Once again the laws concerning the offside rule have been discussed at great length following the decision my referee Mike Jones to disallow a seemingly legitimate goal by Cheick Tiote for Newcastle against Manchester City at the weekend. City won the match 2-0 but Jones caused uproar among the home support with his controversial ruling during an afternoon in which there were several debatable judgements by the officials.
The match will be remembered for the disallowed goal and especially by Tiote who thought he had scored only his second Premier League goal after an equally thunderous effort against Arsenal several years previously. That Yoan Gouffran was standing in an offside position was the bone of contention in determining the award of the goal on Sunday.
Newcastle had conceded an early goal and Manchester City were threatening to add to their goal tally before the Magpies finally begin to offer a threat. After a sustained period of home pressure, the ball was cleared from the City penalty area to Tiote who proceeded to drive the ball into the corner of Joe Hart’s goal.
The home crowd voiced their strong approval but Mike Jones was not fully convinced about the legitimacy of the goal. The retreating Gouffran took slight evasive action when the ball sailed past him and into the net. From his offside position, at no time did he impair goalkeeper Joe Hart either physically or by obstructing his field of vision.
According to the laws of the game, a player can be deemed to be offside by interfering with an opponent in stopping him playing the ball or by challenging any player nearby. If the said player actually touches the ball, then they are legitimately ruled as offside.
Whatever reasons Jones and his assistant offer for disallowing the goal, it does that appear that their interpretation of the rule may be slightly incorrect or that they mistakenly judged that the ball had touched Gouffran on its way into the goal.
The debates on this controversial decision will continue for some time ahead but the incident also highlights that the offside rule is still far too complex in its present form, especially with television able to digest such occurrences from several different angles.
One manager from a previous era suggested that if a player is not interfering with play then what can be the reason for the same player being on the pitch. It is a perfectly sensible statement which still accrues some validity today.
Bearing in mind Sunday’s incident, perhaps the offside rule needs further examination allowing some further simplification of the laws. Far too often, officials need to wait before offering a judgement and can look foolish at times. If any attacking player is offside when a goal is scored or from a forward pass, then there should be no grey areas with play being stopped.
Until such investigations are enacted, then there will no doubt be more controversial issues arising from this subject as has been the case for many years to date.