This week has seen a tipping point for VAR in this country. The idea of clear and obvious seems to have been kicked to the kerb with VAR officials actively searching for ways to disallow goals. The general consensus seems to be a push towards just using VAR for offsides. Indeed this week saw the debut of ‘Semi-Automated Offside technology’ a technology that takes the fitst steps towards taking human error out of offsides in football. Below is the goal that wasn’t given by the Semiautomatic offside technology. Schick was offside by the tip of his toenail.
Yes, that bit in black.
There can be no arguing, to the letter of the law this is offside. Surely now we can all be happy knowing that there will never be a wrong decision with regards to offside. One less thing to worry about with regards to VAR.
Except is this really what offside is a part of football for? To disallow goals because of a toenail?
The rule was originally brought in to prevent goalhanging back in the 19th Century. The offside rule was an attempt to prevent football from descending into a game of long punts towards crowds of players milling around the goal.
I have experience of it, I used to coach the Charlton U12 Academy side and in their matches there were no offsides. The idea was the game was on small pitches and they did not want a lot of stopping and starting, the idea was meant to help the children get as many touches of the ball as possible in the time allowed. They wanted the games to flow and, as this level of football is all about improving players, they did not think it would be open to abuse.
Unfortunately, about six games into the season we played Crystal Palace and their coach positioned their striker on the penalty spot and told him not to come any deeper. Within 2 minutes they had scored from a long punt forward to the forward, who I had not even noticed as he was so far behind the game. It was a conundrum for me as I did not want to tell my defenders that they also had to stand around in the area as this would be a fake situation that would do them more harm than good in their development. So I told my team to ignore him and play the same way we always did. I’m thankful to say that with the extra player (it was only 7 a side) we played some great football and won the game 6-4 – all their goals coming from the ‘goalhanger’ two of them straight from long goalkicks to him. I can honestly say it was the only game I coached at that level where the result mattered to me, just because I felt the other team’s coach had lost his way in trying to take advantage of a rule to win a game rather than do his actual job.
Obviously, therefore, the offside rule is a rule that is needed to prevent the beautiful game from becoming a tennis match.
Which brings me to the current rule…
This goal should have been one of the great moments of the 2022/23 season, a 25 yard howitzer, instead it took VAR the best part of 5 minutes to decide a player was offside by the smallest of margins from the original cross.
So my question is: is disallowing a goal because of a toenail in the true spirit of the rule?
If like me you don’t think so and that we shouldn’t need space-age semi-automated technology to decide if someone is onside, then what is the answer?
How about this: Get rid of all the lines, and fancy gadgets. The reason we wanted VAR for offside goals in the first place was to stop the travesties of justice. The goals where players were clearly offside and yet the officials made a howler leaving fans feeling cheated. You don’t need state-of-the-art technology for that. Just 2 people in a room watching a screen. Just like at the moment, if they think it may be offside then they check it, but with their eyes watching from just a couple of cameras and make the decision within a couple of minutes. If on first view it is not clear if it was offside or if they both cant agree, then stick with the decision on the pitch.
Lets get the advantage back to the attacker.