Now that it has been deduced where the grievances are seen and where they could come from, in addition to which responsibility towards football exists in order to maintain it in its size and worldwide dominance among the sports, one can understand in the individual sections, partly with very concrete examples, how much this affects and how easy it would be to implement the demands. For this purpose, some more deeply analysed examples serve for further internalisation. The recurrently mentioned, central, albeit repeatedly reformulated or rearranged, basic considerations are these:
It is a matter of preserving or reclaiming the neutral spectator, who could have a significant share in the growth, which is always related to the desired increase in
tension, attractiveness and justice.
The application of existing rules is demanded
A general rethinking is demanded, through which goal situations are to be favoured
First of all, the mother of all football rules is mentioned in this context,
is scrutinised very closely. The techniques of proof that are offered for verification for every thesis, no matter how daring, should always be kept in mind, but are offered here and there in concrete terms depending on the situation. With regard to offside, it is first of all the case that the statistics on offside errors would have to be kept. Was a critical situation pro or contra attacker out? What would have been the recognised correct decision? The mistakes, and only these, are put into perspective.
There is and has always been the problem that the offside rule was considered sensible – abolishing it is not a serious option, as has been repeatedly demanded by various sides, but it would entail a complete upheaval of the entire game and its tactics, with completely unclear consequences – but its implementation and correct application proved to be problematic. Now there is an age-old football wisdom that goes: everything evens out in the end. As nice as this wisdom may sound, and even surely find its correct application here, it does not get to the heart of the matter. There is an inherent injustice in the rule and its application. The fact that this may have long been recognised here or there does not change the fact that the cause has not yet been correctly interpreted.
In this respect, it makes sense to proceed very cautiously. Looking at it historically is at least one possible approach. The theory we have developed about this is as follows: In the distant past, it was true that the offside rule was not always applied correctly – i.e. there was a high error rate in offside decisions – but cameras were not set up in all stadiums and on all fronts to (shamelessly) expose the errors, and there were no referee observers for a long time.
The consequence, however, was not the modern one – which is discussed in the following and classified as seriously questionable – but that the (then still) linesmen were quite happy to leave the flag down when it was the home team’s attackers, and to raise it accordingly more often because the away team was on the attack. At that time, the person responsible for the decision in the home team’s stadium felt sufficiently protected by the spectators, even encouraged or, in extreme cases, put under pressure. However, one acted in their sense, even if occasionally wrongly. At worst, they had to fear that an overzealous (visiting) reporter would put in the newspaper the next day that there had been an irregular goal for the home team. By the way, this can also be verified with figures, at least insofar as the home advantage was considerably greater in earlier years – but this was not only due to mistakes in offside decisions.
Today, the cameras relentlessly reveal every mistake. In addition, there are referee observers who pettily note down every mistake and determine the career of the individual rules official. The criterion of protection by home spectators has disappeared to a considerable extent. In this respect, there are now other criteria and causes that are responsible for the ripping up – or the rather rare letting down.
Here are a few assertions about offside in modern times:
Claim 1: A high percentage of offside decisions go against the attackers.
Assertion 2: According to the rule, it should be the other way round.
The reasons often offered by the reporters, such as “that was difficult to see for the naked human eye” or the “oh, I made a mistake here myself” followed by a “no reproach to the assistant” miss the point.
Claim 3: the real causes lie in the area of psychology, the unspoken thoughts are something like “if I decide on offside, nothing will happen to me” and “oh, he’s free, he must have been offside, raise the flag”, or “oh dear, if I let the ball go now and a goal is scored, I’m responsible for the outcome of the game. Raise the flag!” Intuitively, it is complemented by the thought “If I wave, it’s not me, even if the waving is unjustified”.
Assertion 4: The Yanks found the most ingenious rule change or refereeing instruction of all time for the World Cup in their country – and note that they only shared responsibility once – which expresses everything, not just related to offside: To give the attacker the benefit of the doubt.
The assertions will be dealt with in the following as a whole package, since all points are of course interrelated.
Regarding assertion 1, it should be mentioned that it concerns the offside decisions. Since the wording occasionally causes confusion, here is the explanation: there are the decisions in which offside is ruled but the cameras reveal that it was not offside. Then there are those as play continued and evidence is provided that it should have been stopped. These two errors are each added up and put into proportion. The claim is that there is a high percentage, well over 50%, of decisions that are unfavourable to the attackers.
