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The Offside Rules Examined – Mike Jones Guilty?

7 years ago

Respect is a two way street and Sunday’s application of the ‘offside rules’ needs careful examination – though the outcome is crystal clear.

As a qualified referee and a young man who likes to think that he knows the FIFA/FA Laws of the game inside out, I was quite frankly astonished, flabbergasted, mind-boggled, taken aback, you name it, after Mike Jones’ decision to rule out Cheick Tiote’s goal against Manchester City.

Now I must admit, I am the last person inside St James’ Park who would criticise a referee for making an incorrect decision, as I know myself just how easy it is to make a mistake while officiating a game. However, I know that as long as a referee remains loyal to the laws of the game, and gives decisions based on his interpretations of events, then mistakes aside, he/she can’t really go wrong.

Firstly, there has always been a strange debate over what is the offside rule, however, it may surprise people just how clear the rulebook is.

A player is not committing an offence simply by being in an offside position. An offence can only be given if there is active involvement in the area of active play, along with being in an offside position. Being actively involved in the area of play is not the same as being in the area of active play.

While standing in an offside position there are three things that a player cannot do:

1.    Interfere with play – meaning that a player cannot play or touch the ball that is passed or touched by an opponent.

2.    Interfere with an opponent – this means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball. For example, by clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision or movement. OR. Making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent. However, in this particular scenario the opponent must be reasonably close to the play so that blocking, deceiving or distracting makes a difference to the active play.

3.    Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position – this means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or crossbar, having previously been in an offside position when the ball was hit. OR. playing a ball, that rebounds to him off an opponent having previously been in an offside position.

As you can see the rules are surprisingly simple and clear. Proving that the referee at this weekend’s game made a huge mistake. Usually, this situation should end here, with a referee holding his hands up and admitting that a mistake was made, after all we all make mistakes. However, for a referee to overrule a linesman on an offside decision is mind-boggling. In this particular instance, a goal was scored and the linesman did not give offside, continuing standard protocol he moved back towards halfway line in order to resume the game.

As a result, in this Manchester City game there are three things that a referee would have taken into consideration when making this decision.

1.  Was the player interfering with play. – i.e did the player touch the ball on its way to goal. = NO.

2.  While stood in an offside position, was the player impeding the vision of the goalkeeper. = NO.

3.  Did the player impede the movement of an opposition player while stood in an offside position. = NO.

Therefore I find it impossible to see why this decision was given, and the referee, in my opinion, should come out and explain his decisions, otherwise this can lead to less respect for referees.

When a mistake is made by the referee, they cannot be blamed if they don’t see an incident occur. Quite simply a referee cannot give a decision if he has not seen it. This is usually relevant in handball situations, or a foul that is not given. However, in this situation, the referee cannot say that he has seen an offence because it simply did not happen, and for this reason, justification must be given. Not from our friend Dermot on Sky Sports on Monday morning, not from Gary and Jamie on Monday night, but the referee himself.

For the future of the game, and the credibility of the respect campaign – referees must begin to answer and hold responsibility for their own decisions.

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