FIFA calls on football’s lawmakers to push ahead with offside trials


FIFA wants football’s law-making body the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to press on with trials of what would be the biggest change to the offside rule in over 30 years.

Championed by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, the proposed change would mean an attacker would be onside if any part of their body, which they can score with, is level with the last defender.

Under the current law, which has been in place since 1990, an attacker is offside if any part of their head, body or foot is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent, one of whom is nearly always the goalkeeper, at the moment the ball is passed to them, providing they are in their opponents’ half of the pitch.

While the difference might seem small in writing, the effect on the pitch would be huge, as attackers would now only need to keep the back of one foot level with a defender when racing through onto a pass or perhaps their head when sliding forward to redirect a cross into the goal.

The idea is that the change will reduce the number of offsides in a match and also make them easier to spot. But it will also have a significant impact on tactics, particularly high defensive lines, as defenders will no longer be able to count on VAR-assisted marginal offside calls, forcing them to drop back.

Wenger, who has been working as FIFA’s chief of global football development since leaving the Premier League side in 2018, has wanted to change the offside law since 2020.
IFAB, which is comprised of the bosses of the four British football associations and FIFA, agreed to trial the idea, which has sometimes been dubbed “the daylight rule”, as that is what a referee’s assistant would need to see between an attacker and a defender to put up their flag, last year.

One such trial has been undertaken in under-18 football in Italy and IFAB was given an update on its progress at its annual general meeting in March. There have been other trials in age-group competitions in the Netherlands and Sweden.

Wenger, with FIFA’s support, now wants those trials to be extended to other countries and senior football.

“The discussion around changing the offside law is not new and it is not something we will see introduced at higher levels imminently,” a FIFA spokesperson said.

“The idea was first discussed in 2020 as we felt it was something worth exploring and testing to see the effect it could have on the game.

“FIFA committed to trialling the amended offside law, favouring the attacker, which has been applied in selected youth competitions across Europe. We will continue with these trials, assess the results and discuss with all relevant stakeholders.”

While the idea might excite many attackers and fans of attacking play, there are some in the game who worry it will shift the balance between attack and defence too far, and it will also not end offside controversies, as there will still be close calls involving overlapping body parts, moving at speed.

However, Wenger’s former boss and close friend David Dein is convinced the Frenchman is onto something.

Speaking at the FIFA Congress in Bangkok last week, the former Arsenal vice-chairman said: “The offside rule has to change as it is too contentious and problematic.
“Arsene’s idea is refreshingly innovative.”

(Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)

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