Wenger’s offside law change ‘impossible’ for next season says IFAB chief

Lukas Brud, the boss of the International Football Association Board (the IFAB), has told ESPN it is “impossible” for Arsene Wenger’s proposed overhaul of offside to be introduced into the Laws of the Game for next season.

Wenger, who managed Arsenal to three Premier League titles during his 22-year spell at the club and is now FIFA’s chief of global football development, wants a player to be deemed onside if any part of their body which can legitimately score a goal is level or behind the last defender.

It was suggested that the IFAB, football’s lawmakers, would vote on the proposal at its Annual General Meeting in Belfast on Feb. 29, to become law on June 1 and used at Euro 2020, but general secretary Brud told ESPN that the idea has not yet even been discussed at a technical level. There will be no change to the offside law for next season.

“It is not up for approval to come into the Laws of the Game,” Brud told ESPN. “We have a very strict procedure that we introduced a few years ago that any proposal has to be submitted usually on or before Nov. 1 of the previous year in order for us to be able to discuss a proposal in detail with the relevant bodies, such as our Advisory Panels — the Football and the Technical. The Board of Directors then takes a decision on which proposals go forward to the AGM for approval.

“I’m not judging the proposal, it might be a good one, but this is not up for approval or for a vote as a concrete proposal to go into the Laws of the Game, it’s impossible.

“The meeting is also to discuss football and some ideas, and the AGM could say ok, this might be something we want to discuss further, or give it to the [advisory] panels to get their point of view and maybe do some trialling. But it won’t be used at the Euro as reported by some media. Nothing can be used without being in the Laws of the Game, and it definitely will not be in the Laws of the Game next season.

“Arsene Wenger is a highly knowledgeable and experienced football expert, so we certainly welcome his ideas, but we haven’t discussed it yet and we simply cannot approve anything that was not discussed on any level so far.”

It would flip the law that states any player is in an offside position if any part of their body they can score with is beyond the line of the last defender. It would have significant implications for the game as a whole, not just in leagues with VAR where the debate about offside has been heated.

“You will be not offside if any part of the body that can score a goal is in line with the last defender, even if other parts of the attacker’s body are in front,” Wenger told reporters. “That will sort it out and you will no longer have decisions about millimetres and a fraction of the attacker being in front of the defensive line.”

Brud also told ESPN that there is no proposal on the agenda to introduce a margin of error to tight offside decisions. It emerged earlier this month that the Premier League planned to request permission to add a 10cm leeway to offside with VAR.

“It’s something we will be discussing, but not as a concrete proposal to go forward on the agenda,” Brud added. “We need to find a solution for the lack of acceptance for taking decisions that are very accurate, even if they seem to be too forensic. But margin of error suggests you give a specific distance — what if it’s 11cm instead of 10cm?

“We need to go away from margin of error, we need to find an instruction or an understanding of how to apply the offside law with VAR. If the evidence is unclear, and you can usually quickly see if something is clearly offside or not, then the original decision stands.

“We generally do not see this being a global issue in other countries so it’s very difficult to constantly react on the offside issue. If the video footage clearly shows that the player was in an offside position, and the referee has not given offside, the decision should change.

“But you need the lines for a very simple reason. The cameras are not static, the picture that you are taking is not always in line with the angle of the offside. We know from goal-line technology that when the ball is on the line [in the air] it looks like the ball has crossed the line. When you look at it from above, the ball is still on the line. We have the same problem here.

“They [VARs] use tools to manually lay a line that is calibrated that is actually showing the truth, and not video footage alone. With video footage alone you cannot take the decision. The tool is helping the referee to make accurate decisions. This for me is the reference point, this for me is the final decision, full stop. With margin of error, where does it start and where does it end?”

“The levels of calibration and levels of accuracy have vastly improved from where it was a few years ago. We need to look into this, and we are constantly looking into this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we’re ignoring what the Premier League or UEFA is saying, but there are various things that play a role in this debate. ”

Wenger later clarified his comments, saying: “I referred to prospective ways of potentially improving the offside rule and I mentioned one of the possibilities that might be worth thinking about.

“My objective, as well as FIFA’s, is to continuously think about ways to improve our game and we shouldn’t be afraid to debate them in public, but I am well aware that any rules changes are subject to a standard approval process, which include discussions with stakeholders and potential test phases, within the scope of the established IFAB framework.”

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