Offside: In the future, a goal counts if a part of the body is in line

For now it is only an experimental phase in the Under 18 championship, but if it were to be evaluated as an improvement, the rule could come into force after a year

Fabio Licari

February 7th
– Milan

Is it right to cancel Lautaro’s goal in the derby? According to the rules in force, yes. A segment of the Argentine’s forehead was closer to the AC Milan goal line than Thiaw’s foot. A centimetre, perhaps a little more, but the rules cannot be left to discretion or even approximation: even if the attacker were a fraction ahead of the “penultimate defender”, the linesman could only wave the flag (and the Var photograph the irregular location). In the future, however, the same goal could be regular. It could, it doesn’t necessarily happen. Fifa is studying the effects of a possible revolutionary change. The experimentation will also take place in Italy, in the Under 18 federal championship. It begins this weekend, by chance, a few days after Lautaro’s goal, in the Inter-Milan derby for young players.

new rule

In play if at least one part of the body is in a regular position

Offside has changed over the years: active and passive, “light”, in line, three defenders, two defenders, many different formulas. Question of political vision. The document to which Gianni Infantino is inspiring the Fifa presidency, “Vision 2020-23”, explicitly aims to favor the offensive game: an objective that passes (also) from the revision of the offside. As? Considering in play an attacker who has at least one part of the body in a regular position. Exactly the opposite of today’s rule which provides for the offside when at least one part of the body is in an irregular position. By “part of the body” we naturally mean the one good for scoring: head, torso, legs, feet, certainly not hands and arms.

The Lautaro case

There is no “light” with Thiaw. But more than one part of the body is in regular position

The Lautaro case helps to understand better. The Inter player was offside on Sunday because his forehead was beyond the foot of the AC Milan player Thiaw with respect to Tatarusanu’s goal line. The image processed by the software of the semi-automatic offside left no room for doubt. If, on the other hand, hypothetically, it had been played in the Under 18 championship, it would have been a goal: because at least one “active” part of Lautaro’s body, that is, which can score, was in a regular position. To say that there must be a “light” is technically inaccurate because the entire figure of the attacker should be beyond: Lautaro and Thiaw are practically superimposable, there is almost no space between the two, but it would be the same goal.

FIFA studio

Started in 2021 to understand if the novelty can improve the game

The feasibility study began in 2021. Fifa is in no hurry: it doesn’t want to get carried away by a chase for a goal at all costs. The objective of the experimentation is to understand what the impact can be on the attitude of the teams and if this modification can push towards a more offensive or in any case better game. Suffice it to say that, more or less in the same period, Fifa had begun to develop the “semi-automatic” offside technology which has already become a reality, and is close to the “full-automated” which will signal the position directly to the referee, saving valuable time. The new rule is therefore not a priority, even if Infantino’s words should be remembered who underlined how this new offside “could represent the third revolution after its birth in 1866, with three players between the forward and the goalkeeper, and the 1925 modification with two defenders”. Fifa had a statistic: with the new rule, half of the goals disallowed in the Premier League would have been validated.

Under 18 Championship

We start this week in the second round with… Inter-Milan

It therefore begins on 12 February with the start of the second leg of the Under 18 championship, organized by the Figc Youth Sector. Established in 2017 with the aim of creating an intermediate level between the Primavera championship and the Under 17 championship, it is organized with 21 teams divided into two groups. Spal is the reigning champion. Federal President Gabriele Gravina recalls: “Innovation is in our DNA”. And the president of the Youth Sector Vito Roberto Tisci underlines: “Fifa has recognized our championship as suitable for experimentation both for the technical aspects and for the intensity of the game. A recognition of the work of the FIGC for the growth of youth competitions, together with the club”. The funny thing is that the first day in which the new rule will be tested includes the Inter-Milan derby for young players.

The experimentation

The manager is Trefoloni. The referees are from Can C (and there is no Var)

Italy is not the only country participating in the experimentation but, as always, it is among the most active, like Holland, which is also interested in the tests. The first match with the “official” Var was the Italy-France friendly match in September 2016 in Bari. Matteo Trefoloni, former referee, head of the Technical Sector at The Hague, explains: “The trial provides that a player is no longer considered punishable if any part of the body with which he can score a goal is in line with the penultimate defender.Given the importance of the project and the equipment available, also with a view to greater data collection, the conduct of matches will be entrusted to race directors and assistants of the Can of Serie C”. The experimentation will end at the end of the championship: the results and impressions of the protagonists (players, coaches, referees, assistants) will be communicated to Fifa. Trefoloni again: “What matters are not the more or less goals, but the possible change in attitude of the teams. Wenger (the FIFA football development manager, ed.) told us that the goal is to understand if the news can be useful for football”. In reality, the tests already started last year in some matches, and they showed a general increase in goal chances. But now an entire championship is involved. And naturally there is no Var. Trefoloni: “We worked a lot with the assistants. The clubs were very collaborative”.


At least a year of testing before Fifa evaluates the effects on football

Long times. After the experimentation, Fifa will evaluate the objective data and the polls involving the protagonists. It will take at least a year, but perhaps more, to understand if the modification can be useful. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath.