Radical reform proposed for offside law

The last fundamental change to the offside law led to an instant and massive increase in goals and to seismic tactical advances that have dominated formation conventions ever since. Eighty years on, football's law makers will consider an equally revolutionary amendment when they meet next month in Cardiff.

The last fundamental change to the offside law led to an instant and massive increase in goals and to seismic tactical advances that have dominated formation conventions ever since. Eighty years on, football's law makers will consider an equally revolutionary amendment when they meet next month in Cardiff.

The proposed change, tabled by the Football Association of Wales, is that a player can only be offside if they are inside the opponent's penalty area. It will be discussed at the AGM of the International FA Board, the body that oversees the global laws of the game, on 26 February.

The IFAB, established in 1886, comprises eight seats; the four British associations - who have such significant representation in recognition of their role in codifying the original laws of the game - plus four representatives of Fifa, the world governing body. Any proposal needs at least six votes to become law.

"This change is on the agenda and open for discussion at the meeting," a Fifa spokesman said yesterday. "Decisions are usually taken unanimously but a change could be made with three-quarters of the board members present backing it."

If adopted, the change would fundamentally alter football as we know it, much as the change at the end of the 1924-25 season did. Then, instead of three members of the defending team being deemed necessary to play an attacker onside, the number was reduced to two.

The initiative was immediately handed to forwards. In the 1925-26 season, the total number of goals in the Football League surged to 6,373, a leap of more than 35 per cent from 4,700 the previous season.

It quickly became apparent that the then orthodox 2-3-5 formation of two defenders (full-backs), three half-backs (link players, spaced left, centre and right ahead of the full-backs) and five forwards needed to change.

Arsenal's Herbert Chapman famously redeployed his central half-back to defensive duties, creating the so-named centre-half that persists today. Two of the five forwards - the inside-forwards - started covering the central half-back's former midfield duties, creating the so-called WM formation of 3-4-3, which became standard for 30 years before changing to 4-2-4, 4-3-3, 4-4-2 and variations thereof.

The mind boggles at the implications if players were no longer offside anywhere outside the penalty area. "Goal-hanging" on the fringes would be lawful, necessitating permanent deep defending.

Players with specialist outside-the-box shooting skills, often now midfielders, à la David Beckham, could become the new strikers, lurking legally at the edge of the box. And with no necessity to pass cagily through midfield to beat the offside trap, play could become concentrated at the two ends, on the margins of the area, switching mainly via long-ball passes. The whole nature of the game, and its positional specialities, could change.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
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

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate