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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 35549

Law 11 - Offside 5/30/2024

RE: Competitive Under 11

Ryan of Hazlet, NJ United States asks...

Can a player be called offsides when one of their own teammates scores from a free kick? The “offside” player did not touch the ball, but did impede vision and movement of the defenders..

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Ryan,
Yes, a player in an offside position (PIOP) can potentially be guilty of an offside offence in the circumstances you describe. Whether they will be penalised depends on whether the referee considers that the player has interfered with an opponent, based on the provisions of Law 11. (The other two categories of offside, interfering with play and gaining an advantage do not apply since the player never touched the ball).

Here's what the law says in this regard:

"A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:
interfering with an opponent by:

preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or

challenging an opponent for the ball or

clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or

making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball"

You will note that in essence, all the sub-clauses here require that the PIOP do something that directly impacts on an opponent's ability to play the ball.

So if the opponents whose vision was blocked or whose movement were impacted were never in a position where they would have had the ability to play the ball then the player should not be considered guilty of an offside offence. They could potentially be guilty of an impeding offence I suppose, depending on the referee's judgement call.

On the other hand, if the opponents would have had the ability play the ball, but were prevented from doing so by the PIOP in one of the ways specified in the law, then an offside offence could justifiably be called by the referee.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Ryan
Offside infraction with an INDFK out is certainly plausible on a free kick as long as it is NOT a Corner kick or Goal kick! Those two restarts along with the Throw in are exempt from a DIRECT offside call.

Once we determine the attacker was in fact offside positioned at the taking of the free kick we recognise he is now restricted from impacting play. If at any time before a reset of that restriction occurs, the PIOP becomes INVOLVED in the outcome of play, it is grounds for a flag/whistle and an INDFK out!

If any opponent is prevented by the PIOP with their ability to effectively play the ball, via an unfair challenge or by being in a position where said PIOP simply blocked access or view, thus hobbling their ability to be able to respond successfully that is reason to see it as an OFFSIDE infraction! My colleague Ref Grove highlighted the LOTG as stated within his answer!

If the PIOP is far removed from the immediate vicinity of the action the referee might not consider their position or conduct as affecting the ongoing play. It could also be considered and discounted as doubtful or trifling, -unless- , there was actual contact worthy of a DFK offence. If there is impeding (no contact) and it -DID- affect the opportunity for a defender to be an effective part of play, in my opinion, that is an INDFK offside infraction.

You make the statement the PIOP "did impede vision and movement of the defenders...".
My question how so? Did it affect play? If yes then INDFK out!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ryan
Thanks for the question.
Law 11 is unusual in that it is a two part offence. Both parts have to be present for offside to be called.
The first part is whether the player is in an offside position or not. Many times it will be plainly obvious that a player is clearly closer to the goal line than the ball and second last opponent in the opponents half at the moment tne ball was played by a team mate. That places the player in an offside position. Other times it is more difficult to discern and that is why there are assistant referees.

On the second part it is not an offence to be in an offside position and the player has to do something more to be called offside. First way is to touch or play the ball which is interfering with play. That speaks for itself.

The second way is to interfere with an opponent in one of the ways set out by Referee Grove for interfering with an opponent. Those four ways are subjective and in the opinion of a referee or assistant based on their observations. Some will be plainly obvious such as challenging for the ball from an offside position or standing say in front of the goalkeeper interfering with line of sight in an offside position. The others can and do require a judgement call based on how the actions of the PIOP affected play.

Now on your question, offside will apply on every play including free kicks. So I assume we can take it that there was an attacker in an offside position? That may be the easy bit.
The second part is how did the PIOP interfere with an opponent? At a free kick it could be any of the four ways listed. I suspect you made a typo by suggesting there was line of sight and movement interference. If those were present it is offside. Maybe they were not present and if not we look at the other two offside conditions.

I cannot say what was the correct decision. Perhaps the referee just saw an attacker in a clear offside position, the ball went over the PIOPs head and it was called offside.
The learning point is that if there is no player in an offside position the question does not get asked. When a team knows it is going to be a shot on goal why place any team mate beyond the defenders in an offside position. That player is restricted from participating in play such as at a rebound etc so it is not a good position to be in.

It may have been a mistake by the referee and assistant?
Have a look at this video
There are three attacking players in an offside position.
None interfere with an opponent and there was no line of sight interference.
The goal should have stood under Law 11.

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