At this point it is essential to dispel the doubts in this regard. If they really exist, it is a good idea to — gladly for oneself, but who does that; in this case, an intuitive judgement is sufficient, which already provides clear results as soon as one draws attention to it, but just as gladly officially — carry the statistics of the faulty offside decisions. For example, initially – due to the very easy insight and the high media presence simply — for the 1st Football Bundesliga, but of course just as gladly for all other leagues.
After just one match day, the statistics would almost certainly be overwhelming. If not, however, it would be continued and a clear result would be obtained very soon.
Apart from that, according to the written rule, the ratio should be the other way round. Due to the “In case of doubt for…”, the statistics would have to be in favour of the attackers from about 60:40, so that the clause would have been recognisably applied. Adjusted upwards, however, it would not be a disgrace for the whistle blowers, as they are explicitly encouraged to calmly make a mistake in this direction, per attacker.
Provided the statistic has now been accepted (more or less forced), there come some interesting reflections dealing with the causes. Provided the reader follows along at this point, he is of course always invited to make his own considerations – if he has not already done so — before reading further. Incidentally, the claim stands that it is a roughly estimated 90% of wrong decisions that turn out to be against the attackers.
Here with pleasure the possible and already encountered explanations. All of them, of course, have their relevance and validity, but on closer examination they become rather bland, especially when compared to the true explanation offered, and lose their persuasiveness or become isolated cases.
a. The speed of the action
Of course it is true that football has become faster and faster. In addition, a tactical device – which, by the way, was first used collectively by the Belgian national team – is now commonplace in all defences: the offside trap. It causes the defenders to move forward – ideally simultaneously – while the attacker runs in at the same time in the opposite direction. This counter-movement causes the striker to be twice as far ahead as before, without the offside trap. Intuitively, this is perceived as “even more offside”. Certainly true and part of the problem, but not the core. Often, even as a spectator, you think: “He’s so free, he must have been offside”, only to be disabused by the slow motion afterwards.
b. The overtaxing of the human eye
Of course, mainly stated as the cause of the mistakes. This was certainly already claimed at times when the defender-attacker countermovement described above did not yet exist. It is also true that it is extremely difficult to get this right. However, this is precisely why the “facilitation clause” was included, which gives you the right to “keep the flag down” in case of doubt – for which, by the way, there is almost always reason.
The fact is that it is very difficult. But it is also a fact that, according to the rule, it would be easy to decide in favour of the attackers. It is also a fact that “difficult to decide” could never explain a clear statistic in favour of one party, unless….
c. Offside is heard and not seen
This is the statement made by one referee on the subject. When asked to estimate the percentage of mistakes against the attackers, he came up with a solid 80%, which, even if still underestimated, still shows a clear result where it is worth investigating the causes.
Asked about his own assessment of the cause responsible for this, he came up with the baffling answer – apparently advocated at a refereeing course — that offside is heard and not seen. Well, the logic is not without a certain humour and is readily stated here:
As an assistant, you look at the attacking line in relation to the defensive line. As soon as the pass is made, the situation is assessed. But when has it happened? For the assistant, of course, when he hears the pass, because his eye is in front. But sound would have a slower propagation speed than light. In this respect, the elapsing hundredths of a second are responsible for the fact that the striker and defender have moved the decisive centimetres that suggest offside. Here, a simple calculation suffices to show that this consideration is coherent:
The assistant is in front on the decisive line, the passer is in midfield, in this respect 30 metres distance is a reasonable average value for the distance ball to referee’s ear when the pass is played. So from the moment the pass is played, it takes about a tenth of a second for the sound of the pass to reach the ear. In one tenth of a second, good runners – Armin Hary, for example, managed an average of exactly one metre per tenth of a second in his world record in 1960 – would move forward about one metre. Since both do it – defender and attacker — the total could be as much as two metres by which the flag man misses.
Well, very convincingly argued. If that is doctrine, there are still a few objections to be made here:
First, let it be assured, the assistant, just like anyone else, looks at the ball. There is hardly any other way, as one will readily see by questioning, but also by observing the movements of the head.
