Commemorative coin sparks offside debate

A commemorative coin issued for this year's London Olympics with a diagram explaining football's offside rule has fallen foul of referees who say the explanation is out of date and confusing.

The shiny 50 pence coin, one of a set of 29 produced for the Games and Paralympics and each featuring a different sport, shows a player with two passing options in front of goal, one marked offside and the other not.

The offside rule has long been a challenging concept, even to many football fans, and the coin immediately became the talking point that the Royal Mint had hoped it would be.

"Sadly it's totally out of date," Referees Association member Mal Davies told The Guardian newspaper on Friday.

"It's always good to see attempts to explain the law to a wider audience, and the coin looks good. But unfortunately it just confuses the issue even more."

The offside law was overhauled in 1995, as a measure to limit stoppages, with the revised version stating that it was "not an offence in itself to be in an offside position."

A player in an offside position is penalised only if deemed to be involved in active play when the ball is played by a team mate. Otherwise, the game can continue uninterrupted.

Production journalist Neil Wolfson, whose design for the coin won a public competition of more than 30,000 entries, rejected the criticism, saying: "Nowhere on the coin does it say that the 'offside' player is committing an offence.

"There are clearly space limitations on the coin face so it was obviously impossible to go into the finer details of the offside rule."