FIFA proposes restructuring celebration rules after Indian footballer dies due to back flip

Published 31 October 2014 | Authored by: Manali Kulkarni

After scoring an equalizing goal against Chanmari West FC, Indian football player from Mizoram Premier League, Peter Biaksangzuala, celebrated with multiple somersaults. He landed incorrectly during one backflip, leaving him unconscious.

Shortly after, Biaksangzuala was taken to a hospital in the area, where the CT scan revealed spinal damage from the incident during the game; he was then moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). On Sunday October 19, 2014, the Bethlehem Vengthlang FC (part of Mizoram Premier League) midfielder passed away in the ICU, due to the complications from the injury.1

The tragic death of the defensive midfielder has led Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)2 to recommend that the International Football Association Board (IFAB)3revise its rules for goal celebrations as mentioned in the 'Laws of the Game'4.5

Celebration of a goal” under Law 12, ‘Fouls and Misconduct’ of the 'Laws of the Games' currently states:

While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive.

Reasonable celebrations are allowed, but the practice of choreographed celebrations is not to be encouraged when it results in excessive time-wasting and referees are instructed to intervene in such cases.6

The law bans player from “excessive” celebrations, which can result in disciplinary action to be taken against the player. A back flip, however, until now has presumably bee considered a common celebration in football and thus not considered as being excessive.7

FIFA issued a statement urging IFAB, responsible for updating existing and introducing new ‘Laws of the Game’, to consider revising the regulations at the next annual general meeting on December 1, 2014 in order to prevent such incidents going forward.8

FIFA, though it can not amend Law 12, will be issuing a “directive” warning players “not to perform such celebrations.” After the directive has been issued, the FIFA Medical Committee will then begin writing a proposal to “outlaw” celebratory somersaults and backflips.9

The chairman of FIFA’s Medical Committee, Dr. Michel D’Hooghe, stated that he assumed the directive, which issues a warning against somersaults and backflips after scoring a goal, would not hold the required weight for the players to abide by it; thus, D’Hooghe supported that FIFA needs to write a proposal making these celebrations illegal, which will require IFAB’s approval at the December annual meeting. 10

D’Hooghe, also explained that FIFA will most concerned about the well known players because children follow the players’ actions. FIFA hopes that the directive will act as temporary preventative measures against such celebrations until further approval by IFAB of the previously mentioned proposal.11

FIFA has also advised all national football federations to submit any amendment proposals to the current football rules to be heard at the annual meeting.12 The IFAB will come to a decision on the FIFA proposal to make such behavior illegal at their next annual meeting.13

As for the current status of Indian football, no changes have been introduced to any celebrations in the Indian Super League (ISL)14, which is currently taking place. Notably, a spokesperson from IMG Reliance, one ISL’s League Organizers15, further explained that the ISL operates on a Rs 650 crore ( 66.2 million GBP) insurance budget, protecting players against sickness and injuries, and additionally pointed out that there are on site ambulances and medical teams for the players. The IMG spokesperson addressed the backflip matter by stating that a ban on celebratory backflips is not a decision for ISL to make, but is rather left up to the discretion of an individual clubs.16

Mumbai City FC17 CEO, Indranil Blah, expressed that players are aware of the risks resulting from such celebrations and “over the top” celebrations are not encouraged. Blah stated, "There hasn't been a separate communication that has gone out to the players. They're aware of the pitfalls of such stunts. Anyway, as a team, we are averse to over the top celebrations."18

Similarly Delhi Dynamos FC19 representative, Varun Achreja, seconded Blah’s reasoning by stating that though the ISL community is affected by Biaksangzuala’s death, it does not necessity initiating a ban on such celebration after a goal.20

Conclusion

Though it is inarguable that losing Biaksangzuala was tragic and highly unfortunate, however it does not necessitate a ban on all such celebratory somersaults and backflips. A player’s reaction to scoring in football, or any other sport, is marked by spontaneity, which is a highlight for the player, team, and the crowd. Thus, issuing a ban on such behaviour may eliminate this unplanned element that is an essential aspect of sport. However, concern that children viewing these celebrations and later imitating would seem to be a valid one. Emulation of these flips comes with the territory of the celebration being public. To address this, FIFA’s approach to issue a directive discouraging players from these types of celebrations is an effective option to establish preventative measures. The directive seems to create a common ground between protecting the youth from harmful or fatal emulations through a warning, without strictly infringing on the impromptu moment that follows after scoring.

 

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About the Author

Manali Kulkarni

Manali Kulkarni

Manali is the COO at LawInSport and executive contributor of the editorial board for LawInSport. She holds an LLM in Sports Law from Nottingham Law School (Nottingham Trent University).

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