Off Script: Graeme Souness on how football can change for the better

When it comes to football, there are not many things Graeme Souness has not done, or seen, over the years.

Five League titles, three European Cups, three League Cups, Souness won it all – and some – during a glittering eight-year spell in the engine room of one of England’s greatest-ever teams.

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During his tenure as Liverpool manager, Souness was in charge when the back-pass rule was introduced in 1992, as football moved to combat time-wasting and overtly defensive play.

The game has moved on even more since then, off the field with the increased financial growth and on the pitch with the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) – but in which direction should the game turn next?

In a wide-ranging edition of Off Script with Patrick Davison, Souness outlines two rule changes he believes would change football for the better…

1. Any part offside to any part onside

“If you were inventing the game of football today and were tasked with making the game attractive, you would notice that 99 per cent of football fans watch games to see goals.

“They don’t go to see two teams cancel each other out, they don’t go to see a centre half defend his six-yard box, they go to see the flair players, the ones who kiss the badge and celebrate with the crowd rather than their team-mates.

“If we were to start football with a clean slate, the first rule we would look at would be the offside rule. My suggestion is a simple one, change it from being any part of the player being offside to any part of the player being onside.

“Defenders wouldn’t like but, I doubt you’d find a striker that didn’t. When a striker is trying to keep himself onside, he automatically leans forward to get his body into a position where he is ready to sprint, whereas the defender is standing upright trying to catch him offside.

Some of the football wizards have bought into my ideas as to how we could change the offside rule.

Graeme Souness

“A change to the rule would make defenders automatically drop in a bit deeper because the advantage would be with the strikers, and that means there would be more goal-mouth action, shots at goal and less controversy to deal.

“There would still be the marginal calls that would have to go to VAR, which is here to stay because people have invested so much money and time in it.

“As things stand, the current offside rule puts referees under enormous pressure, where a toenail, a shoulder, a couple of hairs on your head mean a player is offside. The common sense thing to would be to change it.

“No supporter is happy with VAR. It takes one or two minutes to make a call – nobody wants that. It is a tool to help referees make the right call, but ultimately it still comes down to a human making the call with their interpretation of the rules, and they don’t always get it right.

“VAR has put them under enormous pressure, and we have to simplify it for them, and this offside suggestion would remove a lot of the drama.”

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2. And then there were nine…

“The Premier League has never been more interesting to people around the world than it is today. It’s watched everywhere, and rightly so because it’s such an exciting sport to watch.

“But at the end of the day it is entertainment, and if you look at the state of the game now, teams cancel each other out because they are all terrific athletes.

“When you see a sending off, all of a sudden there is openings, so there is a case reducing the number of players in a team from 11 to 10.

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