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Question Number: 22852

Law 11 - Offside 2/22/2010

RE: Classic Under 16

Mark of Greensboro, NC USA asks...

I had two players (on two separate plays)called for offsides this past weekend... however, they were on OUR side of the field. On both occasions the referee said that the players had begun running toward the ball from on offsides position on the opponents side of the field when the ball was struck... therefore, they were to be considered offsides.

I have two problems with these calls. 1) The FIFA Laws of the Game states that you cannot be in an offsides position on 'your' half of the field... and 2) how can an advantage be gained by a player traveling a greater distance to win the ball??

'A player is not in an offside position if:
? he is in his own half of the field of play or
? he is level with the second-last opponent or
? he is level with the last two opponents'

It continues to say: 'A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:
? interfering with play or
? interfering with an opponent or
? gaining an advantage by being in that position'

As a long time player and coach of the Game, I fully understand calling a player for a violation when he retreats from an offsides position and comes back to receive or win a ball (when in the opponents half of the field). BUT, if you simply CANNOT be offsides in your own half, doesn't that negate ANY call?? And secondly, if the answer to my previous question is a resounding 'NO'... then I ask again, what advantage was gained by my player, coming from a greater distance, (even if determined to be offsides at the time the ball was played)?? The rules CLEARLY state that to be considered offsides one MUST gain an advantage over the opponent. Covering more distance doesn't seem to meet that requirement.

Thanks for the help. I realize you guys have a thankless job... and because of that I'm sending you guys this question instead of peppering the officials from yesterday's match with an emotional onslaught that could lead to tempers flaring, etc... In all seriousness, I'd truly like to know 1) if the calls were correct, 2) the rational behind this law, and 3) how should a coach go about getting clarification during a match... especially when so many refs simply want nothing to do with the coaches?

Thanks guys!
Mark in NC

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The answer to your question is WHEN.

When the ball was touched or played by a teammate, any player who is within his or her own half of the field cannot be in offside position. No matter what happens next. That player can participate in play anywhere on the field.

If, however, when the ball was first touched, your player was in the opponent's half and nearer to the opponent's goal line than the ball and the second last defender, your player is in offside position. No matter what happens next. That player may not participate in play anywhere on the field.

A player in offside position (PIOP) is temporarily prohibited from participating in play until one of three things happens: (a) the player is in an onside position the next time the ball is touched or played by a teammate; (b) the ball goes out of play; or (c) the ball is possessed and controlled by an opponent.

There is nothing PIOP can do to make themselves 'onside.' They cannot, for example, run back to be even with the ball, even with the second last defender, or into their own half. Defenders are entitled to ignore attackers in offside position, and if a PIOP position were allowed to play the ball by running back to their own half, the defenders would have to mark PIOP. Law 11 is intended to avoid this by making a PIOP temporarily ineligible to participate in any play in any location. "Gaining an advantage" is defined by FIFA to mean touching the ball after the ball deflects off an opponent or the goal; it does not insulate PIOP from touching the ball in other circumstances.

Most of the changes to the offside law have been to enhance attacking soccer, and IFAB may someday adopt the notion you've expressed. But, until they do, the referee in your match appears to have correctly interpreted law 11.



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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

First of all, Law 11 means a player who STARTS from their own half of the field when a ball is played by a teammate cannot be in an offside position.

The question here is where were your players in relation to their opponents when the ball was last touched by a teammate.

If your players were in the opponents' half of the field when their teammate played the ball with no more than one opponent between them and the opponents' goal line, they were in an offside position, and when they ran back into their own half to play the ball, they were offside. The restart would take place from the spot your player was occupying on the opponents' side of the field at the moment the ball was last touched by a teammate.

If your players were in the opponents' half of the field when the ball was played by a teammate, they would not be offside IF
1) another teammate touched the ball after your player in an offside position crossed back into his own half and before your player touched it or
2) an opponent controlled and played the ball which went to your player or
3) your player in the opponent's half of the field was not closer to the opponents' goal line than two opponents (thus not in an offside position).

If your players were in their own half when the ball was last touched by a teammate, but they crossed the halfway line and then came back to get the ball they would not be offside.

Hope that helps straighten it out?



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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

Coach, you quoted the rule but didn't realize you quoted the answer to your question.

