Bendtner barge sparks fresh offside debate

Wednesday was not a day to remember for Chris Hughton. After a swirl of speculation over his future, his Newcastle team became the latest to fall victim to the confusion surrounding the offside law, conceding a crucial goal to Arsenal thanks to an intervention from a player who appeared to many to have made his decisive contribution from beyond the last defender.

Theo Walcott – onside – was running through on goal while Nicklas Bendtner – offside – was jogging in the opposite direction. Mike Williamson was close to tackling Walcott before he was checked by Bendtner. Hughton described it as something "that everyone can see if they look". But Andre Marriner clearly believed that Bendtner was not interfering with play and so allowed Walcott's goal to stand. But this was the latest goal, after Cristiano Ronaldo's last weekend and Tom Huddlestone's the weekend before, to once again raise the issue of what, exactly, constitutes "interfering with play".

The laws say a player in an offside position is deemed to be "active" if they are "interfering with play", "interfering with an opponent" or "gaining an advantage by being in that position." Meat was added to these bones by Fifa's 2005 guide for referees. It said that "if an opponent becomes involved in the play and if there is potential for physical contact, the player in the offside position shall be penalised for interfering with an opponent."

Clearly, Bendtner falls within this definition. The opponent, Williamson, was involved in the play by virtue of his attempts to tackle Walcott. And Bendtner, by running into Williamson, realised the potential of physical contact. As such, he ought to have been penalised for interfering.

But what of Huddlestone's goal for Tottenham at Craven Cottage? The ball broke to him after a corner, and he fired it in through a crowded penalty area. Assistant referee Martin Yerby raised his flag, declaring William Gallas – standing just in front of Mark Schwarzer – as active. Mike Dean disagreed and allowed the goal to stand.

The laws explains the confusion. The argument that Gallas was active rests on the presumption that his presence would have distracted Schwarzer. But this is not "interfering with an opponent" in the sense of Bendtner checking Williamson: there is little to no "potential for physical contact."

Ronaldo was active last weekend, scoring four goals but for one of them he started the move 40 yards behind the last defender. Mesut Ozil broke the trap while Ronaldo trotted back. Ronaldo then turned and headed towards goal, Ozil crossed and Ronaldo tapped in having been inactive in the phase in which he was offside.

Life would be simpler if, as Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said recently, "being in an offside position was offside."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor