It wouldn’t be the weekend without another uproar over a (supposedly) missed offside call. So the head of the organization that oversees officiating for the English Premiere League, Keith Hackett, penned an article in support of offside and why the recent refinements requiring active play have made a positive impact on the beautiful game. His view is that the recent clarifications have made offside easier to understand, not harder, so he uses an animal metaphor:

To be clear, the definition, in the laws, is this: in deciding whether to flag, assistants must watch out for three things, any one of which would make an offside player active.

First, is the offside player interfering with play? As advised by the IFAB since 2005, that means playing or touching the ball. Attempting to play the ball does not count – he must actually play or touch it.

Second, is the player interfering with an opponent’s ability to play the ball, by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements, or by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent?

And third, is the player ‘gaining an advantage’? This last point is specific, and is not what Match of the Day seem to think it is. It applies only to an offside player playing a ball that rebounds to him from an opponent, the post or the crossbar. If he does not play the ball from the rebound, then he is not penalised for being in that offside position. Nothing else counts as ‘gaining’.

And that’s it. If a player ticks any one of those three boxes, he is offside. The three-part definition is remembered as ‘PIG’ – if a player doesn’t Play, Interfere or Gain, he is fine.

It still amazes me how many parents and referees still believe a player in an offside position is always offside if they don’t touch the ball. Keith takes soccer match commentators to task over this as well. He also notes how the new refinements discourage negative play, including something people in youth soccer talk about all the time – the offside trap:

The law is a real positive for the game – the pundits should love it. The active definition helps games flow – there are fewer stoppages for offside now – and it makes negative play far less profitable. No sensible team today uses the arms-aloft offside trap made famous by George Graham’s Arsenal in the 80s and 90s. That trap was totally against the spirit of the offside law – it was never intended as a device for earning cheap free-kicks. The active system means that the offside trap is now a dangerous tactic to use and allows the benefit of the doubt to be always with the attacking team.

An excellent commentary that should be shared far and wide with parents, coaches, and yes, even a few youth referees.