Sepp Blatter Planning To Scrap Offside Rule?

Chris Wright

2nd, March 2010


By Chris Wright


Sepp Blatter is an idiot, but that’s not news – you all knew that anyway.

What is news is the fact that the FIFA president may be planning to scrap the offside rule altogether after seeking the advice of his counterpart in the National Hockey League, Leandro Negre, who scrapped the rule in 1998.

Negre told Sky Sports;

“[Blatter] asked me a lot of questions about it and how successful it was, although he never offered an opinion, so it was difficult to judge what football might do, but he did seem very interested in how we had implemented it.”

It is widely accepted that after getting rid of the rule a decade or so ago, ice hockey has become an increasingly entertaining sport for the spectators but you’ve got to ask: How could it possibly work within the context of a football match?

Now, I must admit that I’ve never seen an ice hockey game so I’ve got no idea how it has affected their matches, but that is immaterial really. I’ve played in enough playgrounds over the years to know that, without the offside rule, football goes to pot.

Being on/offside is a key factor in the dynamic of a game of football. There would be no skill (or need) left in timing or bending a run, and the ability of a player to pick a perfectly placed throughball or a defensive unit to execute a well-drilled offside trap would be moot.

The more you think about the consequences, the more you realise that it can’t, and most probably won’t, happen but I imagine Pippo Inzaghi (he was, after all, born offside) is sitting at home with all his fingers and toes crossed that Blatter gets his way.

Anyway – rant over, what do the football (and/or hockey) fans out there reckon? Would abandoning the offside rule really make the game more exciting? Or is Sepp just up to his old buffoonery again?

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  1. Grant says:

    Ollie, I think you’re confusing a few things. I’ll agree that hockey has gotten more exciting in the last decade, but the NHL didn’t get rid of offsides per se.

    They allowed what’s called “tag-up offsides” which is functionally the hockey equivalent of allowing play to continue in football when non-active players in offside position don’t ever become active until after they move back into an onside position. If the puck crosses the blue line with an attacker in their offensive area they can simply “tag-up,” a la baseball, by returning to the neutral zone before they touch the puck. This just reduces stoppages in play for times when the attacking team doesn’t really gain an advantage, which FIFA has already done by doing away with the offside trap as it was used by the 1-0 to the Arsenal crowd back in the day.

    The biggest thing that the NHL did, though, was get rid of the two line pass violation, which occurred when you made a pass that crossed both one of the blue lines and the red center line. This really opened the game up to more attacking play, but the problem is that there is really no football equivalent to this rule. Funnily enough, the Olympics and International hockey either didn’t ever have this rule, or they scrapped it like 30 or 40 years ago.

    I have a buddy who is a HUGE hockey fan and he says that these rule changes have made a big difference, but the application of these rules to footy would have the opposite effect IMHO. I think that allowing offside would have the effect of encouraging long ball play much more. A lot of people have pointed out recently that one of the biggest elements of the Stoke long throw-in to defend is the fact that there’s no offside on throw-ins, so the defenders can’t hold a firm line against them like they can on freekicks that are given in the channels.

    I dunno. To me, the fact that Uncle Seppy wants to do it is more of an indication that it’s a terrible idea than that it’s a good one.

  2. Chringle says:

    Hi Grant, I could see how taking away ‘pass restrictions’ would greatly increase the excitement of a hockey game, but is being ‘offside’ a particular problem on a pitch that small?

    The only thing I can liken it too in a footballing sense would be 5-a-side, where offside isn’t a problem because there isn’t enough room behind defenders for it to have a major effect. Obviously on a larger pitch there is more space to exploit.

    P.S It was me that wrote this article not Ollie!

  3. Ollie says:

    Hey Grant – Chris actually wrote this post, not me. Thanks for your interesting comment though. I am a bit of a hockey fan too (Go Habs Go!), but do not know the rules back to front.

  4. Obviously, this change is stupid. I wonder how the game would play without offsides, but any player who receives the ball in an offsides position is not eligible to score.

  5. QStel says:

    Scrapping the offside rule would be a disaster. All teams would keep at least five players in the penalty area at all times. Italy would probably keep all 11 players in the box and just hoof the ball from one side of the pitch to the other side and wait for the penalty shoot-out.