A player is not in an offside *position* in his own half of the field. But that's not where your players were. They were in the other half of the field, so they were in an offside position.

Then Law 11 says, 'A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:' followed by the 3 ways a player can become involved. Unfortunately this is not one of the best worded Laws. Because 'at the moment' the ball is played, he is not yet involved in play. What those words mean is if the player is in an offside position 'at the moment' the ball last touches or is played by a teammate, the player no longer can become involved in play. That's what your players did. They moved from their offside position to play the ball. Even though they crossed the center line to play the ball, 'at the moment' their position was offside.

Hopefully you noticed that the opponent's restart was not in your end of the field where the players eventually became involved, but was back at (or at least near to) the position the players were judged to be in an offside position.



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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Coach Mark
The reason offside was called here was that the conditions of offside were met in that
1. the attacking player was in an offside position when the ball was played by a team mate and
2. the 'offside positioned' player 'interfered with play' by touching the ball. Where he touched it is not part of the Law.
Another way to look at this is to look at where the IDFK was awarded from. It is awarded from where the player was, while in an offside position in the opponents' half, when the ball was played by a team mate. Where the 'offside' player actually touched the ball meets one of the criteria required to call offside which is 'interfering with play' and that position has no relevance in law, just the touch of the ball.
So
1. The offside calls were correct as per Law 11
2. The rationale behind the law is that players are required to be in onside positions to get involved in active play. I'm not going to get into the merits of Law 11 other than it is part of the game and players have to manage it. I will say though that there can be considerable benefit for a forward to be beyond defenders in an offside position and then to come 'unseen' from that offside position to play the ball. The defender could have made a decision not to challenge for the ball based on what is in front of him and he does not have the luxury of looking away from the ball to see what is happening behind him. It also makes marking considerably more difficult for the defenders. Out role is to implement Law 11 as written and also the term in Law 11 of "gaining an advantage by being in that position" refers only to rebounds off the goal frame or an opponent and has nothing to do with advantage over opponents.
3. My advice to coaches is to deal with the elements of the game that they control namely tactics and players. Decisions are part of the game. Accept them and encourage player to get on with the play and not to lose concentration. In this case the referee was entirely correct yet he probably was berated for the calls. Referees spend a considerable amount of time understanding and implementing the law. Who knows it better? As a referee I'm happy after the game has been completed to explain any point in law in a calm measured way perhaps in the changing room. I did this yesterday on an offside decision where I was 100% correct and the coach had an uniformed understanding of Law 11. He still does not believe me even after an explanation that the goalkeeper is not uniquely part of Law 11 and when the keeper comes out into open play ahead of defenders the determination of the 2nd last opponent has now changed.



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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Coach, you are not reading Law 11 correctly. Law 11 does not say a player may not be OFFSIDE if in his own half of the field. Law 11 says a player is not in offside POSITION when in his own half of the field. Big difference.

You correctly quote Law 11 that a player in an offside position is only penalized if, AT THE MOMENT THE BALL TOUCHES OR IS PLAYED BY ONE OF HIS TEAM....This means that it doesn't matter what position the player is in when he receives the ball, if he is in offside position when the ball is played, he may not participate in play until offside resets, regardless of where his position is when he gets to the ball.

Also, gains an advantage is just one criteria of an offside offense. Interfering with play, which your player did when he touched the ball is another.

You instinctively know this if you've ever had one of your forwards hold an onside position waiting for a teammate strike the ball and then run past all the defenders and collect it even though when he collects it past the next to last defender,and,consequently, in offside POSITION. He is NOT offside because when the ball was played he was in an onside position.

Just as a player in onside position when the ball is played may go to an offside position to retrieve it, a player in offside position when the ball is played may NOT go to an onside position to play it.

When considering offside, the only time the position is important is when the ball is played or touched by a teammate.

So;
1 yes the calls were 100% correct
2. The rationale is that if a player is in an offside position when the ball is played by a teammate, he may not participate in play until offside resets
3. many refs want nothing to do with coaches because coaches who do not understand the Laws scream at us when we are 100% correct (props to you for NOT doing this!). After the match almost all of us are willing to calmly discuss any call we made if approached in a calm and reasonable manner



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