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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34176

Law 11 - Offside 3/28/2021

RE: Competitive Under 18

Russ of Manchester, CT United States asks...

When a player is in an offside position and a teammate kicks a ball that goes over and past the offside player and the offsides player runs towards the ball does, that constitute making a challenge to play the ball? How close does the player need to be to the ball to be considered "making a challenge" for the ball (player and defensive player were the only players in the vicinity. In this particular instance, the ball went out of bounds. The A/R called signaled Offsides. The Ref chose to call the ball out of play (so ball going to defense either way). I've always thought that if a player is in the general area that the ball is played to and runs towards the ball, they are attempting to make a play and by flagging an offside, it prevents potential issues that won't need to be addressed if the play is left to continue. I'd appreciate any clarification you think might be helpful.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Russ,
In cases where the could be a collision, it was once thought prudent to flag early!
In cases where a ball might go into touch before a physical touch, it was prudent to wait!
In cases where onside & offside personal were involved again, it was prudent to wait!

It was as you presumed to think ALWAYS generally understood IF there was ONLY a single PIOP in pursuit of the ball and NO one else and that ball WAS likely to be played that no physical touch was required and an early flag was acceptable. This flies in the face of the new demands we wait for physical touch to prove involvement.

If a PIOP is restricted from involvement because of where that player was at the last touch of the ball by a teammate I see no reason to cut that PIOP any slack if they -TRY- to get involved and only just fail to do so. Yet if a ball was headed into the goal and a PIOP tried to touch that ball, to take credit but the ball bounced over his foot as they slide trying to toe-poke it in, as long as no opponent was interfered with then the goal would count because the PIOP did NOT affect the outcome. Yet if the PIOP had so much had the ball graze his shoelaces then the goal would not count as the offside criteria for involvement would be met! INDFK out! instead of a kick-off goal.

Recently a few really CLEAR examples of a PIOP, 100% restricted from getting involved but making every effort to get back into play or close to the ball or opponent to immediately challenge for ball possession has called into question just WHY are we permitting this as they immediately won the ball possession by being so close? Given we reset offside restrictions for the opposing PIOP for any deliberately played ball by the defenders should the PIOP be allowed to take advantage of any error of control by the defender in doing so?

We do not reward mistakes, it was thought if the attempt to play that ball went poorly it was the skill level of the defender that caused it, thus the touch resets the PIOP who can then play the ball or challenge for possession. Yet if the PIOP was, as the LOTG state, off his side, and not allowed to be involved, why can he come in from behind, moving perhaps yards to get here and make an immediate challenge, JUST after the touch of the ball by the defender, who is struggling to control it or bring it down??? The get-out-of-jail card? Well, he did not challenge until the reset touch that made it legal for him to do so? That might be fine if he was yards away, in no position to affect play until well after, or had no obvious effect whatsoever ever on the deliberate decision of the defender to play said ball.

I hold we should not discount his presence to take advantage of that touch. He had no business being a restricted PIOP to get back into play or get so close as he could be there UNKNOWN or create pressure whether or not the defender was aware he was offside or onside.

There appears to be a developing consensus these types of situations should be ruled offside and INDFK outs and not considered as a fair challenge after a deliberate touch reset!

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Russ,
One player running towards the ball cannot be considered a challenge for the ball. A challenge for the ball means that two players are trying to win the ball off each other so if all there is, is one player running towards the ball, that's not a challenge.

Being in an offside position is not an offence, neither is making a run towards the ball. The law is quite clear that in order to be penalised for interfering with an opponent, the player in an offside position (PIOP) has to do something that prevents an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball. One of the ways this can happen is indeed when a PIOP challenges an opponent for the ball and in fact the IFAB issued a recent clarification about this. However once again, this has to involve an opponent and cannot just be a player on their own, running towards the ball.

The clarification went as follows:

“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."

The only official exemption to the principle that running towards the ball is not an offside offence is when the PIOP is the only player on their team that has a chance of playing the ball. There is also the unofficial scenario where the player runs the the risk of colliding with an opponent, usually the goalkeeper although I think this can also be seen as an extension of the previously-mentioned exemption.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Russ
Being in an offside position and running towards the ball is not an offside offence. At one time it was yet not any longer.
The Law allows for the lone PIOP to be flagged offside if in the opinion of the match officials that the PIOP is the only player likely to play the ball and there is no hope of anything else happening.
In one of the offside example shown at the rear of the Law book there is a situation where a lone PIOP runs after a through ball which is destined for a goal kick. The example states that ""An attacker in an offside position (1) runs towards the ball and does not touch the ball. The assistant referee must signal “goal kick”.
Now in case where a PIOP interferes with an opponent Law 11 sets out the conditions that are considered to be interfering with an opponent. In the case of a challenge the book tells us that it is " An action when a player competes/contests with an opponent for the ball". In my opinion to do that the ball has to be close to playing distance and that is a judgement call.
The one that I think that cause the most difficulty is the overhit through pass that is going towards the goalkeeper and it is being chased by a PIOP. If the PIOP gets nowhere near the ball and the goalkeeper kicks the ball away there is no offence. The difficult ones can be where there might be a challenge and it is never a good idea to have a challenge that end up as a foul and the restart is an IDFK for offside.

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