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We're adding goal-line technology, so why can't we manage to call offside goals correctly?

In the wake of yesterday's Champions League tie between Malaga and Borussia Dortmund, it seemed like a good time to talk about an easy way to remove some controversy from the game

Alex Grimm

The Premier League is set to vote on whether or not to adopt goal-line technology for next season at a meeting tomorrow, yet many media outlets are talking about an entirely different sort of controversial goal today. Tuesday's Champions League tie between Malaga and Borussia Dortmund saw the home side advance due to a last minute goal that should not have counted, as virtually their entire team was offside in the buildup to the goal.

This wasn't an isolated incident either, as Malaga had scored an offside goal of their own earlier in the match. PSG head to Barcelona with the aggregate score deadlocked at 2-2, although Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal from the first leg should not have counted.

Bayern Munich reached the Champions League final in 2010 before losing to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, but they should have been eliminated in the first knockout leg by Fiorentina. An obviously offside goal at the death of the first leg was the decider in that particular tie, and the German side really shouldn't have even reached the quarterfinal of that competition.

Closer to home, Chelsea have had plenty of games in which they could have felt aggrieved because of an incorrectly allowed goal. Earlier this season, Javier Hernandez scored a late winner when Manchester United visited the Bridge. That particular goal should not have counted, as Hernandez was still in an offside position when the ball was played.

The season before, Chelsea dropped points in a match where United were awarded 2 goals that should have been disallowed because of a player that was offside. Chelsea secured a win against Reading this year due to an offside goal, and United fans still complain to this day about Didier Drogba being offside on a goal that helped Chelsea win their last Premier League title.

It's a bit ridiculous that in this day and age, we're still seeing the biggest competitions in the sport impacted by goals that just should not count more often than not. The technology is there to virtually eliminate obvious errors like this, and all we have to do is look across the Atlantic Ocean for the solution. The NHL has been confirming goals after they are scored for years, so let's have a look at their rulebook to see exactly how they do it:

38.2 Goals – Every goal is to be reviewed by the Video Goal Judge.

Upon making contact with the off-ice official at ice level, the Video Goal Judge should say initially that he is "looking at the play". If there is a need to delay the resumption of the play, the off-ice official at ice level should signal one of the Referees to delay the center ice face-off for a moment. Once the Video Goal Judge has reviewed the video and confirmed that the goal is valid, he should say that "it is a good goal". The off-ice official will then signal to the Referee to resume play.

If there is a need to expand the review, the Video Goal Judge will advise the off-ice official at ice level and the Public Address Announcer that the "play is under review". Once the play has been reviewed and deemed a goal, the goal will be announced in the normal manner. If the review reveals that the goal must be disallowed, the Public Address Announcer shall announce the reason for the disallowed goal as reported by the Referee.

Simple process, right? It's a guy in a room with access to the video feed of the game, who looks at the replay after the puck goes into the net. If it's a legitimate goal, he confirms it. If it shouldn't have counted due to a rules infraction, he informs the referee and the goal is disallowed.

This process would be so easy to implement in the Premier League that it's just mind-boggling that it hasn't happened. Every Premier League game has incredible amounts of video coverage, to the point that basically every action on the pitch is caught on film. We'd need a room, a guy to look at that video, and we'd have to give that guy in the room a way to get in touch with the 4th official in order to let the referee know he was taking a closer look at a goal. That seems like something we ought to be able to do without too much trouble, and without incurring too much additional expense either.

This video review could eventually be expanded to cover any number of different things, but it makes sense to start with something simple. Judging whether or not a player is offside when a ball is played is something that's very easy to do with video replay. If the ball goes in the net, have the guy in a room look back to see if he was onside. If there is conclusive video that the call is wrong, change it and give the other team a goal kick.

There will naturally be detractors to this idea, as part of the beauty of this sport is that there are very few stoppages in play. That's one of the biggest issues involved with implementing any sort of video review, as nobody wants to see the game stopped when it doesn't have to be. A natural stoppage occurs when a goal is scored though, as the scoring team usually celebrates and the ball has to be returned to the center of the pitch. It's not uncommon for these stoppages to see the action come to a halt for over a minute, and that time is supposed to be added on at the end anyway.

This natural stoppage would work perfectly with a video review of all goals, as they really shouldn't take that long. It would have taken me exactly 1 review and about 3 seconds yesterday to decide that Dortmund's winner shouldn't have counted, and that goal could have been waved off before the home team even started heading back to the center of the pitch. The game changing event would have been correctly called, and the game itself would not be disrupted by a delay.

This should also help prevent goals that are incorrectly disallowed, by giving the linesmen some margin for error. We often see a player flagged as offside even though he was positioned properly, but the official believes he was off and has to make the call accordingly. Having a video review system would provide a bit of cushion to the linesmen, allowing them to keep the flag down on marginal decisions. If the player really was offside and the ball ends up in the net, the correct call can still be made several moments later.

I think every fan of the sport would hope that calls get made correctly as often as possible, especially for game-changing events such as goals. If there is an easy solution to assure more correct calls get made without altering the overall play, it just makes very little sense not to at least look at that option closely. Implementing a video review system to assure that goals aren't offside would be extremely easy to do, much easier than the addition of goal-line technology to the game. I just don't understand why we aren't talking about it more, as it impacts far too many games.

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