Premier League changes offside guidance after outcry at Silva's goal

Premier League referees have been given another round of guidance on how to interpret one of football’s most controversial laws, following an outcry over a player winning the ball while apparently offside.

Changes are to be made following the buildup to Bernardo Silva’s opening goal for Manchester City against Aston Villa last week. The alterations again bring into focus the disparity between the laws of the game, the spirit in which people want the game to be played, and how VAR interprets them both.

The move that led to the Silva goal began with Manchester City’s Rodri winning possession from Villa’s Tyrone Mings after running back from an offside position. Rodri was not adjudged to be offside however, because Mings had intercepted a City pass and controlled it on his chest – in official language “deliberately playing the ball”. The referee Jon Moss awarded a goal and VAR agreed.

Under the letter of the law Moss’s decision was correct but it provoked a strong reaction from fans and viewers who felt Rodri’s challenge had not been fair on the blindsided Mings.

Now the Professional Game Match Officials Board has instructed its officials to call for offside should similar situations arise.

According to the new guidance: “Where a player in an offside position immediately impacts on an opponent who has deliberately played the ball, the match officials should prioritise challenging an opponent for the ball, and thus the offside offence of ‘interfering with an opponent by impacting on the opponent’s ability to play the ball’ should be penalised.”

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In a further complication, this ruling would not apply if Rodri had not challenged Mings but the ball had bounced off the Villa player and into the Spaniard’s path. A similar situation led to Villa scoring their first goal against Newcastle on Saturday, after Fabian Schär inadvertently played the ball to an offside Ollie Watkins.

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The guidance follows an update to referees earlier in the season when officials were instructed to be more lenient in handball decisions. They were encouraged to take into account not only whether a player’s hand position was “unnatural” but whether it could have been “expected” in context of the player’s general movement.

The offside and handball laws were updated for this season by the rule-making International Football Association Board. Although the changes were officially justified as an attempt to “foster the spirit of attacking play”, many observers felt more detailed rules were a response to more minute scrutiny of contentious decisions allowed by video technology.


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