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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34175

Law 11 - Offside 3/27/2021

RE: Select Under 19

Jerod Sutton of Beavercreek, OH 45440 asks...

Is a player deemed to be offside if, they are in an offside position, a teammate attempts to pass them the ball, but a defending player between them attempts to play the ball, but misplays and the ball deflects off the defender, and goes to the offensive player deemed to already be in an offside position? Additionally, is there any difference if it is a ricochet deflection, where no attempt was made by the defender, and the ball goes to the offensive player deemed to be in an offside position?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jerod,
quick answer, assuming the teammate receiving the ball was offside positioned at the time of the pass by the teammate.

Offside not likely with #1 misplay usually defined as a deliberate play, unless a save exception
Offside likely on #2 gaining an advantage due to no reset of offside restriction.

The offense of offside requires 2 parts, the first is the position.
If the position of offside is a FACT that the attacker is closer to the opposing goal line than the 2nd last opponent or the ball, the question arises is that PIOP (player in an offside position) RESTRICTED from active play based on -who- or -how- the ball was last played by a teammate or an opponent? The reasoning is not complicated but due to the relative moving parts, players, and the ball itself at high speed, even in different directions, it is often difficult to KNOW with 100% certainty. The average AR, not having the luxury of VAR to isolate the. yes it is or no it is not decision, to the fraction of an inch, was always told, when in doubt, do not wave it about, (talking about the flag)

Your scenarios will have what-ifs and opinions as to actual facts of play. Essentially a misplay is NOT usually treated as a deflection or rebound but a deliberate attempt to play the ball gone wrong. By definition, a deliberate play action by the defender resets any offside restriction by the opposition to zero. UNLESS: that deliberate action is considered a SAVE, whereby the possibility of a goal could have occurred without the misplay intervention, then the opponent is STILL restricted. This restriction is the same as if it was an accidental deflection or rebound. In these cases, the PIOP being restricted is guilty of gaining an advantage upon playing the ball or interfering with an opponent because in fact there was no deliberate play recognized by the official. The 2nd part of offside! INVOLVEMENT in the outcome after BEING restricted from doing so because of the position earlier. ! This is the INDFK offense

A missed kick or poor header is more often a MISTAKE made when choosing to deliberately play the ball! We do not award offside for a mistake if it was a DELIBERATE PLAY! However, the position or movement of the defender's feet or head apparently trying to react does not necessarily mean the ball was deliberately played!

What determines if a mistake is a deliberate play or was it a deflection or a rebound?

We hold that when the ball comes to the player, no player will ever get out of the way and let the ball go by, there will always be a motion by the player as that is an instinctive movement.

The question is whether it is a deliberate action or an instinctive reaction?

#DISTANCE: How far away is the ball?
#FLIGHT PATH: Is the ball's direction, or angle altered on its way towards the player?
#SPEED: How fast is that ball moving?
#SPACE: is there room to react?
#TIME: Is there time to prepare?
#IMPACT: Does the ball strike the player, without the player being aware or time to react?

An impact is NOT deliberately playing the ball, nor a mistake, it is either

#{a} rebound which is a ball that bounces back after striking a hard surface or

#{b} deflection which is a ball that alters its trajectory or being caused to change direction upon impact

The most confusing aspect I think, for spectators to grasp, is a restricted PIOP can run back into a different position (even into his own half) that does not look offside but is still illegal to play the ball or interfere with an opponent. So to the PIOP can be in an offside position & have the restriction lifted, thanks to the opposition deliberately playing the ball before it gets to them. An onside player can run into an offside position and play any free ball, off any surface, post, crossbar, keeper, another opponent, except perhaps a teammate who is closer than the ball itself to the opposing goal line because onside players were NEVER restricted!

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Jerod,
In the two scenarios you describe the answer(s) depend on one thing - was this a deliberate play by the defender or not?

If it was a deliberate play then offside is"reset" and the opponent is not guilty of an offside offence, if it was a deflection then an offside offence is a possibility, assuming all the other relevant criteria are met.

So in the second case, where you say it was a "ricochet deflection, where no attempt was made by the defender" then it is pretty clear that this was not a deliberate play and so offside is not reset.

The difficulty comes in situations like your first one which can fall between two stools. You say the defender attempts to play the ball, which makes it sound like a deliberate action but then you say the ball deflects off the defender. So within the same sentence, you arguably have elements of both a deliberate play and a deflection.

The job of the referee is to weigh up the different elements and arrive at a definitive conclusion, which as your description shows, can be a bit tricky.

In the past, both FIFA and UEFA had a document that gave the following criteria for helping a referee to decide:

"Deliberate Play: Player moving towards the ball The ball is expected A deliberate act Enough time to play Balanced and ready to play The ball is properly played

Deflection: Ball moving towards the player Finds the ball coming against him An instinctive reaction attempt to play the ball Not enough time to play the ball Has to find his balance first The ball deflects from the player"

The problem with this document for me, is that it contains some overlapping elements, so it still leaves plenty of room for interpretation.

I should also point out that it is an older document that was never taken on by the IFAB when they took over the job of publishing interpretations of the law from FIFA in 2015. So it can no longer be considered as official dogma.

In modern, day-to-day refereeing practice I would say that almost any clear attempt by a defender to play the ball will be treated as a deliberate play, even if the way it comes off them in the end is something that might look a bit like a deflection.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jerod
The answer lies in whether a referee considers the contact on the ball by the defender as a deliberate play or not.

If it is a deliberate play which includes deliberate handling then offside is reset and there is no offence. If however the ball deflects or rebounds off a defender or a save then there is no reset and offside will be called.

Associations have endeavoured to provide advice on what is a deflection or a rebound which is expanded on by my colleagues. I think the rebound is straightforward enough as it hits an opponent and bounces away with no deliberate play whereas the deflection can be more subtle to determine.
This question has been asked quite a bit on the site and in the past I have referred to a scale which at one end has a clear deliberate kick which is misplayed by a player which goes to a PIOP which is a reset and at the other end of the scale is the situation where the ball hits an opponent with no attempt to play the ball and it deflects / rebounds to a PIOP which is not a reset. In the middle of the scale is the grey area which is a matter of interpretation for the referee.
I would point out as well that an opponent who deliberately plays the ball trying to prevent the ball going to a PIOP is not considered to have been interfered with by a PIOP unless the PIOP meets the conditions set out in Law 11 . Some incorrectly think that an attempt to prevent the ball going to a PIOP is interfering. It is only interfering in a limited number of ways which in these cases could be challenging an opponent.
Here is an interesting video of a debate on two situation in the EPL.
In both situations the defenders made deliberate plays on the ball which reset the offside. As the Law is written the decisions were 100% correct. PGMOL the referee body in the Premier League has since advised that
" Where a player in an offside position immediately impacts on an opponent who has deliberately played the ball, the match officials should prioritise challenging an opponent for the ball, and thus the offside offence of ‘interfering with an opponent by impacting on the opponent’s ability to play the ball’ should be penalised.”
That still is quite open to interpretation as what is meant by immediate and what is meant by impact,

At lower levels of the game it is possible to call these and I have seen a number of them flagged as offside as the referee deemed them to interfering with an opponent.
I recall in a particular game a situation where a defender had tried to head a ball with an attacker some 2 yards from the defender. The ball went straight up in the air and the attacker challenged and gained immediate possession of the ball as the ball came down. I flagged for offside and the referee took the flag. I could have kept the flag down and it would not have been an incorrect decision if I determined that there was no challenge for the ball. In my opinion it fitted in exactly with the PGMOL wording yet it should not be used to deal with misplays or deliberate plays to PIOPs.

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