27 June 2008
Change the Offside Rule? No, We’re Good, Thank You.
Oh the offside rule, you old devil you. The cause of so much heartache and pain, joy and jubilation. The casual American football observer, seems to have some problem with the offside rule.
I’ve heard on occasion, that the offside rule makes the modern game of football less offensively minded, more confusing, etc. I am here to tell those naysayers, poppycock! (ok, stop me if that sounds too British)
I should start this discussion by saying I don't think the offside rule is broken. My disclaimer here is that I'm a midfielder turned defender (in old age) and so I tend to gain advantage from the rule.
I have heard suggestions, quite thoughtful ones in fact, that football should adopt an offside rule similar to lacrosse or hockey, where a hard line is literally drawn on the field near each side’s defensive third to signify a point of free offense. That being said, I know all the haters will roll their eyes on this one, but a hard line rule would interrupt the flow of the game. The goal in that scenario would be to get the ball past the line and then overload that third of the field as quickly as possible. Right now, that line exists as the midfield line and as it is now, according to a data analysis of 76 Champions League matches, each match averaged 3.2 offside calls. Not a terrible number in my mind.
In addition, one of things that makes a good striker great, is his ability to time his runs. One of things that makes a good midfielder great, is his ability to weight his passing. One of things that makes a good defender great, is his ability to read how a play is unfolding, and decide how best to defend it, i.e., step up, or chase back. The offside rule as it exists today, keeps the blade sharp for all of those positions.
There are also thoughtful yet casual observers who believe the modern game has too few scoring chances. I, on the other hand, believe there are plenty of scoring opportunities in a given match. Unless you're watching Italy, who are notorious for packing the back line, grinding down the game, and ultimately delivering boring football. Juxtapose that style with the recent Germany vs. Turkey Euro 2008 semi final match, where you would have seen attacking football from both sides, the culmination of which would have been the left fullback, Philipp Lahm, making the run and scoring the winning goal for Germany in the 90th minute!
So regarding the offside rule, I’ll grant you it gets screwed up. Badly at times. Football is not a perfect game but it's also not a game prone to tinkering. The rules are simple but they work; and have remained pretty much the same since the first "Rules of Association Football" was published in 1863.