Daylight Offside and SAOT are the buzzwords around the offside rule.
„Gary Lineker, the former England international and current TV pundit, is not alone in thinking that the offside rule needs to be reviewed. VAR makes it technically possible to make very close offside decisions, but the length of time and the „forensics“ (UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin) are a thorn in the side of many club officials and fans.
Suggestions for speeding up the offside process range from a maximum ten-second review to thicker calibrated lines for attackers. The new offside technology, currently being used in the men’s Champions League and soon to be used at the World Cup in Qatar, is the answer – or so it is hoped. The technology is deliberately semi-automatic, however, as it only detects a potential offside position. But not every offside position is punishable. Referees still have to check
- whether there is an intervention in play (active offside),
- in which half of the game the offside position takes place,
- whether the ball comes from an opponent, and
- whether it is a throw-in, kickoff, corner kick, free kick or deliberate play.
This is why the offside technology is only „semi-automatic“.
Arsène Wenger’s daylight offside
Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development and former Arsenal manager, has come up with a new idea. Offside is only possible when the whole body of the player is completely in an offside position. FIFA appears to be relatively convinced by the idea and has already tested the potential change on a number of occasions. For example in the Chinese third division in the spring of 2021 and in a number of matches in the Italian U18 championship in the spring of 2022.
But the term „daylight“ could be as misleading as „shirt line“. Armpit line doesn’t sound as nice, but it would be more understandable. And even in the case of Daylight Offside, the use of ‚daylight‘ in the name does not make it any easier to understand.
Really less controversy with a daylight offside rule?
Daylight offside is also controversial among referees. Does it really make it easier for assistants to spot? For the majority, it will have as little effect on the game and discussions as it did in 1990. Back then, the rules were amended to say that players of the same height could not be offside – and now a few millimetres forward?
It’s just shifting the line of forensics: it’s no longer the tips of the toes that are compared, but the tips of the toes and the degree of curvature of the heel. Does this really make sense? Sure, a few more goals will be scored if a player is one step closer to the opposition’s goal. But surprisingly few more goals will be scored – just like in 1990.
Why not reduce it to a one-off offside?
„A player is in an offside position when he is […] inside the opponents‘ half (excluding the halfway line) and […] closer to the opponents‘ goal line than the ball and the penultimate opponent“ – this is the core of the current offside rule. But why do so many people resist a clear change so that you are only offside when there is only one player in front of you?
Well, since goalkeepers are close to the goal line, reducing it by one would be tantamount to abolishing offside. And that’s what a lot of people are worried about. After all, the whole point of offside is to stop players hanging around in front of the goal, isn’t it?
Caught between nostalgia and cultural pessimism
This strict reluctance to abolish the offside rule has led to much debate. Do we really need an offside rule? It is highly probable that the feared loitering will only be temporary, but then a new tactic will be introduced that we cannot yet imagine. That’s been the case with every major change to the offside rule: in 1866 it made combination play possible, in 1925 Chapman’s World Cup system with an extra defender. Or tactically speaking: The previous 2-3-5 became a 3-2-5.
In the last 66 years, the game has been tested several times, most recently in 1987. Perhaps it would make sense to test a game without offside alongside daylight offside? It would kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the game would become more lucrative (more goals, more action). On the other, the offside debate would be a thing of the past.