Secondly, in the event that someone actually behaves accordingly and has his eye in front, his ear behind, it would behoove him in good conscience to adjust the decision-making basis by the up to two metres. Since the rule allows him to do so, there would be little problem.
d. “A question of positional play
Recently, even this consideration was encountered. After 10 minutes, when the second offside decision had been made to the disadvantage of the attackers (this is roughly the average value; on the opposite side of the statistic, there was a zero until the final whistle) and an announcer became aware of this, contrary to custom, he came to the conclusion that the assistant would not have been at ball height. So it wasn’t the good eye that was needed or missing, but a question of positional play. Not a bad idea, but still on the surface, because…
e. the psychology: “Raise the flag and all is well.”
All the observations made above provide starting points and possibilities for explanation. However, they are not quite suitable for explaining the entire phenomenon. The real reason for the flag being raised is a psychological aspect that intuitively tells the assistant that whenever things get critical, he prefers to indicate offside because nothing can happen to himself (and also to the score). To support this bold assertion well, consider the considerations that now follow, for which the opening sentence is the inspiration: “Raise the flag and all is well.”
i. Media accountability
Media accountability is also writ large in this case. It is a fact that much more attention is paid to demonstrable offside situations that lead to a goal than to those situations where play is – wrongly – stopped, but where the consequence could only have been a possible goal. It is up to the media to do this in a balanced way.
Even those situations that only prove clear offside but are allowed to continue – even without a goal being scored — are given a comparatively higher rating than those where play is wrongly stopped. If there are any doubts about this – which are certainly to be expected, at least on the part of the journos – then one should calmly watch a few games from this point of view. Every time the flag goes up and afterwards it is said: “Oh, he was wrong here”, it is forgotten in the next breath. Conversely, an offside that leads to a goal but is not recognised as such is discussed at length.
Of course, these situations occur very rarely because of the reasons described above. In this respect, it seems worthwhile for the media to follow up. But this is also a bit paradoxical: by judging the situations unequally (for or against attackers), one forces a much rarer occurrence of the one characteristic, the “for” – and in this way has found something to denounce.
It should be readily admitted that a recognised goal that is wrongly scored actually results in a match decision or at least a change in the score. This is always perceived as more dramatic than a change in the score that does not take place but is actually legitimate – even the author cannot deny this. There is simply no other way. A team wins a game 1:0 through a wrongly recognised goal. Yes, obviously the referee’s fault. Conversely, if a goal is proven to be correct but not recognised, with a final score of 0:0, the coach of the disadvantaged team could hardly say: “We won the game because the goal was correct.” He could only say “actually we should have…”. That doesn’t count in the ratio, is smiled at rather than acknowledged. It is the possibility form. “Yes, if…. But isn’t.”
If one wishes to pursue the investigation of psychological causes even further, here is what is cited: In the game situation, as an attacker is running alone towards the goal after a successful through pass – i.e. the most typical of all questionable offside situations – he automatically casts a glance at the assistant. He wants to avoid going all out, scoring a goal and then getting that frustration that it doesn’t count. Above all, he wants to avoid the embarrassment of everyone knowing what’s going on except him. Just like him, however, the goalkeeper looks at the assistant. As soon as he sees that the flag is up, he avoids intervening. He puts his arms up. If the striker has not yet turned his gaze to the assistant or is still shooting out of frustration – asking for understanding, pointing to his ears, that he has not heard anything – and the ball hits the ground, it is often said that an offside goal has been scored. However, on the basis of the above description, one can see that it is anything but clear whether there really would have been a goal. This means – from a psychological point of view – that one is thrown back in the argumentation to a “would have, if and but”, insofar as one speaks of an “intrinsically correct goal”. This argumentation lacks validity in relation to a recognised but irregular goal.
The upshot of it all remains this: “Better put up the flag and all is well.”
ii. “here, I’ll play too”.
A highly interesting but certainly unacceptable observation. But in modern times, a phenomenon has become more and more pronounced – in society as a whole – which seems to impose immodesty on us. Phrases like “don’t let it get you down” or “if you always give in, you’re an ass” or “everyone has to see where they fit in” have long since replaced Christian views. In this respect, becoming public, becoming known, is made tempting to anyone who has the chance. Strikers who score often enough try to escape their own teammates – who largely made the goal possible – in order to have the cameras focused on them and only them for as long as possible. In some cases, this can even be sponsor requirements or result in an increase in value for the next round of negotiations.
