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Question Number: 35079

Law 11 - Offside 8/23/2023

RE: competive Adult

BRIAN CASEY of Newmarket, on Canada asks...

A player is in a offside position the defending player attempt's to play the ball, however the defending player misplay's the ball, and the ball goes directly to the player in the offside position. Is this player still considered to be offside???.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Brian
Thanks for the question.
As written it is not offside as the defender has misplayed the ball.
However had you written that the defender deflected the ball or that the ball rebounded off the defender it would be offside once the PIOP touches the ball.

Now there sometimes can be a fine line between a deliberate play including a misplay and a deflection / rebound. What Law 11 does not do is make up for a playing mistake by an opponent who while deliberately playing the ball plays the ball to a player in an offside position.
One of the challenges facing Law 11 is the legacy history position of offside calls. Let’s say an opponent tries to stop a through ball going to a PIOP and tries to play the ball yet fails. The PIOP has done nothing else other than being in an offside position. Those that say offside here opine that the only reason that the opponent played the ball was to stop it going to the PIOP yet that is not what is considered offside under Law 11. Yes if the ball goes directly to the PIOP who interferes with play it will be called offside yet having the ball played by an opponent cancels the offside. Intent is not a factor.

So at one extreme there is the situation where an opponent makes a clear mistake and deliberately plays the ball to an opponent while in full control of the ball. That cannot be offside. At the other end of the scale is a defender who happens to have a ball clearly deflect / rebound off their body to a player in an offside position with no attempt to play the ball. That is not a deliberate play and not a reset of offside.
In the middle are the grey ones that might be considered either a deliberate play or a deflection / rebound. To help with that the following criteria can be used, as appropriate, as indicators that a player was in control of the ball and, as a result, can be considered to have ‘deliberately played’ the ball:
# The ball travelled from distance and the player had a clear view of it
# The ball was not moving quickly
# The direction of the ball was not unexpected
# The player had time to coordinate their body movement, i.e. it was not a case of instinctive stretching or jumping, or a movement that achieved limited contact/control
# A ball moving on the ground is easier to play than a ball in the air
A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area).


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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Brian,
We have a link on the site that gives a decent explanation on the particulars of offside but might now be in need a of an update
Offside position is NOT the offence!
Although such a player is restricted from active play once he is caught in that offside position ONLY if that offside player, by either touching the ball or actively interfering with an opponent is there an issue. What the LOTG do not clearly state is, WHEN, the offside restriction is lifted! Your query reflects the conundrum, was it a deliberate play by the opponent lifting the PIOP (player in an offside position) restriction and as such a NEW phase of play or was it one of the exceptions where the PIOP restrictions remain in effect. My esteemed colleague Ref McHugh stated the type of considerations a referee is required to mull over but it is ITOOTR (in the opinion of the referee) whether it was a deliberate play by a defender, made in error or poor skill, thus a mistake, or was it a reactionary or involuntary action which is considered as a deflection/rebound OR was it deemed as a legal SAVE which prevented a goal?


There are only 3 stages of play that could allow an offside restricted player (ORP) to rejoin active play.
One - a NEW teammate's touch of the ball
(1) Condition one requires the former offside restricted player to no longer be in an offside position when this new touch occurs. Offside reset occurs at ANY teammate touch of the ball deliberate or accidental creating a NEW phase of play with a new freeze frame snap shot of the new positioning of the players on the field

Two - opposing player deliberately plays the ball while not being challenged or interfered with by an offside player
(2) Condition two must simply occur, offside position is not part of the equation because condition one no longer applies. The former restricted offside player can legally contest ball possession if his opponents have deliberately touched/played the ball, this frees the previously restricted offside position attacker who is no longer, gaining an advantage, to rejoin active play no matter their position on the field

There are 3 exceptions pertaining to gaining an advantage
If the opponent/defender touch of the ball is deemed in the opinion of the officials to be a
(a) - rebound = a ball that bounces back after impacting a hard surface
(b) - deflection = a ball that alters it trajectory or being caused to change direction upon impact
(c) - deliberate save = a ball played with a conscious decision and realization of the consequences of action but is done preventing a goal
These conditions WILL NOT RESET nor change an attacking opponents' restricted offside status! Neither does it alter or change an attacking opponent's ONSIDE status.
A miss 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 an action or a 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 it trajectory or being caused to change direction upon impact

Three - the ball goes out of play
(3) Condition three requires a restart of play!
Three restarts are free from any offside criteria by either team (Throw-in, Corner kick, Goal kick) where position is NOT a factor at the moment of the kick
A NEW positional offside evaluation will occur ONLY from the team taking the kick be it INDFK or DFK as there is a new touch of ball by the attacking team/or team mates. The opponents are exempt because condition two now applies!

Check out the link Offside Explained on the main page top left dedicated in part to my old friend Chuck who I miss but feel certain he is on a pitch somewhere keeping the balance, as football is a universal game!


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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Brian,
Law 11 says that, "A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately played* the ball," is not guilty of an offside offence.

It then goes on to give the following info:

"*‘Deliberate play’ (excluding deliberate handball) is when a player has control of the ball with the possibility of:

passing the ball to a team-mate

gaining possession of the ball or

clearing the ball (e.g. by kicking or heading it)"

There are also a number of indicators to help the referee judge if the ball has been deliberately played, which I will not repeat, as they were already given by ref McHugh in his answer (in the lines starting with the # symbol).

So in terms of whether the offside-positioned player (OPP) receiving the ball in the example you give has committed an offside offense, it all depends on whether the referee judges that the ball was deliberately played by the opponent. In making that decision, the referee has to consider all the info given in the law which I and my colleagues have quoted.

In your description, you say that the opponent misplayed the ball to the OPP. Here's what the law says in this regard:

"If the pass, attempt to gain possession or clearance by the player in control of the ball is inaccurate or unsuccessful, this does not negate the fact that the player ‘deliberately played’ the ball."

All in all, I would say that given the info in your query, there is probably no offside offence here but ultimately it would be up to the referee in the game itself to make that decision.

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