Football’s offside rule needs a makeover

roarlover34 Roar Pro

By roarlover34, roarlover34 is a Roar Pro

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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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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • Roar Guru

      October 25th 2012 @ 12:17pm
      Philip Coates said | October 25th 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      Ah, some common sense coming through. I thought the ref made a good call on the McBreen incident. For me, if McBreen had stood still and allowed Rose to run on goal unassisted I would have allowed play on as Rose clearly beat the off-side trap with his run. But, the moment McBreen joins the play and makes it a two man attack, CCM have achieved an advantage by McBreen starting in an offside position. That is what happened and McBreen was correctly ruled offside.

      You are technically correct about Berisha also, although he’s not the only one. When the defence moves up and a forward lags behind and there is a turnover or quick change of play which results in the lagging forward being in a goal scoring position, then he has clearly gained an advantage but this is tricky to police and some would argue that the defenders need to be aware of his positioning and be ready to respond.

      I’d like to see a forward just hang around ten yard outside of the penalty box, clearly in an “off-side position” but just preparing himself and waiting for the play to catch up with his positioning. His positioning would stop the goalie coming out to collect back-passes and change the direction of play, but would the forward get called for offside when his team attacked (assuming they didn’t pass to him until play had caught up)? Probably not and yet he was clearly having an impact (creating an advantage) by being in the off-side position. Such a tactic might create a rethink of what it means to “gain an advantage”.

      • October 25th 2012 @ 4:32pm
        Nathan of Perth said | October 25th 2012 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

        Your comments on McBreen matched what I had been thinking – when he joined the footrace he was clearly interfering in play, even if Rose was almost sure to get there first. It surely cannot be argued he was just a bystander to play!

    • October 25th 2012 @ 1:03pm
      jbinnie said | October 25th 2012 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      Roarlover- Why try to change all these debatable points that you bring up? Why not change the law completely to take in the advancements made in the
      (1) fitness of the players,
      (2) the tactical plans being incorporated mostly to discourage scoring opportunities &
      (3) increase the enjoyment factor for the fans in one simple change.
      What is this magical offering?
      (1) Extend the front penalty box line out to the touchline and make the extended middle third an “offside free” area. This would have immediate benefits not only to the attacking players but to the officials who,instead of having to charge up and down 55 metres keeping track of the “front player,” (who in most cases is fitter and faster than they are), they would only have to patrol 18 metres for “offside” offences.This immediately cuts down on controversial decision making.
      (2) By stretching lengthwise the “midfield,”( where most of the action takes place),more space is available for players and the front man can actually push up to the new boundary and “stretch “any defensive plan being used as a tactic by a team in defensive mode.
      (3) In all probability it would see a sharp increase in the number of goals being scored and also opportunities for goal scoring and there is little doubt this is what fans want to see.
      (4) Cost to implement, An extra cup of whitewash.!!!!!!!!!
      Think carefully before passing comment. It could work and be almost as beneficial to the attacking side of the game as was the introduction of the “no pass back to the goalkeeper” was a few years ago. jb

      • Roar Pro

        October 25th 2012 @ 4:07pm
        matthewthorpe said | October 25th 2012 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

        just on point 1: can the goalkeeper then handle the ball all the way out to the touchline?

        some interesting ideas and i would like to see the changes that might happen to the game if it were played to these new laws. the only thing i’d say is it takes out the ability that lots of strikers have to make a curved run and beat the offside trap, potentially setting up a 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper, something that can be one of the most exciting plays in football.

        • October 25th 2012 @ 4:36pm
          TC said | October 25th 2012 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

          if I have understood jb’s suggestion, extending the front line (perhaps with dots) is simply a way of marking the point where the offside rule begins to apply (as opposed to the present half way line) – the pen box would remain unchanged, and all laws pertaining to the pen box, would remain unchanged.


      • October 25th 2012 @ 4:22pm
        TC said | October 25th 2012 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

        agree 100% with all of those sentiments, well put.

      • October 25th 2012 @ 5:39pm
        Stevo said | October 25th 2012 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

        Agree. Maybe FFA could experiment with this idea in the off season during practice matches and in some under age games. Definitely worth a look at if only to see what hidden/unintended traps might emerge in practice from such an idea.

