Tuesday 23 July 2019

Outdated in the age of VAR? Offside rule sparks debate after FA Cup tie

A marginal call in Southampton’s third-round replay against Derby has divided the opinion of fans and pundits.

Referee Anthony Taylor signals for offside during the Emirates FA Cup third round replay match at St Mary’s Stadium (Nick Potts/PA)
Referee Anthony Taylor signals for offside during the Emirates FA Cup third round replay match at St Mary’s Stadium (Nick Potts/PA)

By Max McLean, Press Association

A disallowed goal in the third round of the FA Cup has prompted the question: does the offside rule need to be updated?

The incident in question occurred during Southampton’s replay against Derby County when the visitors thought they had broken the deadlock through Craig Bryson’s finish.

But, after a two-minute wait, Rams player Martyn Waghorn was judged by the Video Assistant Referee to have been offside.

Brighton’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace in the third round of the 2018 FA Cup was the first competitive game in England where VAR technology was made available.

And, while the technology in the game at St Mary’s did show the Derby man to be in an offside position, former professionals struggled to reach a consensus.

Liverpool veteran Robbie Fowler believed the goal should have stood, writing “VAR strikes again”, while Robbie Savage and Jamie Carragher tweeted that the correct decision had been reached.

Broadcaster and Millwall fan Danny Baker, meanwhile, expressed his belief that the way the law is applied now is not in the spirit it was intended in the 19th century, which was to prevent goal-hanging, describing the offside rule as having become “purely a television construct” on Twitter.

“I think he (Waghorn) technically was offside, and because that’s the rule you have to give it as offside,” said Jonathan Wilson, a football writer and expert in the history of the game’s tactics and laws.

“Is football better for that? I don’t think so.

“With VAR there’s a problem, because we are willing to accept a marginal error with a linesman … now VAR gives you the technology, but it takes a long time.”

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(Nick Potts/PA)

But if the technology is indeed here to stay, what changes might be made to improve the application of the offside law in future?

“I would change the guidelines so that, rather than being offside if a part of your body is offside, you’re onside if any part of your body is onside,” said Wilson.

“Line calls would still be incredibly difficult, but at least the benefit of the doubt is on the side of the attacker then.

“I think VAR is going to force us to look at a lot of laws and how we interpret them.”

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