Saturday - June 24, 2017
Home    About    Writers    Links    Contact     RSS

About the Author

Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Offside – It Makes Commentators Heads Hurt So Much

Written by on February 12, 2011 | 16 Comments »
Posted in The Officials' View

I am sitting in Toronto Airport waiting for a flight to Halifax. I will be down in the heart of Atlantic Canada for a few days at the Canada Winter Games. But I did manage to watch a few games before hopping a flight in late afternoon.

And with an hour on my hands why not bang out an article.

We got treated in back to back games on Saturday to complaints from the commentating crews about the offside rule. The first instance was in the sequence leading up to Robin Van Persie’s second goal for Arsenal against Wolves.

We have seen Van Persie’s action many times over the years – 1994 Netherlands vs Brail anyone?. He was coming back from an offside position and would have been flagged if the pass from Cesc Fabregas had gone to him. But it did not and instead it led Theo Walcott through the Wolves defence and he was clearly onside.

Van Persie turned and gave chase and when Walcott’s pass came in he was on side and scored. We were then told by the commentator that someone on the International Board had to do something because the present law was confusing and defenders did not know what to do.

The capper to his point was that “players and managers” do not even know the offside law so there must be something wrong with it.

Any fan, who watches games, listens to interviews and reads newspapers and surfs the internet can tell you that there are a lot more laws that players, managers (and commentators) don’t know than just offside.

If that is a legitimate criterion for amending the laws of the game then we will be in for a major overhaul from top to bottom. Perhaps another option might to make players and manages who draw healthy salaries pass a “Laws of the Game” test each couple of seasons.

As for the commentator who was in the dark on this one a quick look at the FIFA Laws of the Game site would enlighten him – and players and managers – there are some nice drawings as well.

The next game brought a stern statement from the colour commentator that he did not understand the need for the present interpretation of the offside law – what was wrong with the old way? As far as he was concerned a player in an offside position was just that, end of story.

It was the kind of simplistic notion we have heard many times. You get the feeling if you started providing specific examples of such a strict interpretation you would start have exceptions thrown back at you very quickly.

However, that was not the bit that got my back up. His partner picked up on comments and used the Everton goal against Arsenal as an example of how bad the new offside rule is.

Allowing the Everton goal had nothing to do with the application of the “new” offside rule but was based on whether the Arsenal player had control of the ball or not when it was knocked to Saha. The issue of control, pass-back or deflection is clearly a separate issue in respect to an offside call or not.

If the commentator went along with his friend in the booth then surely an intentional pass-back would not play a forward onside.

You can get updates through RSS (top of the page), follow at Twitter BobbySoccerRep, or on Facebook

16 responses to “Offside – It Makes Commentators Heads Hurt So Much”

  1. Derek Taylor says:

    Insert reverse Andy Gray joke here.

  2. Theo van Arshavregas says:

    ” … the commentator who was in the dark …” was none other than Ian Darke. Brilliant pun Bobby.

  3. Theo van Arshavregas says:

    Maybe the offending commentator(s) are too old? But that would be ageism …

  4. Seun says:

    His partner Mcmanaman didnt even help matters…Remember him talkin about Wolves getin a penalty in d first half. football analysis sure surpasses getin a license to speak on TV. Constant research is inevitable. Poor ESPN

  5. Theo van Arshavregas says:


    I hear that your boys got a point today despite a sending off. Didn’t see it though as I was in the midsts of heavy snoozing. Have you seen Gus?

  6. Theo van Arshavregas says:

    There was a goal disallowed today (incorrectly) in the Bolton v Everton game. It looked like the referee called the ball over the end line when the assistant obviously had the better angle for the call. It looks like some officials don’t know the laws of the game on this one either. The entire ball has to cross the entire line to be called a goal or to be called out of play. At the very least, the referee should have consulted with the assistant on a potentially game defining call. No consultation was made. And play was encouraged to resume in a rush. Another shout for instant replay/goal line technology perhaps?

