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Offside Interpretation Change

It may have cost Aston Villa one or three points and Head Coach Dean Smith £8,000, but referees have been instructed to alter their interpretation of the offside rule, after the disagreement and confusion caused by Bernardo Silva’s goal for Manchester City against Aston Villa last week.

After Silva had come back from a deep offside position to then rob Tyrone Mings of the ball and set up the game’s opener, it seemed after the match that PGMOL* were playing a damage limitation card, by quoting a rule that refers to an opposition player in an offside position receiving a back pass, and twisting its use to cover up the dubious decision.

Due to the uproar the decision caused, the PGMOL has since held talks with IFAB, football’s lawmakers, and agreed an approach for this specific part of the offside law going forward.

The Premier League and EFL wrote to all 91 professional clubs on Tuesday, detailing the changes, which will now apply in all domestic competitions in the future.

The letter stated the following clarification of the law:

“Where a player in an offside position immediately impacts on an opponent who has deliberately played the ball, the match officials shall prioritise challenging an opponent for the ball, and thus the offence of ‘interfering with an opponent by impacting on the opponent’s ability to play the ball’ shall be penalised.”

The original ‘receives the ball’ interpretation that the officials originally hid behind for the Villa vs City game, will however still stand when it literally happens. Thus when an attacking player in an offside position receives the ball from a misplaced pass or miskick by an opponent, that attacking player will not be flagged offside.

There still remains some grey areas like deciding what phase of play an incident is in and how long a player returning from an offside position has until they can then re-enter the action and win the ball? Although, ultimately that can be decided on whether they have returned from an offside position to directly make the challenge.

While Villa have been hit multiple times in the past year by inconsistent and dubious applications of both the rules and VAR, at least in this case there has been some instant rectification.

While it doesn’t do anything in terms of Dean Smith’s ban/fine and the result it caused, at least in the long-run, it’s triggered an improvement in the game.

Key Season

Currently, both PGMOL and the Premier League are fortunate that games are being played behind closed doors, but hopefully they’ll take advantage of this fact to iron out the rules of football and how they’re applied (including VAR) before next season. As Villa supporters witnessed firsthand when Henri Lansbury’s injury-time goal against Crystal Palace was wrongly chalked off, it triggered a crowd disturbance behind the goal that led to multiple arrests.

It’s cause and effect – better rule application means less manager and football supporter bans.


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  1. Situation; Player receives the ball in an offside position just inside the opponents half and is allowed to carry the ball 20-30 metres with the linesman only raising his flag once the move has been completed to a positive or negative conclusion.

    Why is this becoming a regular occurrence, and the flag not not being raised immediately the offence is seen to be committed.

    It not only causes confusion but can also lead to further offences being committed by the defending team in order to halt the offenders progress, which in turn could lead to a sending off or bookable offence being committed by the defender. ?????

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