Football (soccer) questions

I’ve become a big fan of football in my later years, but as I missed out playing and watching in my youth, there are a lot of rules and strategy that I am not aware of.

What would be the logical consequence of abolishing the off-side rule? So many times I see creative, attacking play brutally stopped by a linesman’s dodgy call.

Would strikers just set up shop in the goal area and wait for booming passes? It seems like they’d still need to go back to the midfield to get passes and lose defenders. Or would the consequence be that the defenders would be much more constrained in their ability to push forward and that the game would stagnate?

If we can’t get rid of the off-side rule, is there some way to have a computer make the calls instead of linesman? I assume that it’s only a matter of time before the technology allows all goal-awarding decisions to be checked by computer.

Bonus question: Why is there an FA Cup and a Carling Cup? Surely, if the FA Cup is more prestigious and includes more clubs, the Carling Cup is useless, no?

I’ll take your second question, which is still pretty hard to answer :D. The League Cup (current sponsors Carling, hence the name) came into being as a mid-week, evening game tournament, at a time when floodlighting was a recent innovation at English football grounds. A good way of earning more revenue. It has always been very much the lesser of the two knockout competitions, with the biggest clubs often fielding second string teams in the early rounds. But if you win the League Cup you get into the UEFA Cup (not the Champions League) next season, which is motivation enough for all but the biggest clubs to take it seriously. And it is prestigious enough for the even the big boys to quite pleased if they win it.

Prior to the introduction of the offside rule, attacking play in football was quite unimaginative: it just consisted of a mass charge at the opposing goal. In other words, brutal linemen’s calls are the price of preventing brutal attacking play, or at least, that was how they first evolved.

Creative attacking play, as it’s generally considered, consists of having the supreme dribbling skills to be able to take the ball past defenders yourself, or else using the width of the field to bypass the defence down the flanks and then fire the ball laterally to someone in a better position to shoot for goal (he can’t be offside if he receives the ball from someone closer to the goal-line than himself). If you want to play kick-and-chase then so be it, but the chaser has to give the defence a fair contest: he can’t help himself to a five-yard start before the ball is played through.

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. :slight_smile:

At some point there no doubt will be a real-time technological option to do something like this. A chip embedded in each player’s boots and one in the ball, and some way of reading them.

One of the aversions to things like video replays, apart from their ability to completely destroy the flow of a game, is a principle that at all levels, matches are officiated in the same way, i.e. not being in a situation where video replays are used for the top couple of leagues, but not for FA-officiated match all the way down the football pyramid into the semi-pro and amateur matches.

Hmmm, good point, didn’t think of that, this does make it a bit less likely!

Thank you for the responses.

Part of the problem with computer chips is where on the player’s body you would put them. I assume whether you are offside has nothing to do with where your boots are, but where your body is. You’d have to mount one of the front and back of the jersey, and maybe the sides, too. That’s a bit ridiculous. I was thinking more of a computer program analyzing video in real time and able to ignore non-participatory players. That way it could make calls as quickly as a linesman and not impede the flow of the game. You could have the linesman monitoring the program and able to overrule it when it makes an obvious mistake.

The real trouble with that is twofold:

  1. it would have to be monitored real time by some fifth official, so that the override could be kicked in before a whistle was blown.

  2. it could only apply to the top flight of football; as GorillaMan points out, one of the endearing charms to Association Football (soccer) is that it is played by EXACTLY the same rule set no matter what level of competition is involved (so much so that the American Youth Soccer Organization had to get special dispensation from FIFA for simply wanting to limit substitutions to the half-way point of each half). One of the things I dislike about American High School and College (NCAA) soccer is that they are played by rule sets different from the FIFA laws of the game, almost the only organizations world-wide who think they need to tweak those rules. :rolleyes:

As DSYoung mentions, getting a computer to determine whether an offside player is interfering with play is going to be a tough call.

One in each boot would give a pretty good indication of where the body is, wouldn’t it? Close enough for a comparison with last defender, anyway.

Well, that’s a good point. You can’t be making a run with two boots sticking out in front of your body.

I guess I do like the idea of all football being played the exact same way, but when you have millions of euros worth of players on the field, it’s a shame to see a game changed by an assistant referee. (By the way, are officials in England and Europe full-time referees or not? Famously, NFL referees have regular jobs in the off season.)

Do the NCAA rules differ significantly from regular football rules?

I’m not an expert on NCAA soccer, but they do have unlimited substitutions, that’s a pretty major rule change.

Wow, that’s really weak and totally changes the game strategy. Although, I wonder what the average number of subsitutions is during an NCAA game. It could be that they still want most of their best players in there.

What about a microchip implanted in the head, like they do with cats?

This solution will have off-field applications as well. For example, managers would be able to find out whether or not a player is in a bar until 3 am the night before a game. Also, if Rio Ferdinand is absent for a mandatory drugs test, he can be immediately tracked down to the nearest stockist of Versace menswear.

It also ties in with the integral part promotion and relegation plays in the league system - all those amateur teams could, theoretically, work their way up to the top (and Chelsea and Norwich could go the other way :wink: ), so it would be hard to draw a line above which the rules or officiation are fundamentally changed.

From the FA: the select group, which deal with the Premiership and other high profile matches, “receive an ‘annual retainer’ plus match fees for their commitment to training and development over several days each month in addition to their match commitments. Importantly, referees will be allowed to continue with their chosen careers.”

Not such a crazy idea, if it were just in a lightweight piece of headgear, instead.

I like this idea a LOT :slight_smile:

No, that would take away the blessing of the tactical knowledge of the coach. :rolleyes:
They also have some different discipline rules.

If they introduce replay technology, what are people going to argue about in the days between football matches? :smiley:

That’s only a halfway smartass answer. The reason everyone remembers bad calls (or no calls) is because they’re so rare, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been in a room full of people who all say “What? That was a foul?” - until the television does the slo-mo replay from six angles and everyone says “Oooooh, that’s why”.

I wouldn’t worry, my sport rugby league (specifically the NRL), has video referees. Whilst overall they’re a plus, they still get things wrong, and when they do it’s call the villagers with torches time.
It’s not that uncommon to be completely mystified by what they come up with.

Don’t substitution rules (at least, the total number of allowed substitutes) change regularly between World Cup, international friendlies, regular league play, and other matches?

Not really - it’s been standard at three for a while now for any match played in official FIFA (or regional/national confederation) competitions. In international friendlies you used to get unlimited subs (or whatever the two teams agreed to), but that’s now had a ceiling of five put on it. This was due in large part to a couple of farcical matches played under Sven Goran Eriksson in which completely different England sides contested each half.

The number of players you’re allowed on the bench is a bit more fluid though, if that’s what you’re referring to; in official FIFA (etc.) competitions it can be between 2 and 7. But allowing unlimited substitutions is indeed a pretty large departure from the standard.