Offside rule taking away from game

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Soccer's goal has long been to find ways to make the game more attractive in North America and while they're at it, make the game more popular throughout the world.

There's no question soccer is the world's most popular sport. But those in charge of the game would love to really sell it in Canada and the United States, where the television advertising revenue is huge and the fan base relatively untapped.

Even though the sport's popularity is growing in the United States, it's still nowhere when it comes to really making big money on the airwaves. In North America, it's considered too slow, with not enough scoring.

Those are the main reasons the sport won't sell here, but North Americans are by no means the only ones complaining about the state of the game.

Commentators and fans in nations where soccer reigns supreme often bemoan the lack of scoring and action.

There is one rule more than any other that puts the shackles on scoring, annoys fans and players like no other and turns off potential fans with its complexity and by how it stifles the flow of the game.

It's the offside rule.

Changing the rule would go a long way toward selling the product and, more importantly, making the product more enjoyable.

Usually, sports have a defined offside rule. In hockey and football there are lines. In soccer, it's this invisible line that moves with the movement of the last defender when the ball is kicked.

If that isn't complicated enough, the linesman calling the offside has to judge when the ball is kicked and where the offensive player is at that moment.

But it's more complicated than that.

Soccer was developed in England as a game for gentlemen. The offside rule was developed to prevent players from standing in front of the opponent's net and doing nothing except try to score goals without doing any running, dribbling or other soccer moves.

Being offside was considered a form of cheating.

You can never be offside in your own half of the field if you are dribbling the ball or if you are behind a ball that someone else is dribbling.

But if a pass is made to you when there are not at least two opponents between you and the goal you are attacking (the goaltender and another player), you are offside.

Confused yet?

That's not all. There are many other rules that tell the referee when to make an offside call. Most people only know one to two of these.

It used to be even more stringent.

There was a time when being even with the second player between you and the net was an offside.

Now, if you are even with a player, play continues.

There was also a time when any player in an offside position would cause the play to stop whether he was involved in the play or not.

Now, if you don't affect the outcome of the play, the play will stand.

Do us all a favour and make some changes. If you don't want to remake the entire rule, then clear up the mess in the penalty area where the offside rule negates scoring chances.

It would be easy to do. There is no offside on any play that begins inside the 18-yard penalty area.

Try it, you'll like it.


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