Hidden amongst the countless column inches covering the current obsession with soccer sleaze earlier this week, was an article in the hockey section of a top national newspaper suggesting that FIFA were giving serious thought to scrapping the offside rule.
"Whatever next?" I hear you say. Has Sepp Blatter finally completely flipped his lid?
He apparently held talks with a leading hockey administrator in Zurich a few weeks ago to sound him out on the process his sport went through over a ten-year period before finally dumping it altogether in 1998.
The general opinion is that, despite a somewhat difficult transition, hockey has benefitted from the change.
Would football be better off also doing away with a rule that has been tinkered with almost continually over the past few years and has regularly caused enormous consternation?
As in all controversial aspects of our national game there are strong arguments on both sides.The advocates of the rule will tell you that scrapping it would encourage 'goalhanging'; a dying art still evident in school playground kickabouts where the lazy, glory hunter will lurk, armpits dry, within spitting distance of the goal at all times and provide the coup de grace after the rest of the team have worked their socks off to get the ball to him.
They will also say (and I am thinking here particularly of the Arsenal back four comprising Adams, Keown, Dixon and Winterburn ) that the art of moving out as a unit to catch the unwary forward offside will be lost forever. Hurrah for that I would say!
But I have the mindset of an attacker and can see little or no entertainment or purpose in such negativity.
Fitness would, of course, be an issue in that defenders would no longer be able to confine the opposition into their own half but would have to defend over a far larger area and would be less able to cover for their fellow defenders.
It would almost certainly mean that man to man marking would be a necessity and weaker players would be ruthlessly exposed by a superior opponent.
So the better team benefits, what’s wrong with that?
It would take a huge responsibility from the shoulders of the linesman who would no longer have to make a split second decision as to the exact position of two opposing players crossing at combined speeds of around 30 mph when the ball is played.
Sometimes even slow motion replays fail to give a definitive answer to this.The game would be opened up to larger areas of the pitch at one time instead of compressing it. This would make it more entertaining for the spectators, encourage more flair and individuality and provide more goal scoring opportunities.
We wouldn't have to endure the interminable debates as to whether a player was 'active' or whether his little finger was just in front of a defender when the ball was played.
There are other more subtle advantages that would surface once some sort of trial period was underway. For example, if marking became almost exclusively man to man, the dribbler would come more into his own, knowing that once he was round his man the way could be clear.
If the fitness of players was an initial concern, bearing in mind the extra distances they may be required to cover, perhaps a compromise would be to reduce the pitch size accordingly and try it out in one of the minor leagues for a season or two.
All this is futile conjecture, of course, as I think we all know, in our heart of hearts, that it ain't gonna happen as long as SB has got a hole in his you know what.
Which will be a great relief to Tony Adams et al and the half-time football pundits who would be robbed of a large percentage of their bullshit potential if offside disappeared off the radar.
Anyway, I apologise for this unwanted diversion. Next week we'll get back to the sleaze!
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