Time to red-card offside?

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:01 AM ET

Go to any soccer game, from kids to professionals, and you'll hear someone yelling at the officials about an offside call, or lack of one, at least once -- and often many times.

Soccer's offside rule -- or Law 11 -- is the most disputed one in the game today.

"It is one of the most contentious. Many people don't understand (offside)," London referee Andrew Jasinski said.

It doesn't help that FIFA is always tinkering with Law 11.

Effective July 1, interpretations about interfering with play, interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage by being in an offside position have been tightened.

Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball from a teammate.

Interfering with opponents means preventing them from playing or being able to play the ball by obstructing their line of vision or movement. It also means making a gesture or movement that deceives or distracts opponents.

Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position means playing a ball that rebounds to an offside teammate from a post or crossbar, or playing a ball that rebounds off an opponent.

"The analysis so far has been positive -- once trainers adapt to it, it will provide more opportunities to create goal-scoring chances," FIFA boss Sepp Blatter said recently.

Scoring more goals is the crux of the issue.

If FIFA wants more scoring, why not simply do away with offside completely?

I hear soccer purists screaming, "Why mess with the game when it's the No. 1 sport in the world?"

But wouldn't it be better to get even more fans to watch the game, especially in Canada?

Jasinski, an honorary national referee, said it might be helpful if a league experimented to see if eliminating offside made the game better.

"It would be nice to see the outcome. Maybe it would be a great idea or it could be a total disaster and we would say, 'Thank you very much for offsides,' " Jasinski said.

Stan Adamson, the PR man for the Canadian Professional Soccer League, believes FIFA needs to find a way to attract more people to soccer, especially on this continent.

"The fact is there are many people . . . who are just getting onto the game now. Particularly in North America, there's a culture of scoring. I can see that point of view. It's in FIFA's interest to get those people onside (no pun intended)."

I polled athletes and administrators of other sports to see if more goals would entice them to watch more soccer. Here's a sampling of their replies:

- Natascha Wesch, Western rugby coach and hockey player: "I watch soccer occasionally, but I don't go out to watch it. Not because of goals or lack of, but mostly because it's not my primary sport and when I'm not coaching, watching or talking rugby, I often try to do something other than watching sports."

- Ian Fleming, Western Fair Raceway manager: "Any sport is more exciting if more goals are scored. Every sport -- and harness racing is right up there -- is trying to figure out ways to make it more attractive for people to watch."

- Jackie Skender, Rowing Canada's director of communications: "I grew up with a soccer-nut European father and was dragged to watch soccer all the time and I played it when I was a kid. I enjoy soccer and would have to say no. Leave soccer just the way it is."

- Anthony Glavanic, Tennis pro, Western men's coach: "Soccer is just fine, maybe (loosening) the offside rules would be a major change and (add) more excitement, but it is the passing and the team play at the highest level I love. It is the North American attitude that high is good. Maybe we should let every goal be worth seven points."

- Catherine Bond-Mills, heptathlon Olympian and athletics coach: "When the World Cup rolls around, I'm very interested. When I do watch it, I quite enjoy it. I'm not sure I would change any of the rules. It's a game that does have quite a bit of ebb and flow, which is of interest, even without the scoring."


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