Outdated in the age of VAR?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.
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.
Goal for me .... VAR strikes again .— Robbie Fowler (@Robbie9Fowler) January 16, 2019
Offside there is no tolerance level , you are either onside or offside as simple as that ! var at its best !— Robbie Savage (@RobbieSavage8) January 16, 2019
Imagine the attacker had got the benefit of the doubt on this! It was offside tonight on a very tight decision, that’s what VAR is for!!!! pic.twitter.com/LU5Hxiuaka— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) January 16, 2019
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.
When the offside law was first mooted in 1863, had somebody at the meeting said, "Say if my arse is just in front of the last defender, is that offside?" after the laughter died down they would have replied, "Tom, stop being silly. You know that's ridiculous." Not now apparently.— Danny Baker (@prodnose) January 16, 2019
“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.”
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.”