Your Letters & Pictures

Your emails about my article on the Off-Side Law.

I didn’t imagine I’d receive so many emails about my proposal/suggestion. I thought it could be useful to share some of the more significant and interesting in favor or absolutely contrary, with all of you. One thing is for sure. The law, as it is now, is not good anymore!


Hello Gianni,

A similar suggestion was presented to FIFA last year but it was withdrawn before the meeting.
See quote below on this:
“A number of proposals, such as the Football Association of Wales' proposal that a player could only be offside when in the opponents' penalty area, were withdrawn before the meeting”.
A number of leagues all over the world are testing various potential changes to the law of the game on a regular basis.
As a result of the feedback from these leagues FIFA makes decisions on changes to the Laws each year.
I promise to write something in the near future on this article and the one you wrote about technology a few weeks ago.
Best regards,

Ref. Vangelis

C.G.Thanks Ref. Vangelis. I’m happy that I had almost the same idea proposed by a National European Federation. This makes me hope that something could happen for real.


the problem I see with your proposal is when the ball shift quickly (or even slowly) back and forth between the "End Zone" you are creating and the "Off Side Free Zone". All the defenders would need to do to repel the attack would be to kick it over the line, thus forcing all attacking players to instantly rush back over the line. Wouldn't this result in defending teams simply flooding the "End Zone" and wildly kicking the ball "Out" of the area to force the ref to call Off Side so they get a Free Kick?

I enjoy and read your e-mails regularly.
Thanks a bunch for what you do.
Mason Goodale
Murphys, CA

C.G.They don't need to instantly leave the "End Zone", because they are not automatically in off-side. Only if the attacking team wins the ball kicked out by the defenders and comes back forward, when the ball crosses the off-side line again, will they be in off-side by staying in the"End Zone". There is all the time to come out. As I said, there is no off-side by staying there. It would only be when the ball crosses the line again, when their teammates carry or send the ball there.

Hi Coach,

the only problem i see with it is that each team will station people at the line to wait for a pass at all times. Then, once the ball passes the line people will just stand in front of the goalie to block vision and interfere. I think it makes the defense participate less in the offense and makes goalie injury more likely. there would be more standing around. I agree that a fixed line would be great, but rules need to be in place so that the above points are addressed.

Tammy Smitt

C.G.What you underlined, could surely happen at the beginning of the hypothetical introduction of this new law. For sure this new apparent freedom will make them occupy 'by standing' a zone that was forbidden. After a couple of games, the players would spread out and not just stand in waiting for some playable ball.
It would be useful to see a few games played like this and see what really happens.

Good Ideas Coach Gianni,

However I have a better idea. Within the rules now just make the field wider and perhaps shorter this helps maintain control of the ball and more attack. In theory it sounds great but be realistic. Your proposal is too much change. Making a free area after the ball crosses the 18 is too radical. I would perhaps simplify it a little to make the transition easier for teams and referees and not use the free area there.

Lets Start by eliminating the off side trap. First Step add the 10 yards from the mid line where off sides can not be called. This makes the middle 20 a free zone and begins the concept. This added spaced can be increased later as teams and players and referees get accustomed to it. Also if we shorten the length of the field you can begin to accomplish similar results.

Second step eleminate off side trap when the attacking team passes. Alot of teams already do not employ the trap. Once in an on side position an attacking player can not be trapped when the attacking team has control of the ball from the back of the middle 20 to the 18. We keep still the trap in the penalty area.

This is an easy first step into the concept. Many teams recognize the difficulty in calling the trap and offsides and would accept this first implementation.

Ernie Biera
High School Teacher, Coach, and referee

C.G.The off-side trap doesn't happen so high on the field. The 4 defenders place themselves on an ideal line between the penalty box and half field. They have to give space to the forwards to fall in the trap. If they position themselves in a line 10 yards away from half field, it's a suicide! Also if we shorten the length of the field you can begin to accomplish similar results. Hernie, the fields in America are already too short!
The way you suggested, will make us fall back in the 'trap' of the opinion of the referee! That way we’d go back to the problem that I’m trying to avoid.
About the difficulty to teach the offside trap, last week I began to coach an U15 girls team. After only one practice, without ever having tried the off-side trap before, they put in offside the opponent forwards 15 times at the first game. And I didn't work specifically on that. I just taught them to keep the right shape 4-4-2 and move all together in holding the line when the opponent team comes forward. If I work specifically in stepping forward, I can forbid the opponent team to play.

Hey coach.

An interesting proposal. A problem however. This would make it difficult for an attacking team who had penetrated across the Offsides Line to pass backwards. I.e. Player 1 carries the ball down the wings over the line (legal), he then passes back to a teammate who is behind the Offsides Line (say just at the top of the box) ... that teammate cannot then pass the ball back to player 1, or to any other player over the Offsides Line. All the advanced attackers now how to retreat back across the Offsides Line until the ball crosses it again. This compresses play again, and reduces the attacking team's passing options.

I would, however, agree that extending the range of the "offside-free zone" would open up the game a bit ... I would except that I'm a goalie. :-)

W.r.t. the offside trap, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, a well-executed trap is one of the best and most difficult *team* maneuvers in sports. Watching a team execute it well, which requires silent coordination, discipline, and excellent timing, is a thing of beauty ... especially considering the risk involved if it fails. However, philosophically, I agree with you ... it seems wrong that a player can be forced into being guilty of an offense that he had role, effort, or even intention, of comitting.

Incidentally, w.r.t. changes in the rules, it is also a good rule change that it is no longer an offense if a player gets caught in an offside position but does not participate in the play. It is a bit unfair, as the defense doesn't have the same leeway (a defender completely uninvolved on the other side of the field, can nevertheless put a man on-sides). But it has resulted in fewer plays being taken away because of an uninvolved offsides player.

Good article!


C.G.Thanks for your very competent analysis. Teams have to adjust their strategy. Counter attack will be the right weapon and not the 'siege' around the penalty area anymore. Speed, wall pass, correct triangles and shooting on goal. I can't wait to see this instead the classic basketball action around the big area with crosses in the middle for 18 players (from both teams) that jump all together, grabbing the jerseys of all the players around them or elbowing to find a better position!


I like your offside idea in principal, but what I don't like about is that it also restricts the area of offensive creativity. What happens if the ball goes back outside the zone? Then everyone has to run back outside the zone. Sometimes the best offensive play is a pass back to someone outside the penalty area but still in the attacking third of the field. Why should everyone have to run backwards when you choose to pass backward to your teammate who is still in the attacking third of the field to create more opportunities?

My idea is even more radical and is more close to what occurs in hockey. Divide the field in thirds--just like the ice in hockey is divided roughly into thirds--and just like we think in soccer of the attacking third, the middle third and the defending third. In the middle third, there is no offside. Then, as you say, an offensive player cannot cross the attacking third/defending third line until the ball crosses that line. BUT, my difference is that once the ball crosses that line, offensive players should be able to go anywhere in the attacking third that they want except the goal area (not the penalty area but the 6 yard goal area) as long as the ball is kept in that area. The goal area would be like the "crease" in hockey where you can't just hang around inside the crease. This way, the offensive has a lot more room for creativity. They have one-third of the field to work with to create their magic and the offensive players can run anywhere they want, except the goal area to create opportunities for receiving passes. And the offense is rewarded for what should be very good play--keeping the ball in the attacking third and maintaing good possession of the ball but not being restricted to the very small space inside of working inside of 18 yards.

With the goal area, I would let players run through the goal area, but not linger inside of it. In other words, you can run through it looking to receive and shoot a timed pass, but you can't stay there--just like the crease in hockey--if the pass doesn't come. You also can't interfere with the goalie--when you are running through.

Jim Feuille

C.G.You’re still thinking of the present soccer strategy, while introducing my new concept of off-side. Clearly the strategy has to change accordingly. The counter attack will be the new weapon. Players will follow the momentum, like in basketball, and go directly to score. The 'siege' around the penalty area, with 18 players battling for position in waiting for the cross, would be much less. Even the passing back is provoked by the fact that (now) the receivers can't go in off-side.
You wrote: “Divide the field in thirds.” My proposal is that. With the only difference that the third in the middle is bigger, so it’s not a third of the field, but the concept is. I like your suggestion of not permitting the attacking players to enter the goal area. We could introduce this improvement.
Anyway, as I said, new law, new strategy. No more passing in the area to find someone who could shoot, but arrive in counter attack, wall pass and shoot.
I still believe that letting players cross the goal area will disturb the keeper in case of a shoot from outside the penalty area.
Your contribution is very valuable and for sure could be useful for integrating my 'courageous' proposal.


