Much has been said in the “offside or not” debate surrounding Harry Kane, prior to the penalty award in the Liverpool versus Tottenham Hotspur game on Sunday.
I have never known a single decision throw up so many differing opinions on the ‘Spirit of the Law’, and the ‘Letter of the Law’, and at the same time, the “official lines” being spun to fit the outcome on the day.
I am fully aware of the stance by IFAB that the laws do not exist to “protect/save” players who make a mistake e.g. do not play the ball where they intend it to go. But let’s take a step back from the argument of whether the action of Dejan Lovren, in playing the ball was “deliberate” or not.
Kane’s ‘offside position’ in the close vicinity of, and nearer to the opponents’ goal line than the second-last opponent, on the edge of the penalty area, HAS to be considered “active” and not “passive”, when the ball was last played towards him by a team-mate.
When the ball is played by Ali, Kane is in an offside position and interfering with an opponent, but the AR does not need to signal immediately until Kane becomes involved in active play. The AR has to “Wait and See”.
If the ball gets cleared by the defender, then there is no need to signal for offside.
If the ball goes through to Kane, who was offside at the last time the ball was last touched or played by a team-mate, then the AR has to signal that the player must be penalised for being in an offside position AND getting involved in active play.
Clearly, had Kane not been in an offside position when Ali played the ball towards him, but had moved into the offside position when it was “deflected” to him, then there was no offside offence committed.
I personally don’t have a problem with the AR seeking clarification from the referee as to whether the defender touched the ball, as he does not have all the pieces of the jigsaw from his position on the touch-line, but I don’t think the AR picked up the fact that Kane was offside when Ali played it towards him, so that’s why he was asking the question. He had a gut feeling that something was not quite right, and a mistake may have been made, so well done for instigating the discussion.
Taking the “official line” logic forwards, I propose the following scenario to support my opinion that morally the player should have been penalised for offside:
A player is standing 5 metres “offside” on the penalty mark, directly in front of the goalkeeper, when the ball is lobbed forwards over the second-last opponent, towards player who is clearly in an active position. The AR has to “Wait and See”.
If the defender intercepts the ball, the player in the offside position does not get involved in active play, so there is no need for the AR to signal. However, if the defender “deliberately” heads the ball, but instead of heading it away, the ball skims off the top of the defender’s head and goes straight to the player who was offside when the ball was last played by a team-mate, the flag is raised by the AR to signal that there has been an offside offence, as the player has become involved in active play. Everyone says well done AR, good “Wait and See” technique demonstrated, but correct late flag, as a player can’t be “played-on” any more.
The law was amended many years ago about that, but the “official” view being spewed out this week seems to be saying that you “CAN” be “played-on” again. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
What needs to fall out of this incident is a review of the “Letter of the Law” and the “Spirit of the Law”, to make it clear for all officials to understand if the actions of a defender playing the ball to a player who was already in an offside position (“deliberately or not”), overturns the original offside offence.
IMO, as the wording stands at the moment, it is too ambiguous if it can be interpreted both ways for the scenario I have outlined above.