This virus has also spread to the assistants. If you raise the flag, you’ve played along. Especially when it comes to critical decisions, it somehow becomes relevant. “If I duck down now and do nothing, I have missed the chance to get into the limelight. So, flag up! All cameras on me!” In clear situations you don’t play a role, everyone would have recognised it correctly. This one is unclear, now I’ve made my entrance.
Incidentally, this observation plays an even greater role with balls that have supposedly crossed the out-of-bounds line. Whenever the ball is close, the out is waved. Unbelievable? Look!
iii. “nothing happens to me”
The considerations go hand in hand, no question. If one has wrongly given offside several times, then often the verdict after the fact is: “Yes, he was off the mark on some critical decisions, but on the whole the performance was fine.” Such a verdict would never be given to the person who recognised an irregular goal: “Mistake in decisive situations. Weak performance. He should have just seen that.” All this suggests what to do: “Raise the flag and you won’t get hurt.”
iv. “The main thing is not to score a goal”
One more point: in times of goal poverty, a single goal very often brings the final decision of the game. You have the feeling, provided you let the game go and thus allow a possibly irregular goal, that you are responsible for the outcome of the game. This applies more and more to situations in which the score is still 0:0 – a score that is becoming more and more common precisely because of this – but also occasionally to situations in which the score could be 1:1. But even those are anything but the exception. If the score is 3:0, one can observe a more relaxed attitude on the part of the assistants. The arm becomes loose and stays down. What should happen now?
All in all, this point is also suitable to show: “Just raise the flag, nothing will happen to you”. Thinking further: “If I now decide on 1:0, the thing is through. At 0-0, anything can still happen, the game remains open.” The important thing is: “Raise the flag. You can always argue afterwards whether you’re right or wrong. You’re off the hook.”
Although the fourth assertion is also incorporated into the above argument, you are welcome to pursue it a little further here. In the USA, there are a number of sports that are well marketed and far exceed their size in Europe. Now, in this country, the argument is that Americans just get together, pop some popcorn and cheer exuberantly for some bullshit, just to celebrate themselves. What is baseball? What’s so great about American football? And basketball? Every tackle a hit? Oh, great! Don’t give me that catfighting crap. You can sell them anything. They’re just crazy, the Americans.
However, the view here is that in the USA they are simply oriented towards fan interest. Everything can be marketed. That is true. As long as you do it right and take care of those you want to milk in the end – to put it brutally. It is a give and take. Even there, it is impossible for people to have more than 24 hours in a day. Of that, a few hours are free time. It is equally impossible to take more money out of their pockets than they have. In this respect, it is the famous cycle. Where do I feel well entertained? Where do I spend my free time and knock my hard-earned cash on the head? Okay, here. Then you can have it, you’ve done well. With conviction. This is my sport, this is where I go.
You can’t “sell” football to the Yanks. No, you can’t, because, quite simply: they’re not well entertained here. Waiting 20 minutes for the first shot on goal? Once they’ve been lured into the stadium, they’d say after half an hour: “Everything’s great here, nice and colourful and whatnot. But please explain to me: Why did they put up those funny boxes at the end of the pitch on both sides? They look nice, but do they have a function?”
This is exactly where the USA realised in 1994 for the World Cup in their own country that the ball should go in there more often. The spectators – and, if you’ll pardon the expression, not only because they are Americans – would definitely appreciate that. So they worked on every angle to ensure that the rules favoured the attacker. For the organisers, this is a trivial matter and a matter of course, because they do the same in their “own” sports: what is unattractive, boring, unfair, bad, is changed. What is wrong with that? Only the two points were taken over. One was the back-pass rule, which forbids the goalkeeper to pick up with his hands a ball played back to him by the defender, the other was the divine clause, which in itself would have sufficed as an instruction – just referring to other situations as well – to give the attacker the benefit of the doubt in offside situations. The consequence, by the way, was that there was actually a very nice and exciting World Cup with more goals, but this is exclusively due to the fact that the players and coaches understood where they are here and what the people want to see (the effect also faded when the deciding phase, i.e. the knockout games, were coming up) and is explicitly not due to the referees.
But it’s funny that, as little as they care about others and are satisfied with themselves – Hollywood, by the way, also works on the principle: what do people want to see? – they could easily turn the argument around here: “You can sell anything to the rest of the world. 90 minutes of ball shoving, lots of fouls, whistles and injustices, never a goal, and always, when it gets exciting, the game is interrupted. But if by some chance a goal is scored, you know who won because it’s the only one? A great game. For morons.”