As a player and a coach, someone who plays both striker and back, I think this is a brilliant idea! Even though I mostly played full back growing up, I never liked the offside trap and like you said, think it is a bit ridiculous that you could be in an on-side position at one moment and then a moment later be offside, without moving!
How many times playing striker, have I had to hold back my momentum and desire to run, even near mid-field, waiting for a pass to be made before I can run onto it, instead of being able to use my speed to just go and not worry about being offside. I think this rule make perfect sense all the way around. From a defensive point of view, you would have to decide whether to play close up man on man and risk getting beat deep or playing a big cushion and giving your opponent movement and space in front of you.
This is much the same as football where a defensive back can play bump and run or back off the line and there are potential advantages and disadvantages to playing either way but it makes for more interesting sport.
This is the best thing I have heard of in a while and think the new Fifa rule does nothing to really address offsides. How do we get it to be a rule change though?

Good Luck, Dan

C.G.The example of football is perfect. Players are free to use their speed and creativity. Both, defenders and attackers would battle for position when the ball comes. Hope they wouldn’t grab their respective jerseys too much. It would be interesting to test this in a tough game.

Your offsides is horrible

(Dear Andrew,
I don't understand why you have to be so rude, however, here is what I think about your points. In parentesis are my comments on your email)

While the rule increases the area in which to play this subtracts from teams that can move the ball well.
They lose all advantage in controlling the ball and controlling the movement up the field. Also this takes away from breakaways which people love to watch and are so important. The focus of the defense is now on a particular line and not the players that they are gaurding. This will have defenses who don't even leave the line the whole game. If the defense has no incentive to move up then they will be less likely to join the play, which create some of the best soccer plays. (I would really like to be the coach against a team who’s defense "has no incentive to move up". I'll show them what my defenders will do by "moving up".)

Soccer is also supposed to be tactical and if you make this rule it will become like hockey. (So you sustain that hokey is not tactical?)

Hockey is supposed to be a fast sport not as tactical as soccer. (One of the fundamental aspects of tactic is SPEED!)

If players can't get in scoring position for a free kick then it defeats everything a freekick is supposed to do. A freekick punishes a team for a
wrong doing. If the attackers can't enter the zone then they won't be scared of taking fouls. (Sorry but I don't see your point. I played forward at a very high level on the youth team of A.C. Milan, but I don't understand your point.)

Therefore they would commit more fouls and injuring more players and also slowing the game down. (I still don't understand why.)

That is the opposite of what your rule is supposed to accomplish. While a different rule for offsides could be helpful and improve the game this is the opposite of what your rule would accomplish. (I expressed my opinion and I respect your different opinion. Or do I have to consider your email the 'Absolute Truth'?)

Email #2

I see what you mean from beating defenders that stay back on the line. They would get burned a lot at a high level, but think about how youth players would develop. Hockey has a lot of tactical points, I am a huge fan of hockey, but any team going without speed at all times is destroyed to shreds. In soccer speed is important but it has to be controlled too.
Going fast at some points and slow at others to catch the other team off gaurd. And my point on the fouls was the defenders attacking fowards. Sorry about that mistake. My side isn't the only side and this is actually a great conversation. Keep informing me on the faults of my side. It only improves me as a player. I am 15 years old and playing hard.

(Dear Andrew,

When I received your first email I believed you were an adult. You read my article and the first sentence said: “From my 50 years of soccer experience on a soccer field." How can you, at 15 years old, permit yourself to judge my proposal "horrible"?)

Hi Gianni,

it's Sarah, from your class November-January.
I wanted to comment on your offsides idea.
I also play Gaelic Football, a field sport that is much like soccer
but you can use your hands, and THERE'S NO OFFSIDES!
As a result, the teams line up man-to-man.
The whole game is man-to-man marking. There is a small square
around the goal that the offense can't cross until the ball is there
(so a VERY small offsides area), called the Square.
Sometimes a goal is disqualified if the player got there before the ball,
and that's called a "square ball".

Anyway, just wanted to let you know. I don't really have an opinion
on it, I just wanted to let you know about this game.

My soccer skill and my confidence definitely improved after being in
your class! I'm sure if I actually did my homework it would make a
bigger difference.


C.G.Thanks Sarah, for your contribution. It's very interesting to notice that many sports deal with the off-side, with different solutions.
I like the idea that on the whole field there’s not off-side, aside from the small square around the goal. I even like the concept that players can't enter the square before the ball. Without knowing it, I based my idea on the same principle. Thanks a lot for letting me know.

Coach Gianni
Posted on 06 Jun 2006 by coachgianni
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