The offside rule in football, which nobody has ever fully understood no matter how many times it has been explained to them, was changed today, and first came into effect at the crucial match between Chelsea and their visitors Manchester United.
Previously the law had stated that an attacking player was offside if, when the ball was passed, there were less than two - or it may be one - defenders between him and the opposing goalkeeper. And the defending players or player would be deemed 'between' the attacking player and the goalkeeper if they were level with that player.
But the attacking player was NOT offside if, despite fulfilling being offside, he wasn't interfering with play. So nothing could be more straightforward than that. But the FA decided that even such a simple law was too much for its unbiased and impartial referees, and so altered the 'not interfering with play' bit to:
'A player is NOT offside if, despite being in an offside position when the ball is played, he pulls down a defending player in the penalty box, takes a wild swing at the ball as it passes him towards goal, making the goalkeeper dive the wrong way, and is spotted being offside by the 22 players, the 40,000 crowd, and a television audience of about 10 million viewers. And if he wears a blue shirt.'
The new rule caused immediate controversy at Stamford Bridge, when after falling to the ground and drumming his feet on it and bursting into tears after receiving a little tap on the chest from the boot of a United defender, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba found himself in the Reds' penalty box in an offside position, as the ball was passed to his captain, John Terry.
But remembering the new rule, he quickly tugged the shirt of a defender to make him fall over and tried to attach his foot to the passing ball, putting off goalkeeper Van der Saar enough for him to misjudge his dive. And the ball went into the net and a goal was given, causing the United players to protest to the referee so quickly that the ref had no choice but to give Wayne Brainey a yellow card.
'The FA published the new version of the offside law this morning', referee Alec 'Spec' Savers said at his post match whitewash, 'in The Cotswold Sunday Examiner, incorporating The Tunbridge Wells Pigfarming and Goatshearing Weekly, so why on earth the Manchester United players contested my decision is strange, FA referees are infallible. I think the Pope has the same problem, though not even he could have successfully refereed a Chelsea/Man U match in London without a few excommunications up his sleeve!'
Didier Drogba himself added 'Like an MP getting caught at thieving and then saying they broke no rules, I say the same thing. Though some may see pulling down a defender and taking a kick at the ball when in an offside position as interfering with play, I laugh in their English faces! I eat raw snails and garlic in their general direction, I copy le Monte de Pythone a la Camus et les apes des fromage qui sont surrendrement level. Et merci, Monsieur Savers, le checque est en la poste.'
Due to the controversy, the FA will announce that the offside law will be changed back to as it was before the Chelsea match, but will possibly be temporarily brought back at the next 300 home games at Old Trafford. Liverpool are Scouse gits.