Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, football’s governing body, may be considering scrapping the offside rule, as hockey did more than a decade ago.

The Swiss held talks with a leading hockey official in Zurich a fortnight ago, with a view to determining what football might do about a rule that splits opinion and could do so again at the World Cup finals in South Africa this summer.

“He asked me a lot of questions about it and how successful it was, although he never offered an opinion, so it was difficult to judge what football might do,” said Leandro Negre, president of the International Hockey Federation. “But he did seem very interested in how we had implemented it.”

The offside rule in hockey was amended in 1987 to apply only to the final 25 yards and was temporarily abolished in 1996 before being done away with altogether two years later.

The result has been that the game has become more exciting and attractive to spectators, with play flowing more freely, fewer whistles and more space created in midfield.

Fifa amended the offside rule in 2003, but referees and their assistants might welcome a rule change that could rid football of many of its debatable decisions.

Barry Davies, the veteran BBC commentator for both sports, has some reservations about football following hockey’s lead. “I would love to see it given a trial in the lower leagues,” he said. “It would probably take a long time for players to adjust.

“It’s also very demanding physically, but I was amazed at how quickly hockey adapted and there’s no doubt the game is better for it. If football adopts anything from hockey, it should be the green warning card where a player is temporarily suspended for two minutes.”