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Question Number: 22807

Law 11 - Offside 2/10/2010

RE: N/A Adult

Julia of Fakenham, UK asks...

No site that seeks to explain the Offside Rule actually explains what is meant by 'second to last opponent'!

What is a 'last opponent', even?

The last player you tackled?

The nearest/furthest away member of the opposite team?

The last member of the opposite team to have contact with the ball?

Many thanks!

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

I would refer you to the Interactive Guide to Law 11 on the FIFA web site. It can be viewed at

In relation to your question, a player is in an offside position if she is nearer to her opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. What that means is that the player must have two opponents anywhere between herself and the goal line to be in an onside position. If the attacking player is behind the ball she is also in an onside position. The last opponent is usually the goalkeeper due to normal keeper positioning on the goal line or close to it so the second last opponent is the closest defender team mate to the goalkeeper and the goal line. In a dynamic changing game situations, the positions of goalkeeper and defenders constantly change and the assistant referee has to constantly monitor who are the two last opponents closest to the goal line. The second last is identified and that is the player that the AR tracks up and down the half of the pitch to give a determination of offside. That is also the opponent that a team use to determine where to position themselves to stay in an onside position.
To give an extreme example. Let's say the goal keeper is standing on the goal line and the centre half is standing on the six yard line. The remaining team mates are in the other half of the field. The centre half is the second last opponent and the offside line is set at the 6 yard line. If an attacker is 3 yards from goal she is in an offside position as she is nearer by three yards to the goal line than the second last opponent, the centre half.
I hope that helps

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Under Law 11, the 'opponents' refers to any players on the defending team.

The 'last' defender is the player closest to the defending team's goal line. This is often the goalkeeper, but as players adjust their position, the last defender can be someone else.

The second last is the next defender relative to the defending team's goal line. Of course, if both the keeper and a defender are standing on their goal line, the second last defender is located on the goal line. (it doesn't matter who is last or second last).

If a defender is temporarily off the field, the defender is considered to be located on the touchline or goal line where the defender left the field. (A defender who is off the field with the permission of the referee - - for treatment, blood or equipment issues - - is not counted since they cannot return to the field without the referee's permission.)

In determining the position of the defenders, we ignore whether any of the defenders have touched the ball. Simply start at the defending team's goal line (assuming all are on the field of play) and count defenders: last, second last. Locate the ball. An attacker is in offside position if the closer to the goal line than the second last defender or the ball when the ball was last touched by a teammate from the attacking team.

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Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

Think of it like a photo finish horse race with a line drawn on the video play that we are watching on the TV is the finish line. This finish line, for our purposes, IS the goal line. Remember, Law 11 states that offside position is determined by a member of the attacking team (not on their own half) being NEARER to their opponents goal line than the last but one (second to last) opponent. This means that the nose of one horse MUST be NEARER to that line than the other horse's nose. If the noses of the two horses are even, then neither horse is individually closer to the line than the other and therefore one cannot be NEARER to the line than the other. The same principle applies to determining (in part) offside position. Even is on (or, put another way -- tied is on-- no clear winner). Remember also that it only counts when the attacking player is not on his team's own side of the field (the side of the field on which they are defending their goal.)

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

The 'last' opponent is the member of the defending team that is closest to his own goal line. The 'next' or 'second to last' opponent is the next member of the defending team closest to his own goal line. the 'third' would be the member of the defending team that is the third closest to his own goal line. And on and on.

Law 11 Offside defines offside position as when a member of the attacking team is in the defending teams half of the field and is closer to the defending teams goal line than both the ball and the second to last opponent (aka defender).
This means that if a member of the attacking team is ahead of the ball and only one or no defenders are between him and the defending team's goal line, he is in offside position.
Law 11 also says that it is not an offense to be in an offside position.

Law 11 forbids a player that is in an offside position at the moment the ball is touched or played by a TEAMMATE to become actively involved in play. That is to say, he can't participate in play until offside resets.

A player becomes actively involved in play by;
1. interfering with play. this means he touches the ball
2. interfering with an opponent. this means he inhibits an opponent from getting to the ball, or inhibits an opponents ability to play the ball or interferes with the line of sight of the opposing goalkeeper or any other opponent who would be able to play the ball if he could see it.
3. gains an advantage by being in an offside position. This was so universally misunderstood that FIFA a few years ago defined this to apply only to a very few specific circumstances. Almost always this is when a shot is taken and the ball rebounds off the goal, the goalkeeper, or any other opponent directly to an attacker who was in offside position when the shot was taken. If he touches the ball, he has committed an offside offense.
Hope this helps

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