The game is a bit like the emperor’s new clothes. “Why are you watching?” Is anything happening?” “Nope, nothing is happening, I’m not really looking either, I’m just standing here, but the neighbour is doing the same.” “Oh, I see! Great! Well, then I’ll stay too.” Herd animal principle?
Markus Merk's offside error
As evidence of the media reaction to omitted offside decisions leading to a goal in relation to sanctioned ones that led or could have led to goals, consider Markus Merk’s sanctioned goal in the Werder Bremen versus Borussia Dortmund match at the start of the 2008/2009 Bundesliga season. An offside goal was sanctioned, which caused high waves.
Certainly, there was the (regrettable and regretted) error that a replay of the scene was shown on the video screen, which provided clarification for each of the 42,100 spectators – but additionally both referees plus assistants and the players — of which there was no doubt at that moment. However, as was correctly pointed out in the 11-Freunde magazine at the time, the person replaying the scene was able to interpret the vague DFB clause “in the case of disputed scenes, no replays may be played” at will. Not only because it was indisputable – for the particularly shrewd – in the sense that the offside was completely clear. But also in other respects it is daring to assign responsibility to a person who has neither the obligation nor the capacity to judge, let alone at a distance even the possibility to decide.
Markus Merk supposedly spoke of his “most serious mistake of the last 10 years”, but there is another source who claims that he was only referring to the situation he was in, not to the mistake itself. In any case, the media reaction was overwhelming. There was no doubt here. The goal was not allowed to count. Sure, part of the scolding was also related to the replay of the scene, part of the ripples building up had something to do with the situation Markus Merk was in at the time – the mistake is proven, but he has no way to correct it — but the point remains: the reaction was to a recognised goal that should not have counted.
Markus Merk then wrote a 25-page paper in which he called for the introduction of video evidence and gave good reasons for it, but it fell on deaf ears, at least on the part of the DFB, which simply referred to FIFA responsibility.
The reasoning remains the same: a correctly scored goal that was denied recognition, proven and officially recognised, could never be followed by such a wave. Even in more rural areas, one would certainly have enough trouble finding a single rooster crowing about it.
By the way: there is no need to give a counter-example here. a) it can be observed almost daily and b) all the cases have long been forgotten and swept under the table. “But yesterday, xxx scored a goal against yyy, that was clearly correct. Did you see that?” “No” and then “So what? It was the same in the other game. But there were two. And the neighbour’s rooster crowed!”
Follow-up remarks on the subject of offside:
If the rule were applied correctly, it is estimated that the goal average could increase by one to two goals per game. That alone would be the direct consequence, provided that the statistics of wrong decisions or the observation of “Oops he’s free, help, flag up!” are properly incorporated If you include the rule facilitation — which explicitly allows the assistants to keep the flag down and promises them a lenient, but of course appropriate, treatment for mistakes — it might be even more. One of the consequences would certainly be that the assistants would relax a little about the individual decision and reduce the feeling of deciding a game with one mistake, precisely because there will be many more situations in which a goal could be scored.
There is, however, another consequential effect which, according to an observation made, could have a further important influence:
The passers from midfield, as can often be observed, often have a favourable passing situation in which the striker offers himself with a sudden run into the top, hinting at a passing path. The situation goes unused, the pass is not played. The view is now expressed here that the right moment to pass is (often) missed because the person with the ball is afraid that offside will be indicated, even if he catches the right moment.
The comment is usually consistent: “There he has missed the right moment of the pass.” because you can often see that well. “Now the ball should be coming!” While this is true, it was not a mistake, a weakness or an oversight. It was merely due to the understandable fact that even if he played at the perfect moment, it would still be ruled offside. How many great scenes could await us if these players felt they were on the safe side and this fear had been dispelled?
There has been little reflection on the true causes of the missed moments.
As long as the offensive players are given more freedom in every respect – which also applies to the next point, the penalty situations – (absolutely legal and anchored in the current rules and regulations), there would be virtually nothing standing in the way of the hoped-for offensive spectacle. Desirable? Or would there be a serious fear that everyone would then run away because so many goals would be scored?
Note: up to now, we have only talked about applying the rules correctly, not about changing them. If there were too many goals, you could always….
And: there is no need whatsoever for additional tinkering, such as the three-point rule examined later.