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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34271

Mechanics 7/21/2021

RE: Competitive Adult

DALE RIO of East Brookfield, MA United States asks...

Why did the change of the AR flag being held up on a offsides violation not instantly to later in the play?
Dale Rio

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Dale,
Firstly it should be pointed out that this change only applies in games where the VAR system is in use.

The reason is relatively simple - if the flag goes up early in a goal scoring situation, unless the referee overrules it (which is very unusual, especially in top level games) then play will be stopped. If a goal is subsequently scored and it turns out after looking at the VAR footage, that the player was in fact not offside, then what should have been a good goal will have been disallowed. With a delayed flag on the other hand, the correct decision can be arrived at every time by looking back at the footage to see whether the goal was legal or not.

The IFAB's original 'long version' VAR draft protocol contained the following wording, which embodies the principle involved:

"if a player is .. about to score and there is real doubt about offside (position or offence) delaying the flag signal may prevent a major error which can not be corrected if play has been stopped."

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Dale,
actually, the instruction has not REALLY changed, in all matters pertaining to offside the standard etiquette was< "If in doubt do not wave it about!"
While it's true the position itself was not the reason to flag many an incorrect flag was raised simply because an offside person was in the area developed as a mythical following of some unlearned advocates.

ARs who were correctly taught did NOT raise the flag until a PIOP has ACTUALLY interfered with play or an opponent and thus INVOLVED in the outcome. The AR are acutely aware that the offside position to establish the PIOP restriction had to be 100% accurate otherwise the 2nd part of the equation, involvement is meaningless if the 1st part, position, was wrong. The change in the restart location from the position a PIOP is determined to be restricted to actual involvement at the point of interference has caused the AR to be most diligent in following play.

Of course without VAR replay there was no way to revert back to see if indeed the player was in fact onside positioned and the AR was mistaken by raising the flag. So unless the CR had more information or had a differing opinion the AR decisions generally stand on their own merit (OFFSIDE is their main duty and generally ARs are in the best position looking across to see it correctly. Except now we have the mechanical eyes in the sky that can freeze frame to the big toe or an armpit hair of yes offside, no offside.

With such technical VAR accuracy the AR can lower his bar slightly to make a positional call he is unsure of or allow play to continue until a stoppage or goal because if he has made an error or has it correct the VAR can see if the offside involvement was a reality or not and the right decision will be achieved .

Early flags that kill the play can stop a legal attack that might have scored or take away a good goal. By allowing play the AR can rely on the VAR to nullify any mistake of an illegal goal. Recreational ARs and CRs have no such safety net. All an AR can do if uncertain, is keep the flag down, and IF a goal results maintain the "I am not sure that was a good goal position!" and have a quiet chat with the CR before any restart occurs! I always tell my ARs," Offside is your baby, when you are certain the PIOP is involved, raise the flag. If you are unsure he was PIOP or was involved and a goal occurs call me over and we can chat. I will ONLY wave you off if I am 100% certain you missed something but again if you are in complete disagreement, assume we need to talk position before the restart should it be necessary. Var is a great tool but in deciding YES or NO it is a harsh mistress!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Dale
Thanks for the question
The use of Video Assistant Refereeing VAR and its protocol has advised assistant referees to delay raising an offside flag in goal scoring situations, when there is a possible doubt about the call.

Refereeing authorities are keen that a goal or goal scoring opportunity is not ruled out due to an erroneous offside flag so it is easy for a delay on the flag raise and then when the phase of play passes to make the call.

You will probably note that most of the delayed flags ended up as offside calls with a number of goals ruled out. There will always be really tight calls where with the naked eye they are too difficult to call. Indeed even with technology some have proved difficult to assess even with the use of onscreen lines.

In the modern televised game it is vital that the correct decision is made. At grassroots ARs will continue to flag as soon as the PIOP interferes with play or an opponent.

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Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

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