Sin bins in football: Does it work?

Sins bins will help repair the relationship between players and referees, according to a grassroots-level official who was involved in a trial of the new punishment.

Earlier this week, The Football Association announced the law will take effect for all leagues up to step five of the National League System, and tier three and below in women’s football.

The two-season trial enabled referees to apply a 10-minute temporary removal for dissent at their discretion. From the forthcoming season, it will also apply to all youth, veteran and disability matches.

And Mike Sullivan, who referees in the Kent County League Premier Division , helped test the new laws last season.

He believes the sin bin system, which will take effect from the 2019-20 season, will help prevent the abuse of referees.

He told Yahoo Sport UK: “In most cases, not in all, they were sorry for their offence, and I got an apology nine times out of 10, which is always really nice.

“I had to administer something, they have apologised and accepted what they have done is wrong.”

READ MORE: FA to introduce sin bins across grassroots football after successful trial


The 57-year-old official, who predominantly officiates matches in the 18-25 age groups, sent six players to the bin in his 32 applicable matches.

The trials saw dissent reduced by 38% and Sullivan, who also officiates Oprington and Bromley leagues, said he witnessed two extremes in one double-header.

He added: “In the first game, one of the players shouted abuse across the park towards me. When he came back on shortly after half time, he said ‘I’m really sorry, I lost my head’ and apologised for that.

“In the second game, it was a similar occasion, the guy I gave the sin bin was absolutely distraught.

Sin bin explainer: The new laws for dissent explained

“At the final whistle he said ‘you didn’t need to do that to me, you could’ve dealt with it’.

“Well, I tried to guide you and tell you the right thing to do. You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself sometimes. You saw it in the first game, why didn’t you learn from it?”

The real advantage of the temporary dismissal, according to the referee, is two-fold; the fear of missing minutes and the fear of letting the team down.

And it also removes what he called the ‘badge of honour’ from picking up a booking.

His ‘ideal’ incident saw an immediate consequence to the team which were reduced to 10 men.

“In one instance, they went down a goal,” he said. “It had exactly all the ingredients that I wanted.

“The team suddenly had a negative impact on it, they said ‘do not shout at the referee, keep off his back’; they didn’t want to see themselves put at a disadvantage for another 10 minutes.

“The team with 11 players... they are all clever guys, they learn pretty quickly. They realise OK, let’s just play our football.

Mike Sullivan was a big advocate for the new sin bin laws, which will become widespread as of the 2019-20 season
Benjamin Costello, who manages Easingwold Town AFC U19s, also found the sin bin system was a success

“I think it’s a great introduction, and am looking forward to it being mandatory in all leagues. And there’ll be more lessons to be learned, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more about it.”

But for the introduction to be as seamless as possible, the official warned about the importance of communication to the players and coaches before the season and matches.

It was a sentiment echoed by Benjamin Costello, manager of Easingwold Town AFC U19s, who also enjoyed the trial.

As a unit, Ben explained, his team backed up the new laws by threatening to substitute players who were reprimanded by referees.

The results saw none of his players punished for dissent through the season.

“We don’t want to see that negative atmosphere in grassroots and we didn’t get a single one for dissent throughout the whole season,” the 36-year-old said.

“We explained it to our players before the start of the season, how any backchat to the referee would see you off the pitch for ten minutes.

“We made it very clear that we expect them to communicate with officials as they would as us managers or coaches.”

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