  6. trini says:

    lol……………the first thing i though about was Inzaghi

  7. Grant says:

    Chris and Ollie, sorry for misidentifying you.

    To answer your question, Chris, the difference in speed that hockey players can move at, not to mention the difficulty in changing directions really quickly, combined with the speed of the shots means that being able to cherry pick, as it were, would be a huge advantage. Add in the fact that hockey is full contact, and when you get guys being knocked on their asses, the potential for a scrum to break out with the puck just being dinked into the goal would be pretty large.

    The purpose of the offside rule in both sports is to force there to be some level of face-up defending that must be overcome by the attacking players beyond simply the goalkeeper. That still exists in ice hockey, but the way it was enforced previously led to way too many stoppages in play, just like the old offside trap in football, where the whistle was blown every time a forward pass was played and a player was caught offside. Now in both sports you can drift back onside if you are caught out, as long as you don’t gain any real advantage. It serves no purpose other than to keep the game moving.

    The two-line pass rule, however forced a team to win the puck in their own area, move it into their half of the neutral area, then move it into their opponent’s half of the neutral area, before being able to bring it into the final attacking area. This multi-segmented approach forced the game to clog up in the middle of the ice too often, and by getting rid of it, they actually made the game more like footy in a sense. Now, if defenders or wingers can build a good timing relationship between themselves and their centers, they can move the puck much more quickly into the attacking area. This requires the centers and wingers to play much more like football wingers and strikers, where they are looking to time their runs into the attacking third so that they puck is played in ahead of them, and if they can beat the defender to the puck, they will have a breakaway and a clearer shot on goal.

    It’s almost as though what makes exciting hockey and exciting footy are the exact opposites, as longball teams in football are exceedingly boring, but dump and chase teams in hockey can actually be quite exciting. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the rink is so much smaller than a football pitch, and the contact nature of hockey means that from a spectater’s point of view, you want to see the guys hitting at maximum speed, which means you want an end to end type game, which the two line pass rule prevents from happening.

    I think, though, that at the end of the day, there is simply zero chance of the offside rule being eliminated from soccer, so it’s not something we need to worry about.

  8. Chringle says:

    Cheers Grant (No worries about the misidentity) I have to agree, I can’t imagine Blatter would be willing to face the wave of backlash this change would inevitably incite.

    Cheers for taking the time to explain hockey to me as well man, much appreciated!

  9. Souksonne says:

    Next there’ll be no corners and you’ll be allowed to run round the goals.

  10. Ben says:

    Blatter is just an idiot and it is better not to pay attention on his words or behavior.

  11. Chris says:

    Another difference between the offside rules in the two sports is the static offside line in hockey (blue line) and the dynamic offside line in soccer (last defender). As the speed of the game has increased and rules were changed to allow play to continue when an attacked is “passively offside”, the linesman’s job has become more difficult.

    Of course, the half line is a static offside line too, but an interesting compromise (for someone wanting to make the rule more hockey-like) might entail adding another line to the field, say, 30 yards from goal. An attacking player would not be offside behind this line, but once past this line, the current offside rule (last defender) would still be in effect. The linesman would have a smaller area to monitor for offside, and it would keep him closer to the goal to see if the ball is over the line.

    Honestly, I’m not so sure this would have the desired effect… A defensive team wanting to park the bus in front of goal would be able to keep a striker further upfield, creating more opportunities for a (long-ball) counter-attack.

    I’ll nominate MLS (or the US Open Cup) to try this out. More goals equals more entertainment for American viewers…

  12. Sandinista says:

    Getting rid of offsides would be the best rule change in football since not being able to play it back to the keeper (so he could use his hands). The game would not fundamentally change. Oh, there could be a 1/2 goal increase per game, but who is going to protest that?

  13. AP says:

    Inzaghi isn’t offside that often, he just curiously nabs a lot of goals whilst offside.

    Now Adebayor, that’s a different story. In the 2007–08 season, he was caught offside 66 times.

  14. kritter says:

    Maybe we could throw out the “no hands” rule while we’re at it. That would make for more goals.

