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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34045

Law 11 - Offside 11/7/2020

RE: Adult

Martin of San Diego, CA USA asks...

2020-2021 offside rule still explicitly stated "arms are not included in offside determinations" (paraphrased). Why then (handball rule changes notwithstanding) do EPL VARs continue to include arms in offside rulings?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Martin
The upper arm around the shoulder that is the T Shirt part can now legally play the ball so that part of the arm is now factored into offside calculations. Any part of the arm that cannot legally play the ball is not included in the calculation.
I had seen a few tight VAR calculation with the requisite lines showing the upper arm below the shoulder being considered yet at the weekend there appeared to be an extended arm decision in the Leeds United v Crystal Palace game where the player pointed to where he wanted the ball played and while he looked clearly onside the lines drawn showed offside. It was shown that as the scorer of the disallowed goal had raised his arm forward that the line was drawn from the upper arm which placed him marginally offside. Had he not pointed he would have been onside. To me that decision was not in the spirit of Law 11 Offside and while technology might show the minutiae of body positioning it is not helping the game
I can see either a VAR or law change coming as frankly those types of situation are untenable and do not fit within what is meant by offside.
To me the easiest way it to remove the lines and focus on a screen view only. If the lines were removed in the Leeds United case it would look clearly onside and the goal would have counted.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Martin,

EPL VARs aren't including arms in offside rulings...though there's a small 'but' to that.

Look at the handball law. Previously the laws provided no direction on where the 'arm' started, but it was generally considered to be the point of the shoulder - where your shirt seam is. For some reason, IFAB in 2020-21 decided to fix something that wasn't broken, thus breaking it - and there's an image in the laws which shows that the upper arm, down to some undefined arbitrary point, is still legal to play. In the image at it looks like 'handball' starts about...2/3 up the upper arm, but it's really unclear.

So, the same point is used for offside, because that's why arms are excluded from offside - it excludes non-playable parts of the body.

I have a suspicion the Bamform goal that was disallowed in the recent Leeds - Crystal Palace match may have motivated your question. It looks like the VAR has attempted to draw the offside line somewhere at that undefined upper arm point. Problem is - this makes positioning of the line quite arbitrary it seems to be about halfway along the upper arm.

The bigger problem there is that the VAR didn't apply this to the defender rather they've drawn the line to the defender's torso (when people have complained about being an 'armpit' offside, the line was actually drawn to the torso - I presumed, because it was easier than trying to judge where the shoulder was as you can't tell if it's just a shirt ballooning out from the shoulder). Had the VAR applied the law the same way to both attacker and defender then either both would be drawn to the torso, or both drawn to upper arm - either way, I honestly cannot see a justification for that goal being disallowed.

So, if VAR is suddenly deciding to try an apply that handball image to offside, that's where the problem lies. They're still excluding the arm - but it's a question of how much arm to exclude. And in doing so, I really think we're straying further and further from the point of the VAR.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Martin,
sadly and this is MY opinion, the VAR is a micro assertion of technology into a more agrarian game. I believe the GAME would be better suited if daylight was required between the torso to be off the side. If there is no way to judge without freeze frame technology what are we to do on close decisions recreationally? The arm distinction based on the upper shoulder area is always difficult due to the curling or concaving of the chest area on a highball and the material on the sleeve of the jersey. I point out that EVEN with guidelines a referee is by nature and demand more consistent from end to end in their match then all referees in all matches making the exact same decision in close calls. At the recreational level unless I am 100% certain the offside IS clear I do not call it. I do not subscribe to the notions well it might result in an iffy goal if I am wrong than stop a good goal or chance because I might be right.
Consistency is WHAT FIFA & IFAB tries to promote and the rationale for their constant tweaking of the LOTG but they lose something of the humanity within the game in the process. Cheers

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Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

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