Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will use his current role with FIFA to press for a radical change to the game’s offside laws.
After the introduction of VAR has seen dozens of goals disallowed due to marginal offsides, Wenger is pushing to change the offside rule so that a player will be onside if any part of their body that can score a goal is level or behind the second-last defender.
The so-called ‘daylight rule’ means a player will only be offside if there is daylight – or a gap – between them and the relevant defender.
And, remarkably, he is pushing for the proposal to be adopted ‘quickly’, in time for the Euro 2020 finals in June.
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“The most difficult [issue] that people have [with VAR] is the offside rule,” Wenger said at the Laureus Sports Awards in Berlin. “You have had offsides by a fraction of a centimetre, literally by a nose. It is the time to do this quickly.
“There is room to change the rule and not say that a part of a player’s nose is offside, so you are offside because you can score with that. Instead, you will be not be offside if any part of the body that can score a goal is in line with the last defender, even if other parts of the attacker’s body are in front.
“That will sort it out and you will no longer have decisions about millimetres and a fraction of the attacker being in front of the defensive line.”
It would be a truly momentous change.
Wenger is FIFA’s head of global development, which in essence puts him in charge of the Laws of the Game for football’s governing body.
Next, he must take his proposal to the lawmaking body for football around the world, IFAB.
IFAB (the International Football Association Board) is made up of four FIFA representatives, as well as a representative of each of the four football associations of the UK ‘home nations’ – England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
The body will meet on 29 February in Belfast to discuss the proposal. To make a change to the laws, a three-quarters majority is required (six votes).
If they pass the changes, the new rule will come into place on 1 June, just 12 days before the start of the European Championships and the Copa America – at which the Scoceroos are competing.
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THE EXISTING LAW:
“A player is in an offside position if: any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.”
ANALYSIS: Attackers rejoice – and hopefully fans can too
If adopted, the rule change would be the greatest change to the Laws of the Game since 1992, when it was decided that keepers could no longer pick up the ball if it was passed back to them by a teammate.
This Premier League season – and two seasons of the A-League – have been dogged by marginal offside calls.
Fans, managers and players have all railed against the ‘armpit offsides’ that has seen dozens of goals ruled out. Just this weekend, Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud had a header against Manchester United ruled out because a sliver of his right boot was offside.
Hopefully, this proposal would put an end to that. Yes, there will still be marginal calls – the gap between striker and defender could still be just millimetres for a player to be adjudged offside. But the Premier League and IFAB is also considering thickening the lines used by VAR to adjudge marginal calls, meaning offside decisions really will be ‘clear and obvious’.
In all, it’s a major boost for attackers, and a cruel blow for defenders. VAR’s introduction has tilted the balance in favour of defenders, and this proposal seeks to redress that.
The way defenders track runs and employ the offside trap would be significantly altered. Set pieces could become more dangerous, with defenders forced to hold a deeper line. There would almost certainly be more goals scored and fewer disallowed.
For fans, so often stuck nervously waiting for VAR to confirm a goal before celebrating, the proposal hopefully means they can breathe a little easier.
But it will present a major difficulty for linesmen and women, forced to adapt to a radical change in such a short period of time. With the Euros and the Copa America less than two weeks after the rule would come in, the potential for mistakes and VAR controversy is high.
Perhaps it would be wiser to hold off on the change until the new European seasons begin, and give officials more time to adapt.