Offside! Privilege or Burden?


Week in, week out pundits and managers are questioned on offside when investigating a goal-scoring opportunity, but how can they generate a foolproof argument if they barely understand the rule.

The rule used to be so simple for everyone to follow: “A player is in an offside position if, when the ball is played by a team-mate, they are nearer to the opposition goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.”

Punsters would constantly grab the condiments on the table to visually explain offside to those who possessed some naivity, but now officials have a checklist to fulfil when enforcing the rule – is the player; interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining advantage by being in that position.

FIFA Technical Director, Marco Van Basten has made his opinion abundantly clear as his proposed plans to revolutionise football included scrapping the mystery rule.

“I think it can be very interesting watching a game without offside,” Van Basten said. “Football now is already looking a lot like handball with nine or ten defenders in front of the goal. It’s difficult for the opposition to score a goal as it’s very difficult to create something in the small pieces of space they give you.”

FIFA Technical Director, Marco Van Basten at FIFA Awards Ceremony

The Dutch legend (above) hopes “more possibilities to score a goal” would arise if the sport were played without offside, but goal-hanging is inevitably going to crawl its way back into the game if the rule were extinct.

Strikers may come across a brick wall to break down in the opposition defence, but shouldn’t that make scoring more of an achievement when the opportunities come to feet.

Besides, binning the 154-year-old rule would result in utter chaos defensively for clubs around the world – especially for defenders progressing in the academies.

Don’t be led, abolishing offside would undoubtedly make ninety minutes of football more of a privilege for fans as the modern-day William ‘Dixie’ Dean – who scored 349 times in 399 matches for Everton FC during the 1920s and 30s – would demolish backlines in today’s world.

But the modern-day ‘Dixie’ Dean does exist in five-time Ballon D’or winner, Lionel Messi and four-time winner, Cristiano Ronaldo as they continue to break records in the sport.

Absentee in the offside rule could see strikers humiliating defenders and ultimately influence the next generation’s confidence to play in those defensive positions.

Attacking-methods would change too with the long-ball surely becoming a common trend and tiki-taka – a style of attacking-football that helped FC Barcelona (right) and the Spanish national team to both European and globe success- sent packaging, if the offside rule were to be abandoned.

To continue witnessing exceptional talents in defence without offside being a factor then another rule would inevitably have to be introduced, like restrictions on playing the long-ball.

Defenders would be caught out on a regular-basis by goal-hangers if the long-ball were delivered into unmarked territory, but if players were restricted to playing the ball over the top when defenders were present in their own-half, rather than in the their’s, could that provide a slim advantage for defenders.

This would give the defensive players an opportunity to get back in position and stop attacking teams in their tracks – through balls along the ground into goal-hangers however, would be acceptable as defenders can still intercept the move.

Only an idea to throw into the debate, but why scrap a rule that has brought more intensity and drama into a sport where some of world-class players have tolerated with offside throughout their career.