In cricket, most of the rule-tinkering has been for the good. Anybody with half a brain, or less, can understand why a batsman should not be given out LBW to a ball pitching outside leg stump. Can’t they? Yet everybody makes a fuss about how complicated cricket is, producing tea-towels printed with supposedly humorous renderings of the laws of the game. In our house, all the tea-towels have pictures of New Zealand, or different varieties of acorn, on them.
In football, it is the offside rule which is supposed to be complicated. It isn’t. Yet the authorities saw fit to meddle with it in 1995, introducing some nonsense about players being non-active. As Danny Blanchflower didn’t say, “If you are not active, you have no business being on the pitch”.
The rule is nevertheless still very easy to understand. So why has the Royal Mint just produced a new 50-pence coin (to commemorate the 2012 Olympic Games in London) which carries on its flip-side a pictorial explanation of the offside rule? (No answer required).
This was supposedly done because so many people – mostly women - are confused by the offside rule. This is an insult to women. It is also disingenuous. The people who don’t understand the offside rule are, more or less, the same people who don’t understand the LBW rule, and for the same reason. They do not care enough about cricket or football to take it in. I myself have never bothered to try and understand the rules about gross tonnage, for example.
Just to put the tin lid on it, the offside law described on the new 50p coin is wrong. This will help perpetuate the myth that women cannot understand the offside law. Why doesn’t somebody mint a coin which helps us to understand something useful, such as women?