Offside rule reflections: It is new or old?

Offside reflections

Since the 2019/20 season there have been new discussions in several countries about the offside rule. The reason for this is the introduction of the VAR and the calibrated line: this is much better for the human eye in tight offside situations. But it is not perfect, because you cannot travel back in time yet. You can rewind the recording and rewind it very slowly, but in the end it’s just single frames. 50 or 150 frames per minute.

So suggestions like:

You only shall be offside [certain distance] meters in front of the goal!


Abolish the offside rule!

Neither are new ideas.

A summary:

Offside only from a certain distance in front of the goal?

Suggestions that only offside position at a certain distance in front of the goal should be penalised are now 100 years old, with the distance to the goals varying depending on the suggestion and experiment.

Yes, in fact, experiments have been made with this. These are used by The IFAB to test the usefulness of proposed changes. Since none of the experiments on offside was conclusive enough, the rule was not changed accordingly.

Offside only in the goal area

This experiment in England did not take place within an FA competition, so no permission from The IFAB was required. However, Sir Stanley Rous mentioned it in his book “A History of the Laws of Association Game” published in the 1970s: “This change, in what was admittedly a limited experiment, did not seem to produce a marked increase in the goals scored, but part of this might well be due to the fact that the players concerned had such deeply engrained responses concerning the possibility of off-side that they did not exploit the new freedom to the fullest extent. The judgment of this experiment must not be proven.” (Source: Rous, Stanley/Ford, Donald: A History of the Laws of Association Game. Zurich [1970s]. S. 138.)

Offside only inside the penalty area

It was tested 1971-1974 alternately in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, including the Scottish League Cup and the Dryborough Cup in the seasons 1973/74 and 1974/75. A new proposal by the Welsh FA 2005 did not find the necessary majority.

Offside only outside the penalty area

This was tested in England in 1972.

Offside only 18 yd in front of goal, i.e. additional to the sides of the penalty area

There were experiments in Scotland in 1972, at the 1991 Men’s U17 World Cup in Italy in 1991 and in Sweden and Finland in 1992.

Offside only 25 yd in front of goal

Scotland’s proposal was rejected in 1920 and an experiment in Scotland in 1974 was not allowed.

Offside only 35 yd in front of goal

This was tested in the USA from 1978 to 1981.

Offside only 40 yd in front of goal

Proposals made by England and Scotland during the 1920s were rejected in 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1929, postponed from 1923 to 1925. Also proposals to test this change for the time being.

Thirds of the pitch, offside only in both outer thirds

This proposal was tested in England “in public trial matches played prior to the opening of their respective playing seasons 1949/50”.

Do we even need an offside rule?

It was already common practice at matches of Sheffield FC 1858 to 1867 was tested in 1972 at an unspecified English-Italian competition. No offside.

As early as 1929, the British Isles were already discussing this change, which England supported.

Scotland, on the other hand, was afraid of goal-close duels for the ball by strikers lurking at the goal.