VAR

VAR represents the first regressive change to offside in football history

As the Ayew incident shows the technology isn't good enough to give a definitive conclusion on a 150-year-old doctrine

 
10:15am on Friday 17th July 2020
By
Paul Macdonald

Let's end this nonsense, please.

The Jordan Ayew 'offside' in Crystal Palace's 2-0 defeat to Manchester United should signal the death knell of this bastardisation of the offside rule. It isn't bias, or favouritism, it's just widescale incompetence from a cabal of legislative zealots who wanted to be footballers but are annoyed that they never could.

OFFSIDE - HOW DID WE GET HERE?

In the 150 years the offside law has been in existence, it has never been perfect, and it likely never will be. Its basis was to prevent goal-hanging, or forwards standing next to the goalkeeper with team-mates punting passes in their direction.

Since its inception it has been tweaked and liberalised, rewritten and re-imagined, though rarely simplified. But what has always happened over the years, with each iteration, is that it has been to the benefit of the attacker, and attacking play in general.

READ MORE:

The handball rule is ruining football - teams and players need to stand against it

So in that case, VAR's Interpretation of offside represents the first regressive offside change in the game’s history. And make no mistake, that’s what this is, a regression. The offside decision awarded against Ayew is just the latest of many wrong-headed calls by officials actively hunting for something that will disqualify a goal. This is no longer about about eliminating errors, but rather finding them instead.

BUT OFFSIDE IS OFFSIDE!

No, it really isn't. Goal-line technology has been immensely beneficial because of the binary nature of the result (Sheffield United aberration aside); it’s either over the line, or it is not. Cameras can capture that and we see, quite clearly, whether it’s a zero or a one. So can the referee, within seconds, and we move on.

Offside can never possibly be treated in such a way because it can never be binary. There are too many variables at play, too many considerations within the law to definitively say offside or onside by drawing a line across the screen.

Firstly, the technology itself has an in-built error range of between 13cm and 30cm - the screen captures just aren’t quick enough to offer anything better. Both Sterling and Son’s offside calls were literally millimetres. Therefore, even for the fastidious among us, the experiment would already be deemed a failure.

Furthermore, the definition of ‘when a ball is played’ is fine and normal when activated in real time with human eyes (though over the years we have been happy to accept that linesmen can simultaneously look in two places at once, at the moment of the pass and the position of the forward - almost physically impossible) but the rule was never sense tested to the minutiae with which it is being vigorously applied.

The frame that is taken as the ball leaves the player’s foot could have been the frame before with a different VAR official, because at 50 frames per second, the max speed at which a VAR camera moves, it’s impossible to identify the precise moment the ball severs connection with the player.

It's simple - the offside rule has never been sense tested to the minutiae with which it is being vigorously applied.

So Mark Clattenburg in the Daily Mail, with his 'it's offside to the best of the technology we have at the moment is just stupid. ‘When a ball is played’ was a doctrine which necessitated human Interpretation, and while it should be welcomed that technology should help hapless linesmen in their difficult task, it means that the rule now needs to be rewritten. To the naked eye, pre-VAR, Jordan Ayew and all the others are, objectively, in line and objectively, onside. Rulemakers weren’t considering such fine margins when this was drawn up.

SO WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN?

VAR was always meant to correct ‘clear and obvious errors’. If it’s taking officials nearly three minutes to decipher the ‘correct’ decision it is, by definition, neither clear nor obvious. But now the precedent has been set it is difficult to see a way they can roll it back. Even if the implementation of VAR on offside calls is relaxed, amateur spotters will be relentless in flagging every incident they see which is still technically ‘offside’.

No-one in the city of Manchester, even on a replay on the big screen, would have considered Ayew to be offside had VAR not Intervened. Because it’s not. And in some cases such nonsense calls could decide the future of players and managers in the weeks to come.

The handball rule too is also totally wrong-headed and lacking in any real understanding of how football works, however there's at least a degree of consistency to the chaos.

But with offside, there is nothing that can be done that helps forward play. Ayew can’t choose to take a step backwards one millimetre, so his run may actually need to be reassessed by a yard. This means backing off the shoulder of the last defender, more centre-backs winning foot chases, and less through passes being attempted. All because of a 150-year-old rule not updated for the provision of modern technology.

There’s a bigger issue here than petty one-upmanship. It’s nonsense, it’s wrong, it’s doing the concept of offside a disservice and if this is how you want to see it applied, a quick look back at some of the matches at Italia 90, when forwards were required to be behind the defender in order to be onside, will reveal what attacking play used to look like.

Hint - it wasn’t great.

READ MORE:

The handball rule is ruining football - teams and players need to stand against it

Latest news

Premier League

Parker and Tony Khan clash over Fulham owner's Tweets

The vice-chairman of the Cottagers took to Twitter to apologise to fans following the loss on Monday evening

  • 8 hours
PSG

Neymar could be out for PSG until next year

The Brazilian suffered a recent injury which could be coupled with a potential ban should he be found guilty of racist abuse

  • 11 hours
Analysis

Tactical Analysis: What does Ronald Koeman's new Barcelona look like?

It was a successful opening match of the season for the Blaugrana as they defeated Villarreal 4-0 at the Camp Nou

  • 12 hours
Europe

Pjanic is the 14th player to play with Messi and Ronaldo - who are the others?

The Bosnian made the move from Juventus to Barcelona in the summer, and recently made his first appearance alongside the Argentine

  • 13 hours
xG Check

xG Check: Manchester United and Newcastle beat the system

United were outplayed in every aspect while Spurs will struggle to create as many clear chances in another game this season

  • 13 hours
Premier League

Adama the dribble king, and how did Kane not score? Premier League Round 3 player stats

The Wolves winger loves carrying the ball even if his team get hammered, while Harry was left totally frustrated

  • 14 hours

Most read

Other interesting players

  1. image description Kevin De Bruyne M, AM (C)
    Man City 94
  2. Liverpool 93
  3. image description Kai Havertz AM (CR)
    Chelsea 93
  4. image description Raheem Sterling W, AM (L)
    Man City 93
  5. image description Bruno Fernandes AM, M (C)
    Man Utd 92
  6. Man City 91
  7. Liverpool 91
  8. image description PE Aubameyang F (C), AM (L)
    Arsenal 91
  9. image description Son Heungmin AM (L), S (C)
    Tottenham 89
  10. image description Sadio Mané W, AM (L)
    Liverpool 89