VAR application of offside to be reconsidered

Handball rule
Getty Images

According to multiple reports, including The Times, the keepers of the laws of the game are gearing up to reconsider VAR’s role in reviewing offside decisions to avoid hairpin decisions.

As currently implemented, VAR can overturn all incorrect offside decisions, using the VAR official to set the frame of reference when the pass is delivered, and Hawkeye technology determines the status of the decision.

The Times report states that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) will consider expanding the “clear and obvious” mantra to include VAR decisions, leaving only blatantly incorrect decisions to review and allowing tight decisions to the on-field ruling.

Recently, some incredibly tight decisions have been overturned by VAR to rule out goals, leading critics to claim the millimeter margins are not within the spirit of the rule. Most notably, Gabriel Jesus had a goal ruled out in Manchester City’s season-opening win over West Ham for a marginal decision that saw the on-field official keep his flag down only to be overturned by VAR as Hawkeye showed his shoulder offside by inches. There were also several similar moments during the Women’s World Cup this summer, which prompted Chairman of FIFA’s Refereeing Committee Pierluigi Collina to compare offside decisions to goal line technology, with both review systems based on black & white outcomes and no margin for debate.

Still, the decisions are by rule correct and proponents of VAR state that the rule must be supported by available technology to the best of our ability. Instead of amending the offside rule to fit a new age that features pinpoint technology, IFAB has reportedly decided to scale back VAR.

No final decision has been made on changing VAR’s usage yet, and should that step be taken it would be decided in March and implemented into the laws of the game next summer per IFAB’s typical timeline for rule changes.