      • Roar Guru

        October 25th 2012 @ 7:27pm
        Fussball ist unser leben said | October 25th 2012 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

        Sorry, jb I don’t like the idea at all.

        And, rather than lead to more goals I fear it will lead to stifling play – rather than pushing up to the half-way line the defensive line will congregate at your new off-side line.

        Instead of having 50+ metres to open up the defense, the attacking team will be confined to the final 20 metres only.

        I’d be happy to keep everything the way it is and simply remove the ‘passive offside exception’ to the off-side rule. If an attacking player is in an offside position – he’s committed an offence.

        • October 25th 2012 @ 9:44pm
          jbinnie said | October 25th 2012 @ 9:44pm | ! Report

          Fuss – Your answer is ambiguous. You say it could cause the defensive line to move back to the “new” line,thus “stifling” play. Surely that stifling is exactly what is happening just now should a defensive line push up to the halfway line thus squeezing 21 players into a field half the normal size.
          The idea would not restrict the attacking space to 55 metres as you suggest, but would increase it to 100 metres of space for attacks to be built and I know a striker would rather get possession (albeit restricted by your tactics) 18 metres from goal than 55 metres as the present rule can cater for.
          You must try and envisage what could happen if the centre forward could position himself on the edge of the box. The defence line would HAVE to move back and that only creates more space in the “engine room” where goal attempts are usually instigated. Good discussion point is it not????. Your pal jb

    • Roar Pro

      October 25th 2012 @ 4:01pm
      matthewthorpe said | October 25th 2012 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

      some good points made roarlover, although i do love seeing berisha flaunt the laws. but going by fifa’s reluctance on goal-line technology, it might be another 50 years before we see changes

    • October 25th 2012 @ 4:34pm
      TC said | October 25th 2012 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

      Offside in soccer has been a dog’s breakfast for years, and it’s beyond me why no one is inclined to try and fix it.

      Part of the issue is one of culture.

      Years ago there was a FIFA edict that the benefit of the doubt was to go to the attacker (where it was line ball).

      Did that edict make any difference?



      Because of culture – linesmen and refs would rather prevent a goal than be accused of letting one through that didn’t deserve to be a goal.

      For this reason, the vast majority of incorrect offside calls rule against goals rather allow goals.

      The second major problem with offside is a physiological one. Many scientific studies have shown that once the gap between the passer of the ball and the receiver of the ball extends to 30+ metres, it is physically impossible for the linesman to view where the potential recepient is at the precise time the pass is made.

      In other words, linesmen are guessing – and it’s obvious that they are guessing.

      Let’s help them somehow, let’s take the guesswork out of it.


    • October 25th 2012 @ 4:43pm
      Siege of Perth said | October 25th 2012 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

      Was expecting an article like those people who call up talk back radio after a socceroos match who know nothing about football to say they need to get rid of the offside rule, was pleasantly surprised. Know nothing about the Rose one, but the Breshia remarks are spot on. He does this all the time. That should be punished but I think they do need to relax the calls about players on the line. The benefit of doubt should go to the attacking team but it never does. Linesman much rather get it wrong and deny a goal then wrong and allow a goal. I also would like to see the rule become something along the line of a player has to have any part of the body in line with the defender to not be ruled offside. A hand out stretched, a foot left dangling. You cant get rid of the offside rule because thats what makes it football but being more liberal would result in more goals and 0-0 draws and 1-0 wins are pretty boring and could really use these extra goals to make for more entertaining viewing.

      • October 25th 2012 @ 5:11pm
        TC said | October 25th 2012 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

        good points.

        Currently, I believe the interpretation of being in front of the 2nd last defender is based on any part of the attacking player’s torso getting past, whereas, I agree with you, the interpretation should be that the whole of the attacking player’s torso is past the 2nd last defender, i.e. the linesman should be able to see daylight before offside is called.


    • Roar Guru

      October 25th 2012 @ 7:08pm
      Mantis said | October 25th 2012 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

      If theres one thing we know its that FIFA love a rule change…

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