What does offside mean in rugby

Away from football - the story began in England's public schools in the 19th century, when football was a mix of rugby and soccer.

The public schools, which were attended by the sons of the gentlemen, used the football game, among other things, to keep fit in the cooler months. But each of them had their own set of rules. Not everyone mentioned an offside, and sometimes the rules were the same.

The strict offside in football

This offside is still common in rugby today: every player between the ball and the opposing goal is offside. You * He can therefore not take part in the game and is not allowed to receive the ball. It is therefore not surprising that the rugby school had this rule in their guidelines and other schools that favored football with running (walking with the ball) and kicking. But other schools, whose game was more reminiscent of soccer, also knew this variant. Often in their rules offside is not mentioned at all until the 1860s. But then afterwards: Uppingham School from 1862, Shrewsbury School and Cambridge University from 1863 and Blackheath FC (from 1862), which shuttled between rugby and football.

The rules of the Harrow School published in 1858 also knew this strict offside position, but called it behind in their rules. And both the Harrow Schools and the Cambridge University Rules were heavily based on the FA, which was newly founded in 1863.

Yes, even the FA, whose members initially came almost exclusively from London and the surrounding area, initially played according to the rugby offside rules.

The offside is opened slightly

At Eton College they knew the rules of the Eton Field Game sneaking. This offside rule states that an attacking player may not play the ball if there are only three or fewer opponents in front of him. The rules of the schools in Westminster and Charterhouse also knew this triple offside and therefore did not want to become a member of the FA in 1863.

In 1865 the association sought contact with these schools. At the FA's annual meeting in 1866, a complete abolition of offside was discussed for even longer. Not only Sheffield FC, which did not yet have an offside rule, advocated it, but also others such as Barnes FC.

However, since this proposal was made during the annual meeting and was therefore not presented in time, the proposal was not adopted. From Sheffield, however, there were repeated suggestions to switch to a less strict offside rule - such as stepping on the sidelines.

Eventually the FA took over the triple offside from Westminster and Charterhouse in 1866.

Other variants

The rules of Cheltenham College did not allow any offside at all. However, it was not described when a player is offside. A player must immediately drop or put the ball down to avoid a warning. If he did not comply, he was threatened with expulsion.

In Winchester, the offside position was called behind your side. It also knew the strict offside position that did not apply to the shot on goal. Also, the ball could never be offside (i.e. outside the field of play), only after that no goal could be scored or a fair catch could be made.

Sheffield: At first no offside in football, then one offside

Yes, there were no offside rules, including the Sheffield FC rules published in 1858. Offside is mentioned in these rules, but a player is only offside if he is outside the field of play.

The Sheffield FA was founded in 1867, next to the (London) FA the second influential football association in England in the 1870s. Which of the two was more influential at the time is the subject of heated debate today. From today's perspective, the Sheffield FA rules were in some ways the most modern and progressive.

The Sheffield FA was formed a year after the offside was opened up in the FA rules. One of his rules was a one-offside. Looking at the advances in combination play that the FA three-offs alone has brought about, one can imagine the agility and flexibility of the Sheffield FA game.

Before the Sheffield FA adopted the FA Rules in 1877, there was discussion about offside in football. However, the Sheffield FA proposal did not find the necessary majority in 1877, and it was left with the triple offside.

By 1877 the FA had added that the offside was decisive for the decision. In 1873, at the suggestion of FC Uxbridge, "at the moment of the ball" was added to the rules. In the same year, another proposal from the same club was accepted: In the event of a goal kick, no offside rule applies. And since 1874, a violation of the offside rule has been punished with a free kick (back then there were only indirect free kicks).

By the way, a distinction has been made between active and passive offside positions since 1866!

The next 50 years

There were only minor changes and clarifications in the next half century. In particular, the offside rule of football for the resumption of games was defined for the first time:

Throw-in: An offside position is possible (1879, suggested by Wanderers FC and Old Harrovians FC).

corner: No offside position is possible (1883).

goal kick: No offside position is possible (1883-1920).

The fact that a player is never offside if the ball comes from an opponent was added in 1882 at the suggestion of the Old Etonians and Finchley. (If you read 1878 as the year: That date is wrong.)

Offside in football since 1925: The two offside

In addition, the Scottish FA has been very persistent with its proposal to introduce a one-offs. This proposal came in 1894, 1902, 1913, 1914, 1922, 1923 and 1924, but in the years up to and including 1922 the proposal never received the necessary majority and was therefore not accepted. However, in 1923 it was postponed. A year later it was decided to conduct an experiment during the 1924/25 season. The one-offside was not tested, but the two-offside was tested. There was also another suggestion that was brought up repeatedly by the English and Scottish federations in the 1920s: that offside only 40 yards from the opposing goal is possible.

Back to 1925: So there was a friendly game in which one half was played with the two offside and the other with one offside only 40 yards away from goal. Then they decided on the two-way offside.

In 1929, in the run-up to the IFAB's annual general meeting, the FA discussed a complete abolition of offside. It was mainly the Scottish FA that fought against it. She feared that it would lead to hard play and fighting in front of the goal because the attacking strikers would then play very close to the opposing goal.

Since then we have had the two-way offside, which is always adjusted according to the development of the game and inventive tactical developments - should the proposal receive the necessary majority. Here is the full overview.


by Petra Tabarelli

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