4 Reasons Why We NEED The Offside Rule (In Football)

Last updated on December 1st, 2022

As a football fan, there is a huge possibility that you have witnessed the nuances of the offside rule. Such scenarios regularly occur in several football matches.

You may have been frustrated multiple times by the referee’s whistle to cancel your team’s goal due to offside, or even relieved when it happened to the opposition team.

In case, you were wondering about why the offside rule is in place. Here’s what you need to know about why the offside rule is necessary in football:

Why is there an offside rule in football?

The offside rule is one of the many laws of the game as stipulated by IFAB. In fact, the rule is one of the oldest in the game and has been implemented as far back as 1863. 

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Although it has undergone changes from time to time, it remains a pillar of football.

In accordance with the IFAB laws, an offside occurs when the footballer involved in active play is nearer to the opposition’s goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. Thus, any action implicated by the offside footballer is nullified, which mostly involves goals. 

The offside call is measured by the last teammate to touch the ball. A player is offside once he’s ahead of the second-last opponent before his teammate releases the ball.

However, the offside foul will not be called if the ball is directly received from the opponent. This means the attacker may be in an offside position and score a valid goal in this scenario.

Pedrag Mijatovic’s winning goal for Real Madrid’s 1998 Champions League triumph was scored in a similar scenario 

A player cannot be called offside if he receives the ball directly from:

  • A goal kick
  • Corner kick
  • Throw-in 

Linesmen and VAR technology aid the referee in determining the foul. After confirming, the referee awards an indirect freekick to the opposition team.

Any goal scored as a result of active play from the offside position will be cancelled. However, the judgement calls are error-prone which could lead to controversy.

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Football has been defined in many ways by the offside rule, the 4 main reasons for its existence are:

#1 To eliminate unfair advantage

In the early days of the game, teams resorted to leaving their attackers high up the field. Thus, it was not uncommon for players to camp near the opposition’s goal even in positions as ridiculous as the opposition’s goal line!

This was known as goal-hanging, where attackers simply hang around areas way behind the defenders to capitalise on goal scoring opportunities. Introducing the offside rule helped to eliminate any such play here and promote a more compact game.

Due to the rule, teams cannot leave their attackers high up the pitch for the sake of it. This means the attackers are far more involved in the overall play including smart movements, linkup play and direct manoeuvres to get goalscoring chances as opposed to being stationary.  

#2 Promoting creativity 

Without the offside rule, many teams would resort to punting long balls up the pitch for their stationary attackers. In contrast to this, the creativity required to facilitate great play and create goal scoring chances would quickly fade away.

The offside helps to promote creativity by discouraging such patterns and encouraging creative plays instead. 

Manchester City orchestrated a fantastic team goal with good passes and smart movements

Many of these creative players involve the attacking team working hard to tweak the opposition’s defensive shape and finding spaces to score goals. Thus, teams have to use some form of elaborate play (possession football or counterattack) to do so.

The offside rule encourages players to hone their creativity, awareness, stamina and coordination to make the best of their situation.

#3 Protects the defenders and goalkeepers

The football personnel who defend against the other team are also protected by the offside rule. Without the rule, the goalkeepers and defenders will have all their hard work nullified by stationary attackers and uninventive attacking plays. 

No matter how hard the defence works, the opposing team could simply place an opposition attacker at the other end and capitalise on every opportunity. This leaves the task of defence to an impossible measure.

Thus, offside rule helps assist the defenders and goalkeepers, instead of leaving them overexposed to the opposition’s attack. Coaches also use the offside rule to their advantage by implementing a defensive tactic known as the Offside Trap.

Many teams utilise their effective offside trap tactics to thwart opposition attacks. 

#4 Protecting the integrity of football

Without the offside rule, dull displays of stationary attackers and punting of long balls would become the sport’s commonplace. This would make the sport unbearable and unappealing to the fans due to the absurd results.

Likewise, the sport would lose its glamour that attracts coaches and players. The offside rule has successfully prevented such from happening and maintained the sport’s integrity. 

What would happen if there was no offside rule?

The offside rule has evidently improved the overall quality of football, since it was implemented in the 19th century. However, it is also fascinating to wonder about the bizarre scenarios that would occur in the rules absence, some of which are:

#1 Lack of brilliance and creativity

In a scenario where the offside rule does not exist, football’s ingenuity and creativity that captivates its audience may have been long dead. This is because teams would not need elaborate plays to score a goal.

Instead, all games would be directed at finding stationary attackers with long balls high up the pitch. Goal-hanging would be the order of the day and any forms of creativity to secure results would be discouraged.

This means all the excitement and usual brilliance that lead to results would be wiped clean from the game.

#2 Absurd scorelines

Due to the simple nature of the game, football games would become victims of very absurd score lines. The defenders will be easily bypassed and goalkeepers would find themselves in a 1v1 situation several times in a game.

Many games may end in incredibly high score lines like 9-12 but without the accompanying excitement and hard work. Thus, football teams would concede and score a lot but only routinely without the glamour.

#3 Unconventional tactics

Football has evolved with new-found tactics causing the sport to be revamped time and time again. In the scenario without the offside rule, it would be unsurprising that teams adopt some strategy to take advantage of the game’s nature.

As such, coaches may decide to have many more attackers and a few defenders leaving the majority of players high up the pitch to pounce on long balls from deep. 

Managers may also do the reverse and decide to leave more players behind and fewer players ahead to reduce the opponent’s goal scoring chances.

In many ways, the game would be robbed of the more elaborate tactical schemes and flexibility we are used to in today’s football. There would be no room for tactical variety since the game is straightforward and plain.

Tactics are one of football’s foundational pillars and help to improve the game in many ways.

#4 Demise of the game’s integrity

Alluding to the many dull factors of the game, football would quickly lose its glamour and appeal. Fans would desert the sport in droves because of its hollow nature.

Likewise, coaches and players would be uninspired to partake in the sport for the same reasons. As such, football would experience a monumental decline until its sad demise.


The offside rule is an important aspect of football, its implementation has helped to keep the game creative and interesting. It remains an important factor throughout the beautiful game’s evolution.

The rule has helped football avoid uninspiring patterns while encouraging ingenuity and brilliance instead. Without the rule, the sport would be home to dull displays and lose its glamour!

You can find out why some situations will be called offside here.

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