Like the hundreds of released and innocent murderers and rapists condemned to life in prison because of faulty testimony and absence of DNA data, I feel relieved at a final vindication, even if it comes twenty years late. No, I’ve never been accused of murder or rape; I refer to the recent statement and videotape from the federation declaring that the advantage clause of Law 5 applies to laws other than 12 (fouls and misconduct). Well, whoop-de-do! (Said with a snark . . .)
I can burrow back into my memory to recall when I first began to apply advantage to various situations: offside (I learned that from an English (guest) referee in the NASL, the late Bob Matthewson); foul throws in youth games that went to an opponent (figured that out myself), and so on. In each of these situations you could always say the offence was trifling, which gave you an escape from the attentions of the pernickety observer who claimed that it wasn’t advantage if it wasn’t law 12.
I don’t know how that interpretation got started, because it has no justification per se in the laws. And so when I became National Director of Referee Instruction in 1988, I taught referees (and instructors) to “play on” under the terms of International Board Decision number 8 of Law 5. That seemed to take care of the problem, and you saw referees merrily playing on when the goalkeeper gathered the ball after a call for offside, and you saw sensitive officials refusing to allow youth games to become a succession of repeated throws as small players tried to hurl size 5 balls correctly from over their size 4 heads.
After a few years I resigned as NDRI over an ethical issue (somebody else’s, not mine), upsetting a few powers-that-be, who retaliated by trying to discredit my work (notably on offside). The “new” interpretation of application of advantage appeared sometime thereafter (where it originated I do not know) but despite the fact it had no justification in the laws, it has persisted until now. We argued and argued that it was an inaccurate interpretation of advantage, but to no avail. Sound voices lost in the wilderness of ignorance.
Fortunately for the game, the progressive interpretation of offside has survived, and is now used worldwide. But the regressive application of advantage, in defiance of that most fundamental principle of refereeing (Law 5, IBD 8), stubbornly survived, even in our publications. And yet there is no reason in the laws to prohibit application of advantage where one team commits an infraction—any infraction. It is one of the things that keep the game flowing, uninterrupted by trivialities. And here's our favorite video host, praying he doesn't have to explain it again: