Football’s offside rule needs a makeover

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    The constant confusion and argument over football’s offside rule is really starting to become a problem.

    For example, during the match between Central Coast and Newcastle in round three of the A-League, the Mariners were furious when Josh Rose was incorrectly ruled offside during a breakaway.

    This is just one incident amid a string of other recent football controversies.

    It is time to change the offside rule. In particular, three aspects of the rule must be addressed: ‘interfering with play’, ‘interfering with an opponent’ and ‘gaining an advantage by being in that position’.

    According to FIFA, ‘interfering with play’ currently means “playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.”

    ‘Interfering with an opponent’ means “preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball.”

    Attacking players can violate this rule by, for example, clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision or movement. Or they can do so by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.

    ‘Gaining an advantage by being in that position’ means “playing a ball that rebounds to [the player] off a post or crossbar [or opponent], having previously been in an offside position.”

    I would like to see a stricter implementation of the rule which forbids players from gesturing or moving in a way that deceives or distracts an opponent.

    Had this rule been clearly explained by the referee in his description of the Josh Rose offside, there would have been very few objections.

    Daniel McBreen was sitting in an offside position. A Mariners player then proceeded to play a pass which was directed very close to him. McBreen allowed the ball to run and Josh Rose, appearing from deep, began to chase the ball.

    When I watched this incident for the first time I thought that the pass was intended for McBreen. Regardless of intent, I think that the decision was correct, as McBreen was making a movement in an offside position which distracted the opposition.

    According to the FIFA definition of ‘interfering with an opponent’, this was clearly illegal. Sure, McBreen didn’t personally achieve an advantage, but his team certainly benefitted.

    These unfair advantages must be called by the linesmen. Otherwise we could end up with numerous players engaging in offside ‘dummy runs’ to deceive the opposition.

    We also need to redefine ‘advantage’ as a technical term.

    Consider the example of Besart Berisha, who regularly gains an advantage from being in offside positions. And keep in mind, this article is being written by a Brisbane Roar fan!

    Berisha will frequently be in an offside position when a teammate’s pass finds an onside player. This onside player will then square the ball to Berisha, who will duly score.

    This simply shouldn’t be allowed. Berisha has gained an advantage in the form of an illegal headstart on the defenders who are attempting to track him. Both of his recent goals against Melbourne Victory were scored in this manner.

    FIFA needs to address this issue by rewording its definitions to include the advantages gained by the team as a unit, instead of simply discussing the advantages gained by individual players.

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