  15. Chris Clarke says:

    at least we’d be able to do away with linesmen.

  16. spectator says:

    retarded. the field is too big, fullbacks would have to constantly sit so deep. the entire game gets streched out and a real passing game is redundant. unless you’re planning to make football 15 a side it’s ridiculous. and if you did it would be even more ridiculous. berba would love it though.

    i can’t wait until blatter dies.

  17. Temjin says:

    “Maybe we could throw out the “no hands” rule while we’re at it. That would make for more goals.”
    Kritter, you are a genious.

    “i can’t wait until blatter dies.”
    Spectator, you are a poet.

    The whole idea is so damn retarded I re-read the title of the article out loud just to see how it sounded. And the answer is… even more retarded.

  18. Chris says:

    Bit of a silly comment about Inzaghi. The last thing in the world that he wants gone is the offside rule. Shading the offside line is almost the key factor of his game. If you take away that, his brilliant sense of timing and beating offside traps disappears as well.

    Without the offside rule, defences would be waiting for him constantly. His entire gameplan revolves around beating defences at the offside game.

  19. […] They allowed what’s called “tag-up offsides” which is functionally the hockey equivalent of allowing play to continue in football when non-active players in offside position don’t ever become active until after they move back into an …Read more […]

  20. Fred says:

    leave the game alone blatter the best rule u came up with was the four steps for goal keepers then u changed ur mind over that then the free kick one where if u disagreed with ref u was given another ten yards that too was a good one and u got rid of that too what i would do and this was used right up from start of the football league TO LATE SIXTIES would be the lines person run the whole lenth of the pitch not just half way line thats .EXTEND THE D LINE ALWAY ACROSS THE PITCH AND U CANT BE OFFSIDE RULE DONT COME INTO EFFECT UNTILL U CROSS THAT LINE. BLATTER RUINING THE GAME WHATS NEXT NO TACKLE`S WHY NOT CAMERS ON THE LINE WHAT THE FOURTH OFFICIAL FOR OR ELCTRONIC DEVICE LIKE THEY USE AT WIMBLEDON THAT BLEEPS AFTER THE BALL CROSSES THE LINE. COME ON BLATTER THINK OR GET OUT OF THE GAME ALL TOGETHER

  21. goal lover says:


  22. […] They allowed what’s called “tag-up offsides” which is functionally the hockey equivalent of allowing play to continue in football when non-active players in offside position don’t ever become active until after they move back into an …Read more […]

  23. Milos says:

    There are two important things to point out: 1) The offside line in ice hockey is fixed (literally drawn on the playing surface), while in football it “moves” with next-to-the-last player. 2) In ice hockey there were two kinds of offsides: red line (half rink) offside and blue line (attacking zone) offside. Only the red line offside was scrapped so that it is now possible for an attacking player to receive breakaway pass in “midfield”. Nearly everyone now agrees that it added more excitement to the game.

    Now… I realize the purpose of offside rule is to not have a bunch of players in front of the opponent’s goal, waiting for a long pass. But at the same time it “penalizes” players for being skilled and fast. Realistically, I can’t imagine any changes to offside rule in football, but it could be interesting to watch a game without offsides with a little restriction – player making the pass must be on the opponent’s half.

  24. Craig says:

    Commenting late. I suspect the rule they would implement would be something similar to the old NASL offsides rule where you could only have an offsides if the ball was within 35 yards of the opposition goal. FIFA ordered the NASL to scrap the rule.

    It’s surprising from my standpoint that the low scoring of Football has been tolerated as long as it has. Defense has simply become too organized and when that happens you simply must adjust the rules; there’s often nothing the offense can do to adjust. American sports are usually quick to make adjustments to the offense–but then, they recognize that it’s a problem since it affects their cash flow. The Ineternational nature of Football means you have to convince everyone there’s a problem in the first place and there will always be people who sing praises of a 0-0 game with well played defense.

    In any event, as someone else said, if Sepp Blatter suggested it, then this is probably a horrendously bad idea. It is my suspicion that the shadow-king of FIFA lets him be in charge solely because he’s always good for a laugh–and doesn’t even know what he’s saying is stupid.

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