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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34608

Law 11 - Offside 5/30/2022

RE: Interschool comp High School

Bennett McElwee of Auckland, New Zealand asks...

IFAB "Guidelines for match officials" states:

"A player in an offside position (A) may be penalised before playing or touching the ball, if, in the opinion of the referee, no other team-mate in an onside position has the opportunity to play the ball."

This contradicts everything else in the offside laws, which say an offside offense occurs when (and where) a PIOP plays the ball or interferes with an opponent.

I have always ignored this as it appears to be nonsense. I think players, coaches and spectators would be rightfully outraged if I blew the whistle when the "offender" had not actually touched the ball or interfered with play. Is there something I am missing here?

Reference for the quote:

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bennett
When significant changes to Law 11 were made back in 2005 that advice was not present. It caused a furore with high level assistant referees who felt that it was a waste of time chasing after a lone attacker who was in an offside position and then flagging when they touched the ball. Rarely does the lone PIOP not interfere with play unless something tells them not to such as a team mate and then there is the onside player factor to be considered by the AR. There was also the safety aspect of waiting for the PIOP to play the ball perhaps in a challenge with a goalkeeper. So to deal with those *on-field* concerns at the time and to deal with the safety concerns the words you refer to where introduced by way of IFAB Circular 987 which subsequently became part of the advice on Law 11 the following year which is what we have today.

The key is the words **no other team mate in an onside position** so the single lone PIOP who is most certainly going to play the ball can be flagged early. I tell ARs to wait to see what develops as many times the ball can go out for a throw in, goal kick or easily collected by the goalkeeper etc so there is no offside offence. Those are covered in the advice as well. It is important that the totality of the advice is taken on Law 11 rather than just selective parts.

I recall a game where an AR flagged early for a lone PIOP and the PIOP stopped immediately when he saw the flag as did everyone else. There was an onside player some 15 / 20 yards behind play who saw that everyone had stopped so he chased after the ball. I took the flag as it was in the last few minutes and the attacking team were leading by three goals anyway. Now I said to the AR afterwards that if he kept the flag down the PIOP would have certainly interfered with play and the issue would not have arisen as the offside offence would have been fully completed. His early flag compromised the situation as it did not take account of the total situation.

Now there will be times as well on a through ball with the lone PIOP bearing down at pace towards an out rushing goalkeeper. It is never a good idea to wait for the train crash and then the flag goes up for 0ffside with perhaps both players in a heap, maybe even a card for a player. It is always a judgement call for me to decide if the ball makes it all the way back with no offside or to flag early without the PIOP interfering with play or an opponent. Law 11 advice gives an AR that option as without it the interfering is required which at times may not be the *best* decision.

As to the outrage you mention my experience is that I rarely see it when the lone PIOP is called early. Sometimes I see more upset by waiting for a lengthy period before the offside call which then has the context of uncertainty or afterthought in the opinion of the attacking team. Sure if he was offside why was it not called earlier type of thinking.
For what its worth it is part of the Law 11 advice and referees and assistants can use that advice as they see best. As always it is up to the referee crew on the day.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Bennet,
yes that little bit of advice is still lingering within the laws.
It was to provide a practical solution to stop and restart a match when an obvious PIOP was in full pursuit of a ball while fully restricted and it was CRYSTAL CLEAR, he & ONLY he, WAS going to play that ball with the CLEAR understanding that

NO opponent following or that a possible collision with an opponent could occur

NO team mate anywhere near him that might be able to play the ball ahead of him or

NO way that ball could be going into touch before he reached it.

It does fly in the face of the way the LOTG do request us to wait until actual involvement occurs instead of anticipating it but aside from the safety aspect of an impeding collision it is best to wait and see in most cases for a touch.

I have seen an offside PIOP slide in to poke a ball into the goal that was already GOING to score and had that ball bobble and hop over the outstretched leg with a flag raised by the AR but as CR I still allowed the goal because while he TRIED to touch/play the ball in fact he completely missed it, albeit by a few inches and NO opponent was there to be thwarted if they had wanted to challenge. So in effect by erasing him from the FOP he actually had zero affect of the outcome! Yet if an offside had been the call with an INDFK out I suspect there would have been no argument given the flag raised created one of sorts .

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