Dissatisfied with millimeter-offside calls, they have taken a step toward victory.
Football rules have evolved recently, but the fundamental principles have remained relatively unchanged. That was the case until recently when FIFA unexpectedly decided to tackle offside. The concept of "offside" emerged in the 19th century, underwent two revisions, and was supplemented at least once.
What is offside under the current rules? It occurs when an attacking player is closer to the opponent's goal line than the ball and the second-to-last defender when the ball is played to them. Many people are unhappy with the current interpretation, as with the introduction of VAR, there have been cases where an offside was awarded based on a centimeter of a player's boot crossing the drawn line on the graphic. And now, the dissatisfied have taken a step toward victory.
What do they want to do with offside?
To radically change it. According to FIFA and IFAB's plan (International Football Association Board, the organization responsible for football rules), offside will only be awarded if the attacking player's entire body when the ball is played is closer to the goal line than the opponent. In other words, if the attacker's boot aligns with the defending player, it will be enough to validate the goal.
To illustrate this, let's recall a couple of examples. The fifth goal scored by Manchester City in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals of the 2018/2019 season against Tottenham is likely legitimate under the proposed interpretation. Pep Guardiola's team would have advanced to the semifinals instead of Mauricio Pochettino's.
Offside in the match "Manchester City" - "Tottenham"
Here's a more recent example, although less consequential. In the World Cup in Qatar, unlike in 2019, video assistant referee (VAR) was used for offside decisions. In the first round, Argentina was denied three goals, and one of them became another reason for the dissatisfaction with the existing rules. Only a fraction of Lautaro Martinez's shoulder was closer to the goal line than the Saudi Arabian defender. It was considered offside back then, but according to FIFA's new concept, it would have been a clear goal.
Offside in the Argentina - Saudi Arabia match
"According to FIFA's plan, the new rules should make football more entertaining," explains former Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson. "I think attackers will benefit from the changes, as that's what everyone wants. It will be better. More goals mean football will be more exciting to watch. It's great for us to be part of this, to test and contribute to its development."
According to Eriksson, FIFA will analyze all matches where the new offside rule is applied and survey the participants to develop the ideal formula for sweeping changes.
But will the rule change lead to the desired outcome for FIFA? There are doubts. For example, analyst Nikita Vasyukhin writes in his Telegram channel Blocknote that defenders will no longer be incentivized to hold a high defensive line after introducing the new offside rule. The advantage in fast attacks will be on the side of the attackers, and instead of an increase in scoring, we may see the opposite effect — deeper defensive lines and a decrease in the number of goals.
When will the new rules come into effect?
If you're concerned about the changes, you can relax for now. Like all new rules, they will be tested initially in lower leagues to ensure the updates prove themselves. The new offside rules will be implemented in Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands shortly. However, this will not apply to the top divisions. It is known that Sweden will try out the new rules in the U21 men's championship and the U19 women's youth tournament.
"At first, we had some doubts, but then we thought it was a good idea and we should participate," said Per Waiden, a representative of the Swedish Football Association. "Moreover, it's an experiment, and it's great to be at the forefront of such changes. I must admit that FIFA sold us this idea excellently. We have confidence in our football, and they know that we have an excellent level of organization."
What does Arsène Wenger have to do with this?
The legendary Arsenal coach has been working at FIFA as the Chief of Global Football Development since 2019. It's logical that in such a position, Wenger often proposes adding something new to the game or somehow changing it. However, only some of Wenger's ideas find support within the football community.
Here are his most controversial proposals:
-Hosting the World Cup every two years, which received criticism from Guardiola and other representatives of club football;
-Introducing throw-ins with feet instead of hands gives the team awarded a throw-in late in the match with an unfavorable score more chances to keep the ball;
-Allowing a player to take a free kick to themselves with multiple touches;
-Allowing play to continue if a corner kick is taken and the ball goes out of play in the air before coming back in. The same motivation remains more goals.
Finally, there's the new offside rule. Wenger voiced this idea, along with many others, in 2020 and has since fought against what he perceives as unfair rules that deprive us of goals. By the way, some of Wenger's proposals have been implemented. For example, last year, FIFA limited the number of players that could be loaned by a single club following his initiative. And now, the offside rule will also change.