Daylight? Margin of error? How do you solve VAR and offside?


Ollie Watkins' goal was disallowed
Ollie Watkins’ injury-time equaliser was disallowed for offside

Aston Villa were left to lament what might have been on Monday after Ollie Watkins’ injury-time goal was disallowed by the video assistant referee in their 2-1 defeat by West Ham.

His upper arm was fractionally offside before he scored – but a replay showed it was because he was trying to get away from Angelo Ogbonna, who was holding him.

It took about two and a half minutes for the goal to be disallowed, while the referees’ body later said it was not a penalty because the foul was not a clear and obvious error.

But how, mid-season, can you solve the VAR/offside problem? Thicker lines? Assistant referee’s call? Scrap it altogether?

Here, managers, pundits and fans have their say…

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BBC Sport’s live text commentary seemed to get to the heart of the problem

Speed is of the essence

Villa boss Dean Smith said his side should have had a penalty if Watkins’ goal was not going to count. He also did not understand why his arm was used to gauge offside.

Because the upper arm can be used to score a goal, the portion of the arm that would be under a T-shirt sleeve is used to work out offsides.

Smith told BBC Sport: “I still don’t understand that disallowed goal – you can’t put it in with your arm but they know the laws better than me.

“If it’s offside I’m OK with that, but then it’s a penalty. The only reason he’s going to be offside is because he’s getting fouled, so it’s a penalty.”

West Ham boss David Moyes told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I don’t mind the lines [when looking at an offside]. I think the late flag we are seeing when the official knows it’s an offside decision, I think that is ruining the game completely. For me that is as bad a rule as any of the others.”

He added to Sky Sports: “We want them to get it right but we want it a bit quicker. I don’t know why it took so long. I had one quick glance and it looked offside.”

West Ham midfielder Declan Rice added: “There needs to be a change but I don’t think they’ll change it mid-season.”

The goal was disallowed after almost three minutes
The goal was disallowed after almost three minutes

Margin of error? Create the line from the foot? What the pundits think

BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Matt Upson, a former West Ham defender, said: “My problem with this is that the offside rule is taking away far more than it gives.

“I think everyone would be in agreement with that and when you analyse it that way you think well let’s change it then – so let’s just put a buffer in there, a margin of error, because all these incidents, players can’t gauge that detail in real time with their eyesight – it’s impossible.”

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville thinks there needs to be a fixed point for offsides, and not the current ‘armpit’ (T-shirt line) rule.

“Offside has always been about inches or a toe. Going from the armpit, there can be a clearer rule – whether it’s daylight, whatever it is. There can be something to make it clearer,” he said.

“I don’t like the point of the arm, the end of the shirt. It should be a point that’s always there. If the point was always the furthest foot away, that’s consistent.

“It’s not technology causing problems. I would like accuracy and consistency in decisions. We have that. The problem is the fans hate it.

“The handball rule is a nonsense. The offside rule with the arm is a nonsense. They need changing. At that point VAR becomes more acceptable.”

Neville’s Sky Sports colleague Jamie Carragher said officials were so consumed with checking for offside they did not even check for a foul.

“This was brought in to help referees,” he said. “In some ways VAR has exposed them. They’re having a second look. They’re so obsessed with something, whether it’s the pressure, they’re so obsessed with looking for that offside, they missed the foul.”

‘Make thicker lines’ – your thoughts

Nick Milne: In any dead ball situation, the tip of the toe is the marker for rule. Offside should be the same. If your feet are onside, all is good

Anthony Vaughan: Is it just me that thinks there’s a simple solution to the current rubbish offside rule? Instead of some of you being offside, all of you has to be.

Andy Rutherford: The trouble with Matthew Upson’s suggestion of having a buffer zone for offside is that you have to define the size of that buffer zone, and sooner or later someone will stray offside right on that buffer line, then you’re back to square one.

Ben Peterson: I understand that the Dutch Eredivisie now allows a margin of error by drawing the lines thicker and if they touch it just goes with the linesman. That seems sensible?

Hamish Williams: What VAR needs on offsides is an umpire’s (linesperson’s) call – like in cricket. The linesman/woman makes a call on offside or not and VAR has 30-60 seconds to overturn it if it’s clearly wrong. If it’s close, stick with the on-field call.

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