When the Premier League resumes on Friday, the wrath of the delayed offside flag is expected to be partially eased.
Since its introduction two seasons ago, it has caused a great deal of annoyance among players, coaches, and supporters. To lessen the situations in which play is let to continue only for what appeared to be an obvious flag to go up seconds later, assistant referees have been told to act more quickly.
A clear opportunity to score goals and a close call are both conditions that the new guideline will only allow assistants to delay in. This season, if an evident goal opportunity exists, such as when the ball is moving to the wings, or if the assistant is confident that an offside call has been made, they will flag it right away.
The delayed flag was initially implemented to prevent a team from being denied a goal-scoring opportunity due to an offside call that could have later been identified as wrong by VAR, but many have found its use to be absurd due to a lack of common sense.
Injuries incurred during what ultimately turned out to be a useless phase of play have also been a cause for concern. After colliding with club captain Conor Coady during the 1-0 loss to Liverpool in March 2021, Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio was carried out on a stretcher.
When the play had finished, the assistant referee raised his flag for offside, overruling Mo Salah’s goal that he believed to be Liverpool’s second. Additionally, referees will be urged to adopt a stricter stance in wrestling contests that take place in the penalty area this season.
This season, VAR will be used more frequently in instances where players are denied the opportunity to play the ball in dead-ball scenarios. Additionally, time-wasting will be subject to more monitoring, with goal kicks and substitutions receiving special attention.
The Premier League will employ a multi-ball system at each game to increase the average ball-in-play time from last season. Ten balls will be available: one will be on the field, one will be with the fourth official, and the other eight will be placed on cones around the field so that play can be resumed more quickly.