I’ve officially had enough of the offside debate. Week after week we hear complaints from various managers, including our own, about goals being given when the striker was millimetres offside. We have analysts examining the footage frame by frame to conclude that the linesman (sorry, referee’s assistant) should’ve flagged.
Nine times out of ten, they shouldn’t have.
Law 11 covers the offside rule quite clearly, and the additional guideline is given that if the linesman is unsure, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the attacking team. To put it another way, as it seems certain ‘experts’ miss this crucial point, if there is any doubt in the linesman’s mind that the striker is offside, then he must keep his flag down.
Barcelona scored a fractionally offside goal in the Champions League final. Chelsea scored a fractionally offside goal in the Carling Cup final. You’ll never hear me complain about either goal. Both were crucial decisions, and the match analysts said the linesmen made mistakes on both occasions. Those analysts are wrong.
Often, an offside call is made when a striker is bending his run towards goal, while the defender quickly steps out in the opposite direction. In a split second, the striker will be metres offside, and the linesman has the impossible task of judging where the two were in relation to each other at the exact moment the ball was played. To make matters worse, if the pass was from distance, chances are he’ll spend that split second turning his head towards the pair, to see the striker running away and the defender’s arm in the air.
Now let’s remind ourselves of that rule. If the linesman isn’t sure, he must not flag offside. Now common sense dictates that a judgement call has to be made here. If the striker is, in the mind of the linesman, too far ahead to have not been offside, he’ll flag, and rightly so. But it’s the close calls that irritate me. I am fed up of seeing Jamie Redknapp on Sky using frame by frame technology to tell us that the striker was 27cm offside (about 0.05 seconds of play if the defender is stepping out), and therefore that the flag should’ve gone up.
Jamie Redknapp. Andy Gray. You are part of the problem. Read the rules.
In those circumstances, there is no way that a linesman can know whether the player was offside. So they should keep the flag down.
Offside goals are hard to accept for any fan or manager. But when analysts are examining these minute details and concluding that the officials got it wrong, they are not helping anyone. I am convinced that these analyses are causing the flag to go up too often, because there ‘might be an offside’. Unwittingly, the benefit of the doubt is going back to the defender, even though the rules state the opposite.
I don’t want to see any measurements of a player being centimetres offside. It is even worse when they can’t agree on whether the offside should’ve been given (“I think his left leg might be offside”). Let’s take a reality check. Unless the linesman is sure, the flag should stay down, the so-called experts at Sky should accept that he wasn’t sure, so made the correct call, and we can all move on.
I won’t be holding my breath.