Referees told to alter offside decisions after controversy in Man City vs Aston Villa game

The Premier League and EFL wrote to all 92 professional clubs on Tuesday, advising of the changes, which will now apply in all domestic competitions in the future; The League says it wants to ensure "the spirit and intention of the law is best reflected in decision-making going forwards"

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Manchester City's opener against Aston Villa was controversially awarded despite Rodri standing in an offside position

Referees have been instructed to alter their interpretation of the offside rule, after widespread disagreement caused by Bernardo Silva's controversial Manchester City goal against Aston Villa last week.

Under the existing interpretation, the on-field referee Jon Moss and assistant Darren Cann were correct in deciding that the goal should stand, but while this new advice does not constitute a change in the law, the goal would have been ruled out under the new guidance.

The Premier League and EFL have written to all 92 professional clubs advising of the changes, which will now apply in all domestic competitions in the future.

preview image 3:53
Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett reveals referees have been instructed to alter their interpretation of the offside rule

In the letter, seen by Sky Sports News, it accepted the general feeling within the game was that Rodri gained an unfair advantage in being able to challenge Tyrone Mings while coming back from an offside position.

As a result, the PGMOL has held talks with IFAB, football's lawmakers, and agreed a strategy for this specific part of the offside law going forward.

The letter states: "Where a player in an offside position immediately impacts on an opponent who has deliberately played the ball, the match officials shall prioritise challenging an opponent for the ball, and thus the offence of 'interfering with an opponent by impacting on the opponent's ability to play the ball' shall be penalised."

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off by referee Jon Moss for his comments made to the official after Rodri's part in Manchester City's opener 3:57
Sky Sports News analyses Manchester City's controversial goal against Aston Villa in the Premier League with clarification from the PGMOL and reaction from Dean Smith, Pep Guardiola, and Tyrone Mings

However, if for example, an attacking player in an offside position receives the ball from a misplaced pass or miskick by an opponent, that attacking player will not be flagged offside - a situation which Aston Villa benefitted from against Newcastle on Saturday, when Fabian Schar's attempted clearance fell to Ollie Watkins, who scored with a header.

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Manchester City benefited from a loophole in the offside law, says former referee Dermot Gallagher

Even after this latest clarification from the PGMOL, it remains a complicated grey area for football's officials. It is still left to a referee's discretion to decide when one "phase" of play becomes another.

The question remains about how long Rodri's offside position against Villa precludes him from re-entering the action, and making a valid attempt to win the ball.

A full Premier League statement on updated information concerning the offside rule read: "The offside situation in the recent match between Manchester City and Aston Villa has generated significant debate and discussion within the game.

"The general consensus was that Rodri gained an unfair advantage in being able to challenge Tyrone Mings in starting from an offside position, immediately after Mings had chested the ball.

"Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) have subsequently discussed this incident with both the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and UEFA to consider how to act in the best interests of the game in future situations of this type, ensuring that the spirit and intention of the Law is best reflected in decision-making going forwards.

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva, second right, scores his side's opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Jan.20, 2021. (Martin Rickett/Pool via AP)
Image: Bernardo Silva scored Manchester City's opening goal during the win over Aston Villa

"Following these positive discussions, IFAB have provided the following clarification, emphasising what should be prioritised when interpreting similar situations in the future. The guidance for match officials in interpreting Law 11 will now include the following advice:

"Where a player in an offside position immediately impacts on an opponent who has deliberately played the ball, the match officials should prioritise challenging an opponent for the ball, and thus the offside offence of 'interfering with an opponent by impacting on the opponent's ability to play the ball' should be penalised.

"Accordingly, if a similar situation to the one involving Rodri's impact on Mings occurred in a future match, then the impact would be penalised for offside.

"However, it is important to remember that where a player in an offside position receives the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (e.g. a misplaced pass or miskick), including by deliberate handball, the player is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.

"Accordingly, Aston Villa's first goal against Newcastle United on Saturday 23 January 2021 was correctly not penalised for offside as Ollie Watkins received the ball following a deliberate play by Fabian Schar and did not impact Schar's ability to play the ball."

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