‘What about the offside for the arm sticking out’ was the reply when I playfully chided a Leeds supporter about their 4 -1 defeat by Crystal Palace.
I hadn’t seen the game so I caught up on Iplayer. He was quite right, Patrick Bamford’s arm was sticking out, pointing to where he wanted the ball played to his teammate, who dutifully obliged for Bamford to score an exquisite goal. Not so, said the referee after consulting his pitch side monitor.
The offside couldn’t have been given for the outstretched arm, for the offside law is quite clear, ‘the hand and arm of all players is not considered for offside’. The Premier League referees know this as well as anyone and also that level is onside. I looked at the VAR still picture of the incident several times and bearing mind that the VAR camera was not in line with the play, I couldn’t make up my mind, so I thought what is VAR for?
What finally convinced Sepp Blatter, then President of FIFA, that technology was needed at the higher levels of the game?. It was Fank Lampard’s obvious but disallowed goal in the England v Germany game at the 2010 World Cup.
That only needed goal line technology but it was decided to go further with VAR, pioneered by the Royal Dutch Football Association. This was to be used only in limited occasions where the referee may have made a mistake – goal/no goal, penalty/no penalty. direct Red Card, or mistaken identity. We were told the mistake had to be ‘clear and obvious’.
The offside law is designed to stop goal hanging, that is one or more players staying up in the opponents penalty area for long balls punted up field. This would be a dull and boring game with little skill required. The Law is not there to catch players out by a couple of possible centimetres.
The PGMO assistant referees have a high nineties percent record, in getting offsides correct, so let’s leave it to them. Unless it’s like the Frank Lampard blunder, a mistake clear and obvious.