POLL: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Offside?

FIFA has a serious problem.

There have been four goals wrongly disallowed for poor offside calls in the World Cup so far, and we’re not even out of the group stages.


They are:

The first three goal decisions did not change the outcome of the game, though they did impact goal differential. Both Mexico and Switzerland would be better off in their groups with the extra goals counted, even though they took all three points from each match.

The Bosnian one (above) – disallowing what might be one of the most beautiful goals of the tournament, from Edin Dzeko – arguably changed the outcome of the game, since BIH would at least have earned a point had the goal stood.

FIFA clearly has to make changes to how the ARs are making these calls, from a credibility standpoint.

But there is no easy answer.

So, let’s play a game! Let’s wave our referee freak flags in the air like we don’t care!

This is all academic, yes, and not at all scientific, no, but which of the myriad solutions for offside would you choose if you were the only person who could save football?

Vote, and then tell us what you think in the comments!

(And thanks to reader Skwigs for the great post idea! Most of these answers are his…)

Choose up to four answers:

Featured photo: SB Nation


  • Hi Jenna. Can you fill us in on what the “other” suggestions have been?

    I think video review should be implemented and used without a challenge. The technology already exists for television viewers. The communication with the refs already exists. It wouldn’t fix all offside problems but the four disallowed goals in question would have been overturned. In a game that is starved for goals I feel this is a necessity.

    But what about goals where the was a clear offside that wasn’t called. Would these goals be reviewed too?

    Some issues would still exist even with video review: if the whistle is blown before the shot on goal or before the ball enters the net it could be argued that the defending team or defending goalie was distracted or stopped playing. Also, if an incorrect offside call was made on a clear cut breakaway chance then obviously there is no way to overturn the call. (Breakaway penalty shot like in ice hockey? Haha. Obviously, I kid but at the same time that would probably be really exciting. Come to think of it, I think a breakaway penalty shot instead of a penalty spot kick would be incredible entertainment. Let’s change a few rules while were at it. Jenna, time for a new post about rule changes we’d like to see in the game!)


    • One of the three was a test from me. I actually updated the poll pretty early with the other two: More AR training and leaving offside alone.


    • Also, I’m with with you. My number one choice is to have the offside calls quickly available to the 4O on video. The broadcaster’s usually have that almost instantly, why not the refs?


  • I’m for a combination of both…the ref makes the decision on the field, but if the ball ends up in the net, they can control if it was off-site or not and allow or disallow the goal based on the footage. This way, the refs might be less inclined to interrupt for very close calls, but there is no need to see what happens when it is clearly off-site.


  • Well, there should be some general rule regarding offside which can be implemented all over the world. Video review can be used on big competitions, main leagues, etc. What about small leagues, poor countries….?
    The solution is either to eliminate offside 25-30m from goal, where line must be marked on ground, or to eliminate offside completely.
    In my opinion better solution is to eliminate offside completely. The game will be more interesting.
    The football needs changes regarding offside asap.


  • Better selection of AR’s could help.

    Stop the political decisions.


  • First of all, the video replay is NOT conclusive. A television technician (doubtful a world cup level A.R.) determines which frame to freeze and superimpose their little blue line and thus makes their judgement of the “moment the ball was played forward by a teammate.” I submit that if you chose a frame a few milliseconds later on the Bosnia call the ball might still appear to be on the passer’s foot and the attacker would be well offside. This is not like goal line technology where cameras CAN determine if the whole of the ball crossed the plane.

    Still I would argue that it was too close to call, and thus the benefit of the doubt must go to the no-call as I believe FIFA recommended some years ago in advice to referees.

    My recommendation to improve the way we rule offside is this: Every “line” in soccer is considered part of the area it limits. Hence all of the ball must completely have crossed beyond ALL of the line to be out of play. The offside line should be no different. So if any part of the attacking player is still “on the line”, he is still onside. A.R.’s could then adopt the rule of thumb that until you see clear space between the 2nd to last defender and the attacker there is no offside position. As an A.R. I think it would be easier to call, but more importantly I think it would be harder for defenses to rely on catching their opponents on what really is just a technicality and force them to actually play defense more!


