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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33717

Law 11 - Offside 10/19/2019

RE: Competitive Under 15

Gary Robinson of Pleasant Grove, UT United States asks...

During a match where I was an AR, a player in an offside position was played a through ball about 20-25 yards in front of him. He started to move towards the ball but pulled up 12-15 yards short when he realized he would likely be flagged for offside. I kept my flag down, and a defensive player ran over and began playing the ball upfield. As soon as the defender took a touch, the aforementioned attacking player immediately began to pressure him trying to win the ball back. I kept my flag down and play continued. After the match, the defender's coach respectfully approached the center and me about why we had not flagged the attacker for offside. We explained that neither of us felt he was within playing distance of the ball, had gained an advantage by being in that position, nor interfered with the defender's ability to play the ball.

My question is, should I have flagged the attacker for offside when he began to pressure the ball? He was the only attacker in the area and could potentially have rushed the defender into a poor touch, bad pass, or another error. I recognize the attacker doesn't need to touch the ball to be flagged offside, but how close to the ball is he determined to have an advantage? Had he won the ball from the defender, would that be the next phase of play, or should I have flagged him offside at that point?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Gary,
This is a really tricky one. It's a fairly common scenario too - not just in the manner you described, but even PIOP running to challenge a defender who has intercepted the ball.

Echoing Ref McHugh, I think the timeframe is important. If the PIOP is able to challenge within, say, a second (or is really pressuring the defender quickly) then I'd consider it. For me it comes down to how much chance the defender had to control the ball (trying to bring down a really tricky ball, I'd allow a little more time) From your post it sounds like the defender actually had a fair bit of time (given it sounds like 10+ yards of space at the initial touch), so I'd be happy to say the offside was 'reset' there.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Gary,
the PIOP by pulling up short has effectively showed non involvement.
Had he continued his run at the defender and or closed to a challangable or possible collision distance, then a flag is appropriate .

Given your description you were spot on mate!
There is no need to flag for a non existent infringement!
The PIOP did NOTHING to interfere with the defender or interfere with play. Once the defender decided to go ahead and deliberately play and control the ball the PIOP restriction was reset and he was able to pressure the ball carrier freely!

The portion of the LOTG that state when a PIOP is the ONLY player in pursuit of a ball that will definitely stay on the FOP without another player in the vicinity can be flagged early, is likely what the coach was thinking. I have seen players do exactly as you describe, begin pursuit, but the AR flags very early and the player stops, only to have the CR allow defenders or their keeper get to and actively play the ball without stopping for the INDFK out as an advantageous effort to keep play moving.

Not a big fan of this.

I think the only time the AR should raise the flag is for a 100% touch of the ball by the PIOP or the PIOP definitely interferes with an opponent in a very real manner and for safety to prevent a collision if traveling at a high rate of speed .
The CR is almost ALWAYS better of going with the flag in these cases, even if a bit early as it prevents the grumble in cases where the ball is, only free SORT of ,and as the defender struggles to control, we are allowing the former PIOP to close them down very quickly from a short distance away.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Gary
It is a judgement call as to whether the PIOP met one of the four conditions set out in Law 11 on interfering with an opponent which are
# preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
# challenging an opponent for the ball or
# clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
# making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball.
As to helping with the judgement I would say that the impact has to be immediate within at least a couple of seconds. So left to the opinion of what is close which for me has the defender time to control, move the ball once without any challenge, impact by the PIOP.
From your description I would say that the PIOP did not meet any of the four conditions and once the defender gained which I call unfettered control of the ball the PIOP was entitled to get involved in active play again. The defender has begun a new phase of play when he takes control of the ball and he has a choice of kicking the ball away the same as an IDFK or doing what he wishes with it. Should he mess up by losing the ball then that is tough luck.
I had one recently where a PIOP behind a defender did not challenge yet was *close* within a yard or so and the defender headed the ball up in the air and the PIOP challenged immediately when the ball landed. I flagged for offside. Had the defender headed it away or controlled it, moved it away with no impact by the PIOP then play on. Some will argue that the header was a deliberate play yet for me it was all part of the play which included an immediate challenge.
So your answer to the coach was totally correct. Offside is not a get out of jail card for poor play or loss of possession when defenders make poor choices.

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