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Offside Rule and the Human Eye

John Simkin

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Dr Belda Maruenda from Murcia in Spain has studied “the ocular physiology applied to the offside in football" since 1991. Maruendo has just published his research findings. He points out that the football official must assess the position of at least four players and the ball, often all of them moving at speed and some in opposing directions. He therefore has to employ up to four types of eye movement and keep everything in focus. The minimum period needed for the nervous system to process this is about 160 milli-seconds, by which time all the players (and the ball) would have moved. In other words, the brain is incapable of dealing with so much information. Maruenda recommends the rule should be scrapped because human eyes are just not up to the job of collating all the information needed for split-second verdicts.

Uefa responded to this research by saying it is considering using technology to help referees in making these decisions. But the chief executive of Uefa, Lars-Christer Olsson, said it cannot be used for offside: “I think it would be difficult for technology to hrlp out there, because there are so many different opinions anyway on how to interpret the rules.”

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