  • Im afraid its human error and we have to live with that, these AR’s are at the top of their game, with years of experience and coaching behind them – they are the best we have. I believe that video replays would be a hindrance more so than a help, for example, how do you programme technology to interpret deflection/rebound or a deliberate act to play the ball? Offside is not as clear cut as goal/no goal and that’s why technology will never be introduced in my opinion. Other than the 4 goals that have been scrubbed how many have stood following good non-offside calls?

    Liked by 1 person

  • Wasn’t the Colombian AR who waved off the two onside Mexican goals replaced by an AR from Ecuador on Roldan’s team for their match on Sunday?

    I think the offsides rule is a good one in terms of the game. It is very hard to judge at times. More training and requiring more speed and fitness may help the ARs get it right.

    TV angles can be so deceiving. I’d be loathe to see replay used unless the 4th official had the right to say that it’s not conclusive.

    Speaking of angles…. I used to explain to youth refs how important it is to stay level with the next-to-last defender or to race towards the goal line when the ball would go past the next-to-last defender. If you’re 3-15 feet out of position you can’t judge the close calls. Just being out of position that much changes the angle of your view…..


  • I think in a competition where video technology is available, the AR should immediately flag for offside but the referee lets the play continue. Then the following could happen: 1. There is no advantage for the team that was called offside and play continues normally. For example when a goal kick is awarded or a defender gains possession. 2. The situation results in advantage for the attacking team the video technology will be used to determine the outcome. For example when a goal is scored or the attacking side is awarded a corner kick or free kick. If offside is given in these situations the advantage is overruled by offside. Any cards given still count.

    So basically you play on and later you determine whether or not you should hav, and if not, you give offside.


    • So you’d rule a goal offside several minutes after you count it? I get what you’re saying, and it makes sense, but it may be confusing…


  • Especially as play gets closer to the box and closer to the AR, there is so much to see at one time. He’s trying to stay on pace with some of the fastest players in the world and determine whether a playable part of an offensive player (i.e. not an arm) is ahead of the defender at the moment he hears the pass come off the foot of a teammate. Then he has to wait 1-3 seconds to see what that player does in response. Sometimes potential offside situations happen back-to-back (think of the chaos that sometimes ensues from a good corner kick that gets pounded into the crossbar, rebounded, then played forward again.) It can be quite a challenge to keep up with.

    Of the suggestions I’ve seen so far, I think I like Tolichi’s–if any part of the player is even with the 2nd-to-last defender or the ball, they’re onside. That would eliminate some subtlety to the call, while keeping the nature of the rule. These referees are so well-trained, and while I think that is important, I don’t think *more* training or conditioning could fix this at the higher levels of play.

    I’d be hesitant to introduce video review b/c there would either be a longish pause in the match, or the awarding or removing of a goal long after it has been scored (or denied). It could also lead to (what may be happening in the NFL) allowing the goal by default, knowing it could always be rescinded after replay.


    • I don’t at all subscribe to this argument that video review “disrupts the flow of the game” because I LOVE REPLAYS. If anything the flow of the game hampers the tv broadcast because there isn’t enough time to show more replays. Who doesn’t love watching replays of controversial or exciting action. In my opinion it adds to my entertainment value. I love replays. Since 2006, the slow motion close ups and sideline camera pans and behind the goal jib crane shots have really added so much value to the viewing experience. It’s been something I look forward to.

      I would bet money that most of us on this forum watch replays over and over again and then we watch it another 10 more times on top of that. Then we debate and watch them another 10 times to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I want to see players arguing with the refs and fans reactions in the stands and managers stomping around and getting in the face of the 4th official. I love replays!

      But Tolichi is bang on with the “level” definition rule change idea. I think this was suggested a year or two ago by an analyst for MLS soccer outlining 5 things that would improve the game. It definitely would be a step in the right direction and would make the “level” definition less ambiguous.

      Great debate all. Thanks Jenna for running with this one!


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