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Question Number: 22598


RE: competitve Adult

scott of blackpool, lancs UK asks...

This question is a follow up to question 22515

Last weekend the opposing team had a direct free kick and placed a player in an 'offside' position... behind the defensive wall near to the goalkeeper... Although he did not stand directly in front of the goalkeeper or block his view or movement(directly) he was in our opinion blocking / interfering with the goalkeeper and his vision of the ball form the shot. Subsequently, the direct free kick went and the referee gave a goal.. arguing that the player hadnt touched or interfered with the ball or goalkeeper? Surely if he is positioned near the goal keeper he is interfering? And if this is a legal goal why do we not see professionals using this tactic more often??

Answer provided by Referee Nathan Lacy

This boils down to the opinion of the referee versus YOUR opinion and guess what, the referee wins. I say this very tongue-in-cheek but it also speaks to the concept that you play to the whistle and don't count on anything from the referee as a player because you might not get what you want or think you should have. As for the situation at hand, I find it difficult to think that that goalkeeper's attention would have or should have been focused on anything but the ball. IF the keeper was paying attention to this player they weren't doing their job - in my opinion. As the referee we must discern whether or not the position/action of the player in the offside position influenced play. If we feel that the player in that offside position did NOT influence play (i.e. if you were to take that player out of the scenario would the goal still have been scored) then no call is warranted. The latitude being given to the strikers in these offside positions is becoming more and more 'lenient', by which I mean that their involvement must be more and more obvious/clear. Also, more and more the referees are being told that 'when in doubt, don't make the offside call' by which we mean that we are clearly giving the benefit of the doubt to the strikers. It used to be the other way around - I remember being told that better to have a bad offside call than a bad goal but now it's the other way around by which I mean they would rather see us err on the side of the offense instead of the defense. Another item for consideration, at the pro levels I have heard more and more of officials not getting additional assignments for calling a player offside when they weren't whereas I have not heard of officials suffering negative consequences for close situations where they erred on the side of the offensive player even though they might have been just a wee-tad in the offside position. Food for thought. All the best,

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The issue for the referee to decide is whether the player in offside position has interfered with an opponent's ability to see or play the ball. If, for example, the player is at the near post and the keeper/shot is at the far post, the proximity of the player isn't a deciding factor. Being in an offside position is not an offense.

On the other hand, we had seen players at both corners of the goal area on free kicks in professional matches in 1996 (EPL, France, US) and the judgment in those cases was that the player did interfere with the goalkeeper's ability to see or play the ball.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Scott
From what I read in your question this seems to be a legitimate goal as you state 'he did not stand directly in front of the goalkeeper or block his view or movement'
It is in the opinion of the referee if in fact a player standing in an offside position did in fact ' interfere with an opponent'.
This ploy has been used in the PL I believe by Sheffield United where the team positioned a central defender on the line with the ball and the goalkeeper in an offside position at free kicks. The referees did not call offside in those cases as the refs and ARs believed that the keepers' view of the ball was not impeded and certainly no different from the view that is obstructed by a defensive wall. Clearly the deciding factor is the closeness of the player to the keeper and that is a judgement call. The team that is taking the free kick runs the risk of an otherwise unstoppable shot being disallowed for offside in those situations

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Answer provided by Referee Steve Montanino

Consider what your position might be if the shoe was on the other foot.

These situations come down to the referee's opinion, and there are no black and white answers to many of these scenarios.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

As the game has evolved it is abundantly clear that FIFA is pressing for greater and greater recognition that the offside positioned player has DEFINATELY become 100% involved in the outcome of play before we raise the flag! If there is doubt we are asked to not to find the offside criteria as met!

Law 11 OFFSIDE states it is not an offence in of its self to BE in an offside position as it is possible to be offside positioned and uninvolved in dynamic play.

Players in restricted offside positions are not permitted to be involved in any way with
Interfering with play
Interfering with an opponent
Gaining an advantage

No matter what is taught it is an OPINION if the criteria are met!
A referee forms a judgement by what the offside positioned player actually DOES based on the referee's opinion as to whether the criteria he has learned is applicable! The consistency for what is or is not an offside is supposed to be taught as to what to look for. In truth the consistency is more within the single game then match to match as referees and ARs are at different developmental stages! Even at the pro level I still see significant deviations from what is taught and what is done .

In my opinion ONLY;

If this was considered as an offence it could only be interpreted as Interfering with an opponent by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.

It serves no strategic or tactical purpose to become an ineligible player and deliberately choose an offside position within close proximity to the keeper in the non dynamic play of a ceremonial restart! IF the referee held the opinion that the OSP deliberately stood within the goal area on a free kick taken from outside the penalty area has, by deliberately moving to that particular offside position done so solely for the purpose of diverting the goalkeeper's attention.

The issue is we must judge it as a definitive gesture or movement, as a deliberate act and disregard any intent as the attacker's thoughts are irrelevant! In formulating an opinion we are asked to consider the position of players on the field the distance of the attacking player from the opponent and the line of flight of the ball.

If the position taken is far enough away, not out in front, no verbal exchange or no disrupting the line of sight or hindering the ability to get to the ball then the keeper best concentrate on the ball as it is most likely no offside call is going to change the circumstances at least on the initial ball flight towards the goal

I agree with you that if this tactic is permitted it will be pushed until the AR or referee must strike a balance with the adaptation of offside tactics by players, what the laws allow and the spirit of the gamesmanship employed!

see question 20030

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