The EFL announced a host of new rules ahead of the 2023-2024 season which will see major changes - but Steve Evans is in favour of the new approach.

Among the things that supporters across the three EFL divisions will see is much more added time, as referees clamp down on time-wasting and feigning injury, amendments to the offside rule and "a high threshold for penalising contact".

All are designed to have the ball in play for longer and that can only be a good thing according to the Stevenage manager.

Evans said: "Every time there are rule changes, we all look and ask why? But the idea of more added time if you like and keeping the ball in play is correct. 

"I think it's about value for supporters and that's a good thing for me. 

"We just need to get used to it because I think supporters around the country are going to start seeing a lot of eights and nines or 10 minutes added.  

"If you're winning, you don't want to see that, you want to see one, and if you’re losing, you’ll be happy. 

"But it's about value and trying to improve the product makes these good rule changes."

What the EFL have said

Match Officials in the EFL will adopt a new approach to time keeping in the 2023-24 campaign.

The EFL are committed to ensure a more accurate calculation of additional time alongside an improvement in the amount of time the ball is in-play from the start of the new season.

Enhancing ball in-play times

The exact time lost when certain game events occur will now be added. In previous seasons the policy was to add on a nominal period of time for certain game events.

The events include:

  • Goals and subsequent celebrations
  • Substitutions
  • Injuries and treatment time (if required)
  • Penalties (from moment of offence to the whistle for the penalty kick)
  • Red cards (from moment of offence to when the player leaves the field)

Alongside a more accurate allowance for time lost during the game, the EFL will also adopt the multi-ball system, which has been proven to increase ball in-play time.

Match officials will also be taking a more robust approach to dealing with clear and deliberate actions that are impactful in delaying the restart of play, with players cautioned if they are guilty of:

Delaying the restart of play

Failing to respect the required distance at free-kicks.

The outcome will be something similar to what was seen in the men's World Cup in Qatar and the current Women's World Cup.

Treatment of players

Players who require assessment on the pitch for a potential injury will now receive treatment off the field of play​, apart from certain circumstances such as:

  • A goalkeeper is injured.
  • A goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need attention.
  • Players from the same team have collided and need attention.
  • A severe injury has occurred.
  • A player is injured as the result of a physical offence for which the opponent is cautioned or sent off (e.g. reckless or serious foul challenge) but only if the assessment/treatment is completed quickly.
  • A penalty has been awarded and the injured player will be the taker.

After the restart of play, a period of time - not less than 30 seconds - will be afforded for the player to be treated and they will not return to the pitch before this period has elapsed​.

As always, the player’s return to the pitch requires the referee's permission​ and may be delayed beyond 30 seconds if the phase of play is in the vicinity of the player looking to re-enter the pitch.​

In circumstances where a player declines the physio, if a team-mate clearly delays or refuses to re-start the game that team-mate will be issued a yellow card​.

This will act as a deterrent to players who request attention as a tactic to waste time or break the momentum of the game.

Key Law changes

Denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity

The wording of a denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity has been updated.

Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick:

  • A yellow card will be issued if the offence was an attempt to play the ball or a challenge for the ball.
  • A red card will be shown in all other circumstances (e.g., holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball)

The additional wording means that whilst cynical non-footballing actions such as clear holding, pushing and handball offences will continue to be sanctioned with a penalty and red card, where there is an attempt to play the ball or challenge for the ball a penalty and yellow card is the expected outcome.


The IFAB and FIFA have also clarified the guidelines for determining a ‘deliberate play’ by a defender.

A ‘deliberate play’ is when a player has control of the ball and with the possibility of:

  • Passing the ball to a team-mate; or
  • Gaining possession of the ball; or
  • Clearing the ball (e.g., by kicking or heading it)

If a player is considered to be in control of the pass, attempt to gain possession or clearance, this would be a ‘deliberate play’ and the attacker in an offside position should not be penalised for offside.

An inaccurate or unsuccessful action does not change the fact that the defender ‘deliberately played’ the ball.

High threshold

As attempts continue to be made to keep the game flowing, a high threshold for penalising contact will remain, with officials not awarding a foul for all contact yet penalising when contact has a detrimental impact on an opponent.

Participant behaviour 

Similarly to delaying the restart, match officials will be empowered by the game to take a more robust approach to dealing with participant behaviour when it falls below expected standards on-field and in the technical area.