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More Blatterings On the Offside Rule


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Modify offside to make it simpler

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter



(FIFA.com) 28 Jul 2004

By Joseph S. Blatter

If there is a single topic that keeps coming back to haunt the football world, one that creates some of the most heated discussions, it is the offside rule.

Euro 2004 and the current Asian Cup are only the latest major international tournaments where the issue has caused controversy. So what should be done?

Before I offer an opinion of how the offside law should be modified let me briefly reiterate what the current rule stipulates. It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position. However a player will be ruled offside if they are nearer to their opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. They cannot, however, be offside if they are in their own half of the field; level with the second last opponent or level with the last two opponents.

And a player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved by: interfering with play; interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage by being in that position.

The key to understanding the offside rule lies in the one phrase which says that: "A player in an offside position is only penalised if ...in the opinion of the referee ..."

Clearly, it is always easy to blame the referee especially if a decision has gone against your team. But it is no coincidence that the rule is most disliked by those who lose and most misunderstood by those experts who often take recourse in blaming errant refereeing. Whereas I consider any cries for the abolition of the offside rule as excessive I do accept that improvements are possible in order to make the understanding of the law more universal.

Well-meaning pundits have often suggested that without an offside rule, the game would become faster and more attractive. They are wrong. Not only would such a move encourage lazy play with strikers goal-hanging but more importantly it would drain away the true intelligence of the game. The challenges of the game's tactical and strategic battles presented to team managers, coaches and players would quickly disappear, only to be replaced by a terribly boring kicking of the ball back and forth, without much sense

or excitement.

Rather the offside rule, as established from the very outset by the forefathers of the game, needs to be simplified in order to get more people to agree on one and the same thing. Thus, at the IFAB business meeting in October 2004 - which is composed of technical experts - the issue will be studied carefully, while taking into consideration the many different "schools of thought" on the subject. FIFA will then submit their recommendations to the IFAB in February of 2005 to discuss Law 11 with a view to simplifying it so as to make it easier to understand for one and all.

At Euro 2004 Ruud van Nistelrooy's goal in the Netherlands 3-2 defeat to the Czech Republic provided a perfect example of the confusion over offside. Initially the Dutch striker was in a "passive" offside position

the ball was on the opposite side of the pitch from him; he retreated quickly, only to run forward again to score what, in my opinion, was a perfectly good goal.

The core point which I am advocating therefore, is this: the offside rule should only apply to the player who actually receives the ball. We should do away with phrases such as "active" and "passive" that punish scorers of magnificent goals who then have them disallowed because a team-mate was offside at the same time (even though that team-mate, never had a chance in hell of coming close to the ball).

We need to do away with misunderstandings and endless discussions. Let us rejuvenate the game by making one of its most important laws easier to understand.



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Well me, I'm for offside is offside. Just like them good ol' days.

If offside player X is no where near the play he's there because of one of three reasons. 1). The defence caught him as it pushed upfield. 2). He's tired or lazy. 3). He's seeking to gain an advantage by being offside (or slightly offside). And none of those three reasons seem like very good excuses for rewarding an attacking team by pretending the offside player dosen't exist. Is invisible. To my way of thinking anyway.

Defenders more often than not cannot play the game knowing before hand who's going to be getting the next pass. Funny thing, the attacking side just dosen't want to share that information. So your defence has to organize with all players in mind. Including the ones who may be offside, by whatever margin. And not just for the next immediate pass, but as I'm sure as we all already know, like chess, several moves ahead. If they don't, an organized opponent will just repeat attack plays until the defence catchs on by which time I'm sure it'll be too late.

So you can't realy say that a player in an offside possition isn't looking to get an advantage from their offside possition. Intentionaly or no. The advantage exists. Period.

Even if he dosen't get immediately involved in a play it's just too hard to police alternatives to allow offside player X. to rejoin the play without conceiding an advantage and benefit to player X. for their initial offside possitioning. And is that fair?

Offside is offside. Pay more attention. Stay level. Aggresive traps will get burnt. They allways do.

And you can't get it any simplier than that. That way we can just watch the replays over and over again in slow-mo. to see if Striker Bob was indeed level with Center half Joe.


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Cheeta, I wanted to say the same thing, but didn't know where to begin. Good on ya.

