Frankfurt - For the 2013/14 season, FIFA, football’s international governing body, has introduced some changes to the laws of the game. The new directives concern the offside rule, hand-ball and professional fouls, with the aim of reducíng the potential for interpretation and making the regulations as transparent as possible.
To help break down these small but nonetheless far-reaching changes, bundesliga.com spoke with the DFL’s refereeing expert and member of the DFB’s (German Football Association) refereeing panel Hellmut Krug.
bundesliga.com: Herr Krug, explain to us precisely what FIFA’s new rules regarding offside are...
Krug: All FIFA has done is make things more clearly defined. One of the changes defines more precisely when a player is actively involved in the game. Previously, just a movement or a gesture was enough for the referee to claim he was interfering and blow for offside. That left a lot of room for interpretation. The new definition means that a player only becomes active if he attacks or puts under pressure a defender who wants to clear the ball. Just a minor acton is no longer enough to make him active and therefore offside.
bundesliga.com: And what is the second clarification?
Krug: It's about differentiating between an intentional and unintentional intervention by a defender. This is important: an intentional intervention by the defender means the attacker is now onside. If, on the other hand, a defender deflects a shot and the ball bounces to the attacker without his knowing, then there is no new interpretation of the rule and the attacker remains offside.
bundesliga.com: Could you name a precise example from last season which would result in a different decision now?
Krug: In Hamburger SV’s game with FC Augsburg last season, a pass was heading towards Heung Min Son, who was in an offside position. Son moved towards the ball but, at the same time, an Augsburg defender also tried to block the pass. He made contact, but was unable to prevent Son from reaching the ball and scoring a goal. According to last season’s rules, the referee rightly ruled the goal out, since Son was originally offside. In future, though, the game will no longer be interrupted in such cases and the attacker will be onside, since the defender’s intervention was intentional and planned.
bundesliga.com: What implications does this have on the referees and players?
Krug: It’s going to be simpler for everybody because the rule is now clearer. An intentional and planned intervention by a defender is also as easy to recognise as an intentional challenge on a player. For referees and their assistants, this is a relief because it leaves less room for interpretation and, therefore, less discussion. Previously, we on the refereeing panel even discussed among ourselves whether a player’s intervention was actually something to be penalised or not.
bundesliga.com: Do you think these changes are positive?
Krug: They certainly make sense because they create more clarity. The changes are only going to be noticeable in very few decisions.
bundesliga.com: Let’s consider the hand-ball rule briefly. The laws of the game state that a player is penalised for a foul and shown a yellow card if he stops a shot on his goal with his hand. But there is no set explanation on what a hand-ball offence is.
Krug: When considering the punishment, we follow the rule set out by FIFA, which states that a direct free-kick is awarded if a player handles the ball deliberately. That’s the only explanation we need.
bundesliga.com: Could you expand on that?
Krug: We make a distinction between handball offences that occur either due to natural or unnatural movements of the body. The further a player extends his arm from his body, the larger the risk he runs of being penalised for a deliberate handball. Problems start to arise when the unintentional handball caused by a hand in a natural position becomes intentional because the hand is away from the body in an unnatural movement.
bundesliga.com: There were a number of contentious decisions involving handball last season...
Krug: That simply can’t be avoided since there is no black and white distinction between what is intentional and accidental, a natural and an unnatural movement of the body. The referee just has to decide in that split second.
bundesliga.com: Will there be any other rule changes to be implemented this season?
Krug: Yes, there will. Regarding professional fouls committed by goalkeepers, we will also be following the FIFA directive. In previous years a referee would only show a goalkeeper a yellow card if he rushed out of his goal to stop an attacker, but missed the ball and caught the man, bringing him down. In future, however, the goalkeeper will be considered as an outfield player, which means if he commits a professional foul, he will receive an automatic red card.
Interview by Alexander Dionisius