In a recent post David Butler looked at the impact of rule changes on football. One such rule change he considered was the “back pass rule”. The Guardian provide an excellent overview of the rule change and quote Jonathan Wilson’s The Outsider: A History of the Goalkeeper who said "A general rethink about the laws of the game had been promoted by the negativity of the 1990 World Cup and, in particular one passage of play in the group match between the Republic of Ireland and Egypt in which the Irish keeper Packie Bonner held the ball for almost six minutes without releasing it."
Following 'negative' tactics at Euro 1992, FIFA changed the rules of the game and forbid goalkeepers from picking up deliberately back passes. According to The Guardian, the game was subsequently changed forever. The rule change which banned the back pass was introduced so that there would be less time-wasting, more attacking play and ultimately more goals.
I've collected some data to see if this is so. A word of warning, this data covers just two seasons and more research is required to see if this holds up.
The table to the left presents data on the number of goals in six of the seven top European leagues in the last year of the old rule (1992) and the first year of the new back pass rule (1993). The German Bundesliga is omitted as the league changed from 20 to 18 teams in 1993.
The results are very interesting. All six divisions show an increase in the number of goals scored despite the fact the number of games remained constant. In the case of Seria A (Italy), a notoriously defensive league, 163 more goals were scored in the season after the rule change was introduced. The institutional change appears to have worked. More research required…