How can officials determine offside effectively if they have to do it by including the decision the factor that, in the words of his bladderness, "the offside rule should only apply to the player who actually receives the ball"? This is not hockey where the puck moves short distances at very quick speed and the space is limited.

In terms of offside, the linesman (and the players)has a hard enough time determining whether the potentially offside player was past the last outfielder on the defending team at the time the pass is made. As some observers have noted, 90% of the time that alone is physically impossible to observe completely, and then it has to be done by extraordinary peripheral vision. That is more of an art than a scientific observation, and with the other duties of the churning-legged linesmen and referee, that should be the limit of their duties (and the duties of the players on the field who have to determine what the linesmen and the referees see) vis a vis determining offside. If the suggestion is that the referee should overule the linesman by determining some sort of subjective "active/passive" situation, that is patent nonsense.

As Cheeta has said, off-side is offside, and the attackers always gain some advantage in situations where it is not enforced. Off-side is not a "penalty", to use Baltter's words, it is a part of the basic play outline of the game, as much as corner-kicks or as when-is-a-goal-a-goal (when it crosses the line).

I can perhaps live with a clear subrule that the referee can overule the offside in clear circumstances where the offending attacker has gone back onside before the postion of the ball has reached the area of the offence if there is clearly no possible strategic advantage (to avoid uneccesary stoppage of play, much like the advantage rule after fouls), but that has to be clearly spelled out, and a clear signal from the referee to all players must be given. But even then, I think we are flirting with the devil. What is clear to some is not always clear to the rest.

Obviously, it is better if the linesman flags immediate offside and the referree calls play at the moment of offside, to avoid time wasting and defence confusion. Now, due to FIFA interference, this is sometimes done, and sometimes not done, which is causing the controversy, not just the scored goals.

If Bladder wants to change the whole nature of football by changing the whole notion of what offside is, including doing away with the off-side trap, let him say so and let's have a full worldwide debate for a time (long before th IFAB makes a decision, which up to now has been done without real input from those involved).

But to couch the FIFA tamperings, especially the doublespeak directive of last fall which has caused so much confusion, as a mere "restatement" or a "simplification" of "the traditional offside rule" is evil drivel.[}:)]

Blatter created the "active/passive" controversy, and now he wants to avoid responsibility for the mess by disingenuously claiming he wants to "simplify", thus causing more problems.

And he'll try to get it done behind closed doors again.

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Guest Jeffery S.

I was surprised when Cruyff came out recently reminding everyone how offside in the NASL days was not the midfield line. This could be positive, move it back to the 35 or 40 as it might allow for more running space for strikers.

Funnily enough, Cruyff also thinks the old penalty shoot-outs were more attractive than the current penalty set-up for tournament knock-outs.

I agree that passive offside should not be offside if the player is coming back in and the pass goes elsewhere. But for the linesman it is very tough to distinguish not only the moment of the touch and who is offside, without having to clearly see where the ball is going when it leaves the foot. Down low it is even more difficult, meaning we get those late calls that may be right under current rules but tend to be controversial.

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I disagree with Seppster that Van Nistelrooy's goal was a good one. He was incredibly lazy coming back on the play after trying to con a penalty. The ball was played through to an onside player, yet Ruud never did return to an onside position as he turned back to the attack as soon as the ball passed him, meaning he still had a two to three step advantage on the defenders. In that situation he definately used his offside position to gain an advantage. As well, I dispute the term passive, because Ruud was directly in front of goal. The player with the ball was not as big a threat to score from his angle as Ruud was from his "passive" position.

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Re: And a player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved by: interfering with play; interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage by being in that position.

In my opinion, any attacking player who is not "interfering with play or gaining an advantage...." should be on the bench. It should be obvious to anyone who's ever played that every player wherever they are on the field affects the shape of the opposing team. The new spin on the offside rule has made offside far more subjective, which I think makes life more difficult for referees - I wonder what refs think of it? Wasn't offside always contentious enough without introducing judgements like "did he gain advantage?... or was he interfering with play? Jeez.

If we really want to see more goals, how about making the goal bigger, or making the penalty area bigger ?

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quote:Originally posted by GeorgeBestFan

If we really want to see more goals, how about making the goal bigger, or making the penalty area bigger ?

...or cloning Georgie Best before his genes are forever altered by the alcohol!:D

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