OK, so, a special post (or probably, in fact, series of posts) which is all about The Footballing Fact Of The Day. How exciting! Today’s topic is *small fanfare* Law 11 of the Association Football Rules Of The Game, aka when it’s at home The Offside Rule.

If you are non-footbally and have ever asked a footbally friend to explain the offside rule, they usually bark “It’s perfectly simple!” and then rattle off a load of incomprehensible guff followed by “Got that?” And since, if life is too short to stuff a mushroom, it is certainly too short to understand the offside rule, most of us just nod vigorously and then get on with our day.

It has to be said that this is not entirely the fault of our own stupidity, regardless of what footbally friends may say. The United States Soccer Federation has called the offside rule “the most controversial, confusing, and misunderstood of all the laws”, and since their national team can play football well enough to get through to the last sixteen of the World Cup, I guess they should know.  But fear not! I am here to help. Take my hand as we venture together into the arcane hinterland of Law 11, and then you too can shout ” Offside! Oy, referee! Offsiiide!” at random points during matches with authenticity and elan!

So. The first thing to understand about the offside rule is that there are various ways to be offside. A player can be offside without really being offside, offside whilst being onside, and really really offside, for crying out loud, what’s the matter with you ref, does your guide dog need glasses or what. Got that? What do you mean, no. What do you want, a diagram? Right, pass the flip-chart.

Let’s go back to brass tacks. There are two big games which men in shorts play with balls (actually women play them too, but in Football World, Women Don’t Count, which is one of the reasons why I can”t stand football, of which more at a later date). These two games are rugger and footer (did you see what I did there?). In rugger, players are not allowed to pass the ball forwards, which is why rugger doesn’t have an offside rule, since there is no point in a player being ahead of the ball, because his chum will not be able to pass it to him. Nice and simple, no? In football, however, players can be anywhere they like (provided they don’t bite each other), and herein lies the problem.

I am now going to lie down with a wet towel round my head, and thus there will be More Tomorrow! That was part 1 of The Footballing Fact Of The Day. I thank you.