Re: Carling (League) Cup v. FA Cup
The FA Cup is much more prestigious, having been around essentially forever. It also has the advantage that any member club of the Football Association can compete for it (subject to certain stadium requirements and minor eligibility rules). Mostly, the small fry get knocked out early on, leaving the Cup to be contested among the top flight teams. However, the FA Cup has as part of its mystique the fact that occasional minnows end up playing for, and very occasionally winning, it. This, like many things, has changed in the last decade or so; current holders Portsmouth were the first team outside the Big Four to win the Cup in 13 years.
The League Cup can only be contested by the members of the Football League and the Premier League (the top four flights of English Football). As Ursam notes, this started as a mid-week competition to add revenue. It’s less prestigious, but it still offers some good footie, and for a team that isn’t going to finish in the top third, it’s a way into European competition. Mostly, though, it’s just another way to fleece the spec, er, that is, to sell tickets to fans.
Re: Offside (Law XI)
The requirement that players be “onside” in football was added to avoid what we here in America call “cherry-picking.” That is, simply stationing players near the goal mouth for easy scoring. This, as you noted, forces the defense to respond, keeping players back to cover. It makes the game VERY vertical (end to end), and much less exciting. I’ve coached in youth leagues where they didn’t have an official “offside” call for the Under-8s, and inevitably some jackass coach thinks it is advantageous to stick a player down in front of the goal, and very soon, all you have is a game of kicking long hopeful balls to that player. BORING.
It’s hard to imagine how the offside rule could be enforced by computer. Remember, there are two aspects to offside: positional and participatory. The position part is easy:
a) In the offensive half of the field
b) Ahead of the ball
c) Closer to the end line than the second to last defensive player.
Now, when I say “easy,” I mean that these are simple rules to understand. Application of c) is where things get tough, because that’s a moving line. I suppose that, if the players all had chips in their jerseys, and the ball had an embedded microchip, you could have a computer monitor the relative positions. But the problem is that the position has to be determined at the precise moment the ball is played by a member of the offensive team. How will the computer know when that moment has happened? Will the ball have to have a chip sensitive enough to identify every touch made to it, tough enough to survive being punted 80 yards plus, and powerful enough to broadcast its signal to a net of receivers no matter where on the field it is?
Then there is participation. Without getting into the current wording of the law, basically you are not offside unless you are participating in the play in some fashion. This, of course, is something that the human only can judge. Since this is an inherently judgmental call, even if we computerize the positional aspect, we will still end up with “dodgy” calls from referees and their assistants for either failing to find participation where it actually existed, or finding it where none was intended.
In short, computerization likely wouldn’t solve the issue.
Offside calls, in my opinion, are getting better, anyway. It’s been some 15 years since the law was changed to allow the offensive player to be even with the second to last defender, and it has taken that long for the officials who learned under the old rule to slowly percolate out of the system, allowing officials who have officiated no other version to replace them. These newer officials are much less likely to flag for someone who is truly even up at the time the ball is played. The result is that we are seeing more and more correctly taken decisions on the law. Better yet, we are seeing many more times where the error is one of failure to call an offside that existed, which almost never happened before. We will know we’ve reached the proper situation when that happens at least as much, if not more often, than whistling the play dead when it shouldn’t have been.