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Question Number: 22515

Law 11 - Offside 11/14/2009

RE: Select Under 15

Larry of Danville, CA USA asks...

Offside question concerning interfering with an opponent. ATR reads:

'Interfering with an opponent' means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent. Interference can also include active physical or verbal distraction of the goalkeeper by an opponent as well as blocking the view of the goalkeeper. A player who is in an offside position when the ball is played toward him by a teammate and who, in the opinion of the referee, attracts the attention of an opponent, drawing that opponent into pursuit, is guilty of interfering with an opponent.

The ATR section on INTERFERING WITH PLAY reads:

However, if in the process of playing the ball an attacker in an offside position makes a gesture or movement which deceives or distracts an opponent, then the offside offense must be called immediately, even if there is no touch on the ball. Note that in this situation the basis for judging offside would be 'interfering with an opponent' rather than 'interfering with play.' Mere presence in the general proximity of an opponent should not be considered a distraction for that opponent.

The first and last two sentences seem to be at odds with each other. My understanding is that a player in an OSP is not flagged even if a defender (including the keeper) moves to him, as long as that OSP does not play the ball or obstructs a defender. The first sentence of the ATR would indicate that his presence would distract a defender and thus be flagged.

I basically wait to call offside until the OSP player touches the ball (even if he has a long run to get to it), or begins affecting a defender who is attempting to play the ball. This would include obstructing the defenders movement to the ball, or causing the defender to shield the ball from the OSP player. I suppose I would call visual obstruction, but I'm not a good enough ref. to evaluate that one. Maybe if I had a view from above and slow motion. Is my methodology correct?

Thanks for all the work you guys do. Hopefully my long question will shorten your answers.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Referee Larry
The simple one is interfering with play as that requires a touch of the ball. The only exception is where the player in an offside position is the only single player capable of playing the ball then rather than waiting for that to happen the offside can be called before the touch.
Same applies to gaining an advantage by being in an offside position. That requires a touch as well.
The difficult one is interfering with an opponent. The easy ones here are physical contact by the player in an offside position on an opponent that is playing the ball or a player in an offside position obscuring the view of the ball from a defender or a goalkeeper. The deception or distraction element is more difficult. Deception rarely happens so the main one is distraction. You are indeed correct to adopt a 'wait and see' approach to offside in these situations as a player in an onside position can very quickly arrive on the scene. If an offside player obstructs a defender's movement to the ball that is definitely offside or the player in an offside position makes physical contact with a defender who is shielding the ball again is definitely offside.
In the main interfering with an opponents is usually pretty clear. There will be an odd one that is debatable but if there is any doubt I tend to give the benefit to the defender.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

If there is more than one attacker who might get to the ball, you have to wait for a touch unless the offside positioned player (OPP) obstructs an opponent's movement or sight.

If the OPP is the only attacker with a chance for the ball, she moves toward the ball, and the opponent chases along with the attacker, offside may be called before the OPP touches the ball. Because the opponent chased after the OPP, the OPP has interfered with the opponent.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Your methodology is consistent with current USSF teaching. Wait for the player in offside position (PIOP) to touch the ball (interfere with play/gain an advantage) or wait until the PIOP interferes with an opponent's ability to see or play the ball (interfere with an opponent). The only time not to wait is if there is a chance of a collision between the PIOP and the opponent. Better to call the offside than an ambulance.

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Offside Question?

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

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