The offside rule in football ( How is offside determined in Soccer?)
is the source of a large amount of goal-related controvesy, and is
argued by some to diminish the entertainment value of the game.
These are bold statement to make, especially without any references. I could easily reply with "who?" regarding your second statement (about offside rule diminish the entertainment value of the game.
It is also argued that since its abolition from Hockey, that game has
become more entertaining.
This too is a very bold statement; not only it's a bold statement but also a very subjective one. I am not a big fan of hockey and thus I do not utter a word about whether or not the game is better without the offside rule, but even if it did make the game more entertaining there are two logical pitfalls to your statement:
Just because removing offside rule improve the entertainment value of the game in hockey doesn't mean that it would do the same football.
Is the entertainment value of a sport the most important consideration? In other words, does football have a responsibility to be entertaining to the crowds?
I think it's very important to think about these two points. First of all no two sport are alike to the degree that one can argue a rule change in one would make sense in the other.
Secondly I strongly disagree to the point of sports being an entertainment. I have to say it's a rather unfortunate attitude bred by North American leagues (NFL,NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS...) There are many important benefits of commercialized teams, but essentially the sportsmanship is dying with that attitude.
The point with sports should not be about more goals, more TV deals, better ratings... The point with sports is fair play, sportsmanship, athleticism and morals.. all these icky sticky vague concepts that are hard to explain in words.
To come back to the original question; offside rule makes sense, albeit being very encumbered and somewhat hard to understand. It essentially says; ... to score a fair goal, you have to work hard, run faster or outsmart your opponent being in an advantageous spot (by being lazy or blatantly lucky) is not "sportsmanly" (not sure if that word exists in English).
And as a football enthusiast that has played way too many unofficial games/tournaments, I second that. I despise lazy players that stand in front of the goal waiting for the ball to come over to them so they can take a shot from 2m distance to the goal, while the other players are pushing themselves hard to play the game the right way.
So, what are its origins, and why have all calls to scrap it been
Wikipedia has an interesting article on the history of offside rule, which mentions among other things, that the offside rule is very old (19th century) and that it used to be much more strict than what it is today. What was once "4-opponents" has become "3-opponents" and finally "2-opponents" successively. There aren't many references in the article however, which kills the impact of the article.
Probably the best source on the matter however is FIFA. Here's an excerpt from FIFA.com explaining the original offside rule, which was much similar to what I believe off-side rule is like in rugby:
Original offside rule
The offside rule formed part of the original
rules in 1863 but it was a far remove from the law as we know it
today. Any attacking player ahead of the ball was deemed to be offside
- meaning early tactical systems featured as many as eight forwards, as the only means of advancing the ball was by dribbling or
scrimmaging as in rugby. In the late 1860s, the FA made the momentous
decision to adopt the three-player rule, where an attacker would be
called offside if positioned in front of the third-last defender. Now
the passing game could develop.
Despite the unification of the rules and the creation of the FA in
1863, disputes, largely involving Sheffield clubs who had announced
their own set of ideas in 1857, persisted into the late 1870s.
However, the creation of the International Football Association Board
(IFAB) finally put an end to all arguments. Made up of two
representatives from each of the four associations of the United
Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland), the IFAB met for the
first time on 2 June 1886 to guard the Laws of the Game. Then, as
today, a three-quarters majority was needed for a proposal to be