Here are a couple of reference for the background on the topic http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2010/apr/13/the-question-why-is-offside-law-genius and the book ''Inverting the Pyramid'' Chapter 19.

They both talk about the 2005 FIFA amendment to the ofsside rule contributing to stretching the game.

Specifically they imply the following.

  • The amendment means the offside player must touch the ball of block a defender for the referee to call the offside foul.
  • This discourages the team from playing high offside line and "stretches the playing area from 35-40m to 55-60m"(from the book) and avoids "goal hanging" "without the side-effect of legitimising the offside trap"(from the link)

I don't get that second bullet. Yes the foul is not called until the attacker goes and touched the ball, but how is that going to stop the defenders from applying the offside trap? A team would still play a high defensive line and make sure the target of the long pass is offside. All that changes now is that a foul is not called, but the attacker is still out of the play because he was offside. So why would any team be discouraged from using the offside trap?

  • I haven't voted to close, but I'm a little cautious. Asking for feedback on opinion pieces is likely to lead to primarily opinion-based answers. Nov 16, 2014 at 23:01
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    @studro In the past, users of Sports SE have wanted more subjective questions...and this appears to fit in line with that movement.
    – user527
    Nov 17, 2014 at 14:20
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    Thanks @edmastermind29 for the support. Please let me know if I could improve the question in any way.
    – Spundun
    Nov 17, 2014 at 21:19
  • @edmastermind29 Personally I have no problem with this question. I just know that in the past when I have asked questions that aren't even as subjective as this one, I've copped a flood of downvotes and had the question auto-deleted - which is why I was a bit unsure about this question. As long as we're consistently allowing subjective questions, I think that's important. Nov 17, 2014 at 22:26
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    @studro I understand (and have seen) where you are coming from. I should note that the meta post I refer is from early 2013...and the common group of users have changed since then, so attitudes may have changed. It comes down to how the community votes and receives questions (whether that's fair or not is not my call, but you've been on the short-end of that also). Unfortunately, it starts with one downvote or unfavorable comment that attracts the "flood" you mention.
    – user527
    Nov 17, 2014 at 22:31

2 Answers 2


I think this article is a bit of a stretch.

As correctly mentioned in the article, only players who play/touch the ball, or touch/block the line of sight of an opponent are now punished for being in an offside position.

This primarily prevents play being stopped because an irrelevant attacker is slow getting back onside, or an attacker on the opposite side is offside nowhere near the ball.

However, it doesn't stop players using the offside trap. What it does mean though, that all players running through need to be tracked by the defence, instead of the defenders stopping running and lazily throwing the hand up and expecting the irrelevant player to be called for offside.

If there are no runners coming through, or the pass goes to one of the trapped players, the trap is still very easy and doesn't require the defence to quickly pick up onside players after stepping up.

In this video, one year after the 2005 change, you can see the Dutch national team still effectively apply an offside trap. All five runners are trapped and two of them end up playing it and an offside offence is called. This would have still worked higher up the field, not just in the penalty area (provided other attackers running through were tracked by the defence).

  • Thanks for the answer, I had not considered the case of "irrelevant player to be called for offside."
    – Spundun
    Nov 17, 2014 at 21:21

Consider this situation:

An attacking forward is even with the second-last defender. Another attacking player, in the same general area as the forward, is several steps behind (onside, not offside) the second-last defender, and is running forward. The attacking team is about to play the ball forward.

Prior to the 2005 rule change: The second-last defender steps up, putting the attacking forward in an offside position. When the attacking team plays the ball forward, the offside offense is called.

After the 2005 rule change: If the second-last defender steps up, putting the attacking forward in an offside position just as the attacking team plays the ball forward, the attacking forward will choose not to interfere with the play. Offside will not be called. Play continues, with the second attacking player continuing to run forward (presumably to the ball). He now has a great attacking opportunity since the ball has already been played forward for him, and the second-last defender is one step further away from the goal, and moving in the wrong direction. Therefore, in this situation, the second-last defender will not step up to force the attacking forward into an offside position.

Since the second-last defender will not step up to force a player into an offside position in this situation, and since the attacking team can create this situation fairly easily, the defense does not have much incentive to play a high defensive line.

  • A downvote with no comment? Very helpful for the community.
    – Tim Rooks
    Jun 22, 2016 at 14:20
  • Not a bad answer at all. But maybe you could improve the quality of the answer by giving the players you are referring to some sort of nomenclature (eg: Player A, Player B, etc) to make the answer more clear and easy to understand. Jun 23, 2016 at 7:37

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