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Question Number: 34614

Law 11 - Offside 6/7/2022

RE: Competitive Under 16

Peter of Ottawa, Ontario Canada asks...

There was an interesting offside question that has been bothering me since my game last night that has me questioning what is the correct interpretation of the rule.
A long ball was played towards a player in an offside position however right before it got to the offside player a player from the other team tried unsuccessfully to block the pass and it bounced off their raised thigh and went to the offside player.
I raised the flag for offside as I did not see the deflection as it was towards the field. However the center ref felt it was a deliberate play on the ball by the defender and waved off my offside. Unfortunately it did lead to a goal as the attacker was past the last defender and the other defenders stopped when they saw the flag up.
I am wondering what should be considered in a situation like this. I personally would have not waved off the offside as in my opinion the attacker gained an advantage by being in an offside position and that for me a failed attempt to block a pass is not enough of a play on the ball to eliminate it. Plus if the player was not offside the defender would not have to make an attempt to block a pass to a player beyond them so they gain an advantage from being in an offside position. However I can see the point of the centre that it was a clear attempt by the defender to play the ball which also seems a correct interpretation under the rule.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Pete,
the age-old adage PLAY to the WHISTLE!
There is little doubt the offsde has been tweaked to favour attacking play and ARS are encouraged to wait and see a little more often than raise a too early flag.

A tad of caution as AR you should ONLY raise a flag if 100% certain offside is there. If you harbour doubts, you follow the play, and should a goal result, THEN you indicate the possibility by getting the eye contact, staying at the goal position, not getting ready for the kick-off, flag held down in front with a finger wave which signals the CR, hey there may be an issue with the goal, let's talk it over. The reason is, of course, the moment you raise the flag it will affect play and you will likely get flack, it cannot be helped. The thinking is taking back a bad goal is better than stopping a good goal from even having a chance!

A very important element here is NO PLAYER should stop playing if the AR has a raised flag BECAUSE that signal is the AR communication of their opinion to the CR who must BLOW the whistle to STOP play. The CR can certainly wave off the flag but should still acknowledge the AR and verbally encourage the play to continue, (No offside keep playing!) even as they wave it off . Hopefully to quell some of that dissent

As to what constitutes a deliberate play with no save conditions does create some dissent as to what is an involuntary or instinctive reaction as opposed to a deliberate attempt to play the ball, albeit poorly for a mistake is of course an opinion based on the proximity, awareness, speed of play, & of how much time there was to base a decision of deliberate action.

It is wise to go over offside in pre and post game talks to clarify issues and to realize a difference of opinion is just that, it is not a blow to ego or control


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Peter
Thanks for the question.
Its never to one liking to have a flag waved down by the referee. Anyway the AR role is to assist the referee and if the referee considers the flag incorrect it is a wave down and play continues. In a semi final game a few seasons ago I had to ignore an offside flag by an assistant just before a goal was scored. The ball was played through and there was a PIOP. However the player that played the ball ran on to the through ball and scored. It could not be offside as the PIOP did not interfere with play or an opponent so the flag was erroneous. I explained that to the conceding team and they had to agree that the only player that played the ball was the scorer which was not offside.

I've been on the other side and like many others have had flags waved down mainly for foul play in my vicinity which the referee did not agree with and so be it. Others have had flags waved down for offside where the referee has seen something missed by the AR such as a play by a defender and situations where offside was not possible.

As described the contact by the defender does not read like a rebound or deflection and therefore the failed attempt to clear the ball was a deliberate play and a reset of offside.

It makes no difference that the defender would not have attempted to stop the ball had he known that the opponent was in an offside position. Interfering with an opponent is set out in Law 11 and being in an offside position is not one of those conditions. The PIOP has to meet one of the four conditions laid out in Law 11 and as described none of those were met.

So how does a referee or assistant assess the difference between a deliberate play and a deflection? The following should be considered
A defender goes to play the ball – conscious action
The defender has time and options
The defender has control of his actions – not the outcome of the action
There is distance and space between the pass and the defender playing the ball.
The quality of the play is not a factor.
If those criteria are met then it is a deliberate play and offside is reset.

Have a look at this video
The White attacker is in an offside position and the Red defender makes a failed attempt to clear the ball to stop it getting to the attacker. The Red defender makes a swing at the ball and slices it which then goes to the PIOP. The White attacker is fouled for a penalty.

The AR was unsure if the Red defender played the ball or not and he kept the flag down and beckoned the referee across after the penalty award. He then told the referee what he saw and they agreed that Red played the ball so it could not be offside. The restart as shown was a penalty kick not offside.
It made no difference that the Red defender tried to stop the ball going to the PIOP and all that mattered was that the PIOP did not interfere with the defender which he did not.

The advice in uncertain offside situations is to keep the flag down and allow play to continue. If it results in a goal the AR should maintain his position rather than the goal signal and beckon the referee across. If it is agreed there was deliberate play not a deflection or rebound then the goal stands. If not then the flag is raised and offside called.

BTW here is a wave down of an offside flag.
The ball is played by Green to a Blue attacker which cannot be offside. The AR has not seen that play by Green yet the referee has seen it and correctly waved the flag down.

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

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