first 30 minutes it was no bother. You just switched the teams around. There’s no loyalty in playground football. You played for bragging rights, not the badge.

    Unlimited duration

    Alex Ferguson pointing to his watch

    Put your watch away Fergie, this game is going on for hours

    Playground football didn’t stop until the owner of the ball had to go home for tea or it got too dark to play.

    That meant you could be playing for hours. No stoppage time and no “Fergie time”. It was just unlimited time.

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    No throw-ins

    You couldn’t help it if the ball went over the fence or got stuck under a parked car so you just retrieved it and carried on from there. What was the point in messing around with throw-ins?

    Mandatory celebrations

    Alan Shearer celebrating

    Alan Shearer’s finger point was a playground favourite

    This could be the most important rule.

    If you didn’t run around screaming the name of your favourite player while lifting your shirt over your head after scoring, did you even play playground football?

    The knee slide (not on concrete, obviously), the headless chicken run or the classic Alan Shearer finger point? The choices are endless.

    Which playground rule would you like to see in the Premier League?

    You have seen our shortlist of playground rules but which ones would you like to see brought into the Premier League? Rank them below.

    Ranking the best playground rules

    Rank the best playground rules

    First1Second2Third3Fourth4Fifth5Sixth6Seventh7Eighth8Ninth9Tenth10Eleventh11Twelfth12Confirm selection


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