Offside Rule

There are two distinct ways to demonstrate whether a player is in line with the last defender or not by VAR. The difference between the two is that one is using the ‘Gridline’ and the other uses ‘crosshair’ lines. The gridline is a single line used to show that a player is in a ‘clear’ offside position.

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But here’s where it gets tricky. The ‘crosshair’ uses two lines, one for the last defender and one for the attacker. They line up with any part of their body that they can score with.

The ‘crosshair’ lines were used in the offside decision against Sadio Mane, ruling out Jordan Henderson’s goal. Although at a glance it looks like Mane is onside, VAR judged some part of his elbow or shoulder to be offside. As per rules, if the body part is deemed to be capable of scoring a goal by VAR, which it seems to be in this case – it’s judged as offside.

In this case, the application of the rule is correct, but if there should be a rule that reduces football to millimetres and fractions is another matter. And surely even if Mane was able to score using his arm, would that not be disallowed according to the handball rules. So, is this part of the rule valid, if it counts a part of his body which he cannot score a goal with legally?

Does VAR implement the rules correctly?

Image credit: Eurosport

Handball Rules

Joel Ward conceded a penalty against Everton - in a 2-1 loss for his Crystal Palace side - after the ball hit his arm. The new handball rules do not consider intent by the player and so any justification he may have for not intending to contact the ball with his hand is nullified.

It seems like the extension of Ward’s arm, in this case, is the reason a penalty was awarded. Just after this incident, the rules were changed, and new interpretations were introduced. Under the new emphasis on ‘expected’ position of the arm, Everton would not have been awarded the penalty.

This is because the new rules state that the position of the arm - if in its ‘expected’ position due to a player’s action (e.g turning) - should not be penalised if struck by the ball. Ward looks like he’s turning towards the direction of where he expected the ball to land after Lucas Digne directed his header downwards.

Although by the old interpretation of this rule, this was applied correctly, it would no longer be penalised under the ever-evolving rules. The new rules state that consideration will be given to factors like if the arm is used for a player’s balance and is outside the ‘bodyline’ then it will be less likely to be penalised.

Does VAR implement the rules correctly?

Image credit: Eurosport

Referee Review Area (RRA)

The FA on Monday announced that it will take no retrospective action against Jordan Pickford after his foul on Virgil Van Dijk, which sees the Dutch defender ruled out with an ACL injury.

Directly after Pickford’s two-footed tackle into Van Dijk, an offside decision was reviewed by VAR. At first, it was suggested that Van Dijk was offside prior to the challenge and so it ruled out any potential foul, but it since seems to have been the case that the foul wasn’t checked by VAR at all as it was a subjective decision.

Pitch-side monitors also known as the Referee Review Area (RAA) have been sparingly used to minimise the number of stoppages in games. Match officials always have the option to use their monitors at the advice of VAR or not and ‘where there is a serious missed incident, they should use the RRA to assist with the final decision’. In this case, VAR and the on-pitch referee both failed to make use of replays at Stockley Park and in the RRA, to award a potential red card.

Does VAR implement the rules correctly?

Image credit: Eurosport

VAR rules are shrouded in jargon that creates confusion and in-game decisions lack transparency. How do the officials at Stockley Park and on the pitch arrive at their decisions? Some people have suggested that football officials should use microphones, so discussions are clear to hear, similar to their use in other sports like rugby and cricket.

A lot of the frustration from fans and clubs alike towards VAR is that it makes a science out of football. The collective aim of VAR is to provide the on-field referee with the support they need to make correct decisions. Some of the rules are being applied correctly and some not so much. Revisions of existing rules also beg the question if some of them even make sense.

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