Sports Debates: Offsides

Written & Media by  Joe Hubbs. Media by Ryan St. Hill.

A midfielder picks off a pass from an opposing attacker and finds his teammate wide open downfield. The crowd, blowing those obnoxious vuvuzela horns, notices the opportunity to score and immediately explode with excitement. In less than a second, the noise reduces to one whistle. Offside! The ball belonging the other team, heads the other way, and the score still remains zero to zero.

Assistant Referee Signals Offside
Assistant Referee Signals Offside

For many years, the offside rule has instigated several debates across FIFA, IFAB, and the entire world of soccer. Does the rule have a legitimate purpose in soccer, or should it be scrapped altogether? Offsides is when a player is closer to the opponents’ goal than the ball or the 2nd last defender. For now, it remains, and I doubt a rule change looms anywhere in the near future, but the proposition still fascinates me. Soccer, known as football outside of America, probably has the most worldwide popularity of all sports. By the amount of games they play, it is the highest paid sport. However, most of us in America would never guess this because it simply does not interest or entertain us. I think the offside rule contributes tremendously to this lack of interest.

Honestly, I only watch the sport of soccer once every four years during the World Cup, to support my country. Inevitably, they lose relatively quickly and my soccer watching days are short lived. I don’t even know what other times the sport takes place, and I don’t try to. The simple fact remains that it just bores me to sleep. Now, soccer fanatics look at me and say Joe, you like baseball, that sport is boring. Yes, baseball has a slow pace, but any pitch could determine the outcome of the game. Soccer has a deceivingly quick pace that confuses you into thinking something important could happen, when in fact nothing is about to. Half of the game consists of passing the ball backwards before we can get it up the field. Nothing says progress like a backwards pass. You’ve got to lose money to make money, am I right? Well, in defense of all the soccer players and fans out there, I admit that I used to play a few games of soccer and it can be very exhilarating. The fast pace of the game makes it very fun to play, and I don’t think about the fact that there has been no score for 45 minutes when I am on the field. Since you are on the field competing, you don’t think about the fans ceaseless anxiety, waiting for a goal.


Offside Rule Chart

The fact remains the soccer is a low scoring game. Sometimes teams don’t score at all, so a single goal could win. Out of the few games I have seen, probably half of them either ended with a score of 1-0, or regulation ended without a score. Obviously, the excitement did not draw me back to watch more. If the players scored more goals each game, maybe the rest of my American friends would pay more attention to the sport. As I studied the sport a little more, I realized the amount of goals scored would increase dramatically with a single rule change, the infamous offside call. Therefore, I looked for a few opinions on the topic from a group of soccer players. My survey demonstrated that no one had any legitimate reason as to why the rule remains. One of the top reasons stated implied that the rule was part of the game, a tradition that should not be interrupted or interfered with. As an avid baseball fan, I brought up the designated hitter as a rebuttal. In baseball history tradition does not have a DH, and now Bud Selig has plans to possibly insert the hitter in the National League. That is a complete travesty, but a sports debate for another day. My point is that some sports traditions are broken for the fans’ enjoyment. The designated hitter takes an automatic out, out of the lineup, and puts one of the most powerful hitters into it. More excitement comes into the game with an extra power hitter. Well, more goals would come from the destruction of a soccer “tradition” of the offside rule, resulting in more excitement.

The reason for the offside rule is to boost attacking play. One intelligent, anonymous, respondent brought to my attention, is that if offsides were to be eliminated, a team could easily put in their tallest, most powerful striker to launch the ball up the field in a long ball strategy. Terminating offside would allow players to use less finesse, less inventiveness, and less skill. Soccer would lose its beauty. I certainly have never viewed soccer as beautiful, but to those who do, finally  an argument actually made sense.


Would we see more celebrating if ofsside was eliminated?
Would we see more celebrating if ofsside was eliminated?

So the offside call protects the finesse of the game, I understand that now. However, it has come to my attention that certain soccer clubs take advantage of the offside call, and uses a defense that confuses assistant referees into calling penalties in their favor; a deceitful move deserving the shame of flopping, which incidentally originated from soccer as well. Exploitation of the rule already occurs, so why not scrap it. The finesse of a sport is an opinion. More and more people want to see expanded scoring. It will bring relevance to American fans, and possibly an entire country will find a new sport to love. Until at least some sort of modification alters the rule, I don’t think soccer can muster up the fans to support an American MLS for the next ten years. Until the zero to zero becomes seven to five, I think Americans have no problem avoiding the sport and watching their beloved high scoring games of football and basketball. So, should soccer scrap the offside rule? Why or why not?


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