A ridiculous question, surely? Apparently not…
The offside rule is one of a number of regulations that was tinkered with before the start of the latest Premier League campaign.
These changes were made in an attempt to appease those bemused by the ever-controversial decisions produced by VAR, which has been constantly criticised by players and the media alike ever since its introduction to the game.
From this season, two 5cm lines have been used to determine offside decisions, one for the attacking player and the other for the defender.
The rule is now that, if either of these two lines touch, the on-field ruling with regard to the offside infringement is retained.
However, despite this alteration, pundits continue to complain about tight offside calls made by VAR in their post-game reviews, with Harry Kane’s disallowed goal against Southampton in late December a recent example of this.
In the Harry Kane example, it is more difficult to see because of the angle of the camera.
If the lines touch, the line automatically goes green for onside. This wasn't the case.
This is about consistency across all VAR offsides, and not what the camera angle might suggest. pic.twitter.com/AlFECOICBc
— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) January 3, 2022
Locked at 1-1 early in the second half, Harry Winks’ clipped ball over the Saints backline looked to have secured the lead and probably the win for Spurs away against 10-man Southampton.
However, VAR ruled the goal out for offside, leading to more of those all too familiar rants about goals being ‘an armpit’ offside.
The premise for this argument appears to be predicated on the fact that fans ‘pay to watch goals’, which therefore should not be disallowed for such tight infringements.
People who push this point of view say that these decisions are against the spirit of the offside rule, which is only intended to penalise players who gain an advantage courtesy of their offside position.
However, what I would ask them is, where do you then draw the line?
Let’s say you have 5cm of leeway. This means that if someone is 4.99cm offside, a goal will stand, but if they are 5.01cm offside, the goal will be disallowed.
How is that fair, when the fine margins of who is or is not offside is set at a point where both players are technically offside, just one’s infringement is marginally more than the other?
Surely, as a player, you’d feel more aggrieved if you were told “he was offside, but you were ever so slightly more offside, which is why the decisions are different”, rather than just “you were off, he was on”.
I sure would.
🧐 Should Cambridge United's winner against Newcastle have been chalked off for offside?
🤔 Did VAR's decision let you down Newcastle backers?
— Betfair (@Betfair) January 8, 2022
If these lines are continually made thicker, we will eventually see a return to where offside is effectively judged via a by-eye system; at which point, why bother with VAR at all?
Wherever you draw the line and however thick these lines to determine offsides are made, small margins will always exist. Tight decisions will always exist.
Logic dictates that the line should be drawn as thinly as possible, at the point of genuine offside.
After all, you wouldn’t make the same argument with goal-line technology, another objective, technology-controlled, decision-making process. Offside should be offside, just like a is a goal.
Why then, do so many people make such a meal out of close offside decisions?
Well, the answer for that is fairly simple. Let’s stick with the goal-line technology comparison.
The reason people do not complain about these decisions is that they can see that they are correct.
Although most viewers likely have no idea whether or not the ball has crossed the line at the time of a goal, soon after they get shown an altered graphic which clearly displays how close the ball was/wasn’t over the line.
We don’t know if this isolated image of a ball and a white line is accurate of what has actually gone on or not, but we are told it is and we take reassuring comfort in that.
It’s simple. It’s easy.
By comparison, after an offside call, we get shown a freeze frame of the actual action, with some weird lines drawn in at an odd angle, where it seems frankly impossible to tell where on their body someone is being measured from for offside, yet alone whether they are off or not.
We at home have no idea what’s going on and, with the commentators just as befuddled, reassurance is not forthcoming.
The issue is not that the decisions made now are not fair, it’s that they’re unclear.
An altered graphic, without all the background stuff, zoomed in on two clearly marked vertical lines, one assigned to the attacker and the other to the defender, separated to show which is in front, would put a stop to all of this.
By contrast, the Premier League’s current attempt to appease these concerns has failed to address the route of the problem, which is a dislike of not being sure of what is going on, or a deeper dislike of VAR as a whole, which some may argue nowadays in the Premier League are tantamount to the same thing.
I hope that you enjoyed this article ‘How offside is offside?’. What do you make of the ongoing debate? Let us know in the comments below!
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featured image credit the Sun