A rant – FIFA should Eliminate the Offside rule.
I go on this rant every five years or so, this one triggered by an NBA article that I’ll point to shortly. But first, why would I suggest such a change? Just last year Express in Britain described OFFSIDE as one of the most confusing rules in football. In 2013, the changes made to the rule led the Daily Mail to note Premier League football could be thrown into chaos as a FIFA amendment to the offside rule has caused concerns among leading officials and could add to further confusion for fans.
Rules are designed to ensure competitiveness and to protect players generally. The Offside Rule has been modified over the years with the simplest explanation of those changes shown here. Each change has been designed to reduce the advantage the defense had. However it continues to be controversial and in my opinion, impedes the games development and growth.
In 126 Years, English Football Has Seen 13,475 Nil-Nil Draws. That is from approximately 200,000 games across the Top 4 Divisions as tracked by James Curley. More than 30,000 games ended 1-0. FiveThirtyEight looked at the results a few years ago. A look at the historical season average of goals scored per game dropped and remains low. Changes in OFFSIDE led to increases but then the decreases continued. As FiveThirtyEight notes, tactics have adjusted as they always do. The NHL changed the two line pass rule as the neutral zone trap turned the game into a low scoring, boring affair. It has opened up the game.
Look at the image above used to exhibit offside. What possible benefit do we accrue by forcing play away from the goal? There is always one response:
I despise lazy players that stand in front of the goal waiting for the ball to come over to them so they can take a shot from 2m distance to the goal, while the other players are pushing themselves hard to play the game the right way.
That brings me back to the NBA (basketball) story I referenced at the start – Tom Thibodeau is Destruction. Ten years ago, the primary offensive tactic was to give someone like Kobe Jones the ball and then clear out half the court to allow him to go one-on-one. That was effective due to the NBA outlawing zone defenses. Well, teams adjusted. More specifically, Tom Thibodeau’s teams adjusted. In broad terms it involved loading up the ball side of the floor with four defenders, to crowd the action, shut down passing lanes, and prevent penetration, leaving a single rangy defender on the weak side to play zone defense. Teams adjusted, discovering the best way to beat the Thibodeau defense, it turned out, was to run offense from the middle of the floor, instead of isolated on the wing; and to fill your lineup with versatile three-point shooters who can’t be left alone; and to keep them and the ball in near-constant motion.
Now think about that paragraph. Especially as you prepare to sit down and watch Manchester City and it’s Pep Guardiola designed offense. To play for Pep you need to be a 5 star player – technical, play on both sides of the ball, with strong passing skills, creative and above all intelligent. The 21st century equivalent of the Dutch Totaal Voetbal.
Eliminate offside, open up the entire pitch and both defenses and offenses will adjust. Skilled players will be rewarded with playing time. Fans will benefit without the unnecessary interruptions and conflict that come from a rule even the referees will tell you is difficult and flawed. The players and the game have evolved, the rules need to as well.