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Offside Article


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Somebody in another thread recently, for the thousandth time, complained that too many people have agendas here. Well, I for one think that agendas are fine, why else would you gon on here and make a fool of yourself.

One of my agendas is to rage, rage against the FIFA tampering with the offside rules. So, as part of my agenda, (although I disagree about the comment about the Spain-Korea call, I´ve seen the video from different ange a thousand times and it was a 50-50 call), I give you:


Time to tinker with interference

World Cup linesmen will need careful prepping on what constitutes interfering with play if mistakes made in 2002 are not to be repeated, says David Lacey

Saturday April 8, 2006

The Guardian

Attempts to relax the offside law are a continual cause of muddle and misunderstanding and if the last World Cup is anything to go by there will be more ructions in Germany two months from now. Referees' assistants could be in for a rougher time than the referees themselves.

Four years ago the men running the line struggled to keep up. The poor standard reached its nadir when Spain had a legitimate goal against South Korea disallowed after an assistant signalled that the ball had gone out for a goal-kick when it had not crossed the line. The quarter-final stayed goalless and the Koreans won on penalties .

Offside decisions were a lottery. Too often a linesman was caught on the hop by a quick break and flagged down an attacker just in case. Or else he flagged as an afterthought. Either way a number of offsides were the results of guesswork rather than judgment.

Since 2002 the linesman's burden has been increased by the efforts of the international board, Fifa's law-making body, to clarify the interpretation of offside and in particular what is meant by interfering with play. Laudable though the board's aims are, this has led to further confusion and controversy.

Take the Premiership game between Birmingham City and Chelsea a week ago. Early in the second half Arjen Robben took a free-kick on the right and lofted the ball into the Birmingham goalmouth. As he did so Ricardo Carvalho ran back from an offside position and challenged the defenders in the air. Although the Chelsea centre-back did not reach the ball his presense undoubtedly helped its progress towards the far post where Asier Del Horno turned it into the net. An alert linesman signalled that Carvalho was offside and interfering, and the goal was not allowed.

According to the spirit of the offside law the decision brooked no argument. Except that last summer referees were instructed that they should only whistle when an offending player touched the ball, the aim being to give linesmen more time to decide whether or not he was interfering with play. So strictly speaking Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, was not just being perverse when he protested that the goal should have stood because by missing the ball Carvalho was not interfering.

This is something that needs sorting before the World Cup kicks off on June 9. In open play teams have largely come to terms with what is and what is not active involvement. Players in offside positions have learned to stay out of the way until a move breaks down or a goal is scored. Yet problems persist at free-kicks when, like Carvalho, attackers seek to get around the business of interference by hanging about in a non-active offside position one moment in order to be deeply involved a split-second later.

Canny forwards swiftly sussed out the advantages of the new situation once the international board told officials not to flag or whistle merely because people were in offside positions. At Old Trafford two years ago Southampton went two goals behind and recovered to draw level only to be beaten after Ruud van Nistelrooy, standing offside at a free-kick, had then moved back onside and scored via a deflection off a defender.

"As soon as the ball goes in he's in an offside position trying to score a goal," argued Gordon Strachan, then Southampton's manager. "What happens after that doesn't matter." He was surely right although the fact that Van Nistelrooy was onside when he scored after the ball had struck an opponent may have influenced the decision to allow the goal. Last Saturday Birmingham's Steve Bruce echoed Strachan's views. "If you are in the six-yard box standing in an offside position then you are offside," he said. "Of course you are interfering with play."

Bolton Wanderers tested the more liberal attitude towards offside by stationing two players behind the opposing defence at free-kicks who then ran back onside, in the manner of Carvalho, as the ball was in flight. Once they found themselves being ruled offside Bolton gave up the ploy. In a way Sam Allardyce did the game a favour by exposing the absurd logic of tinkering with the interpretation of Law 11 to the extent of creating the goalhanging situations it was designed to avoid.

Before the World Cup begins Fifa could do worse than show its match officials a replay of the Carvalho incident so that they understand how the law should be applied. It would also help if interference was redefined as an attempt to play the ball as well as actually touching it. That way everybody - players, referees, linesmen, media and spectators - might be less confused.

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You are right. Some of those ARs last WC were not fit. Fat slobs that I am sure did not pass the fitness test. It was a disgrace. You are also right about Law 11. Everytime Fifa tries to clarify it, it results in a more confusing and difficult to apply rule. Even I am confused now.

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I believe on the whole most of the calls go the right way considering the intense scrutiny placed of AR's that have to see up to 5 factors simultaiously to make the right call on offsides. It would be much easier if they had the advantage of the camera view from on top of the play with slow-mo stradalling of the exact moment the ball is kicked, but the fact remains that while the line-o is concentrating on the second last defender and the forwards, that he has to use his peripheral vision to see when exactly the ball is played. This is made all the more harder when the most skillful EPL players are feigning and dummying the movement of the ball. It is a truely difficult task to get right everytime, and most AR's that officiate in the highest leagues around the world are very good at it. The problem arises in the WC when offials from lesser leagues are selected to only to fill out Confederation requirements. That is how Spain was irrationally punished for a call that the line-o had no business ruling out - there is no way that ball was out!


And even if was in question, he should have kept his flag down - as per FIFA's instructions (and common sense). Thats my rant for today - peace!

¡Vaya España!

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