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Old 6th August 2015, 12:27   #1
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Default Offside ref! New rule cracks down on interfering-with-play loophole

Offside ref! New rule cracks down on interfering-with-play loophole

Flurry of complaints leads to referees being able to disallow goals and penalise players for being offside even if they have not touched the ball

By Jeremy Wilson
10:30PM BST 05 Aug 2015

Premier League referees will follow new guidance this season that will allow them to disallow a goal and penalise a player for being offside even if they have not touched the ball.

The previous rule effectively only allowed referees to act when an offside player actually touched the ball but this has been tweaked by the International Football Association Board following numerous complaints by both managers and players.

They argued that a player could clearly be interfering even if they had not touched the ball, for example (see below) when Juan Mata scored a free-kick against Stoke City last season despite Marcos Rojo missing with an attempted header after starting his run from an offside position.

The goalkeeper was distracted by Rojo's act of jumping and trying to head the ball, and Mata's free-kick, a cross, carried on into the net.

The rule change is designed to prevent players from distracting defenders or goalkeepers from an offside position in the knowledge that they will almost certainly not be penalised unless they touch the ball.

The new “additional guidance” to referees says that a player should be considered offside if he “clearly attempts to play a ball, which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent” or “makes an obvious action, which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball”.

It introduces a degree of subjectivity as to the intention of the player concerned but Mike Riley, the manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, said that the referees would still encourage attacking play.

“It allows those decisions where morally we all thought, ‘That should be offside’, to be penalised,” he said. “It’s important to say it doesn’t mean everything is offside. Unless you meet those specific criteria we will still keep the flag down.”

Riley also revealed that the overall performance of Premier League referees last season was statistically down on 2013-14, although marginally better than 2012-13.

“If you look at last season, I think we got off to a good start, there was a middle part where we didn’t do as well as we should have done and made some errors,” he said.

“Just like a team, you try to analyse your performance, we regrouped and I think we finished the season stronger.

“It is small margins at elite level that makes a difference. We made 20 more errors last season than the season before over the 380 games.

“The accuracy rate last year [2014-15] was 94.2 per cent. If you compare that to the season before [2013-14], which was 95.1 per cent, it dropped. It was 94.1 per cent the previous season [2012-13].

“You look at the complexity of the decisions as well. There were more difficult decisions last season than the season before. The actual complexity of the decision went up 20 per cent. That’s players getting better on the offside line, players getting better in the penalty area. The challenge goes up year by year. Like players, we have to keep moving with the game.”
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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