  7. Theo van Arshavregas says:

    Just catching a UCL preview show and got a quick glimpse of some Potato Men. I submit that the Spuds are the most unsightly side left in the competition. With the likes of Bale (and his obvious simian similarities), Modric, and Crouch these mugs aren’t likely to win many beauty contests and could scare Milan into submission a la Madusa without even playing due to injuries. Just stare at Milan from the bench. Absolute stone wall gargoyles this bunch.


    i would say it was a fair result.QPR might have thought they should have got all 3.they beat Camp but was headed off the line by Chambers.happy for the point although all the teams below won so dropped to 4th still have games in hand.

    that was a great chip shot from D you think the Gijon goaltender should have been closer to the line?Pique had a tough game has he been better this season?

    UEL match Napoli/Villareal should be fun.

    No GUS writings since yesterday afternoon.should be happy Meireles only had the flu.

  9. Theo van Arshavregas says:

    Yeah, I thought it was unnecessary for the Gijon keeper to be so far out. Cutting down the angle is one thing but he went on an excursion (or walkabout).

    Piqué is coming back from a mild injury but didn’t look too bad. Milito was slow to cover on Barral’s goal. Puyol or Abidal would have covered that one. Sadly, I don’t think Milito has it any more after his injury and won’t get playing time at Barça. There’s no way he will play v Arsenal. Pep will play Abidal and even move Busquets there before playing Milito in a big match. You do know Pique was on the FIFA XI don’t you? He’s FCB best CB.

    Off to catch the Evil Empire (Real) now.

  10. GO FOREST YOU REDS says:

    yeah i know Pique is a stud that is why i said he looked off his game.

    was the red card deserved on Cassillas?

  11. GO FOREST YOU REDS says:

    WOW if you get a chance take a look at the Eto’o miss in the 89th minute would have is a toss up with Theo’s might be worse because Inter lost and AFC was not going to lose because of Theo’s miss.

  12. Theo van Arshavregas says:

    Yeah Iker deserved the red. I didn’t catch any of the I-talian game.

    Espanyol showed how not to take advantage of being one man up at home for 90′. Absolutely diabolical and pathetic. They could not string a pass together when, and where, it really mattered. They didn’t do any favours for their cross town neighbours. Opportunity lost.

  13. Pete says:

    Theo, I see it at all levels, the ball never being completely over the line. Very frustrasting! One throw in can change the game and in this case that you mentioned, Holden was denied a nice goal. Remember early in the World Cup this summer, big name footy player / ESPN commentator was on about the offside Call being missed only to have Martin Tyler politely say otherwise. They came back from break only to have him change his tune. Must have gone over the rule for him during the break.

  14. A ball being called out when all of the ball is not is an ongoing problem. It looks to me that many referee’s assistants call the ball out when they see grass.

  15. refan says:

    Would the extra goal line official (as per Europa League) have made a difference to Bolton one wonders?

  16. John Bladen says:

    Most sports are suffering with respect to officiating these days. Football is no different. Many fans want to blame the officials, but frankly, I think it has more to do with the ever increasing pace of the game. Players, training methods, equipment, even pitches are far faster/better than they were even a decade ago. Games like Wolves v Liverpool a few weeks ago (played on a pasture like surface) are now heavily in the exception category. Most elite leagues play week in and week out on pitches that players from the 80’s could only dream of for most of the year.

    Of course, the corollary to this is that with modern media coverage, we now see better, closer and more numerous angles of every play, together with multiple replays in all manner of slow/stop motion. Maybe we just see more than we used to? Maybe these types of errors have always occurred, but weren’t as well covered? I watched a dvd of the ’66 WC final the other day. For those wondering, Geoff Hurst’s infamous goal for England still didn’t go in…

    Does anyone else find it odd that when a goalkeeper or ref gets a play wrong there is much hand wringing and wailing. Yet when a multimillion pound striker standing on the edge of the six yard box launches a dead tap-in some 30′ over the bar it’s accepted as ‘just one of those things’.

    Why is failure understandable for some, but not others?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

House Rules

Please refrain from posting comments that;

  • Attempt to demean, intimidate or bully fellow readers
  • Are racist, sexist, homophobic, sexually explicit, intolerant or otherwise abusive
  • Includes language likely to offend or attempts to try and circumvent this request
  • Could be considered spam

The House reserves the right to delete any such comments and to block further participation on the site.

Soccer Report Extra
© copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
Designed and Developed by:
Bills'eye + Underscorefunk Design