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Question Number: 28870

Law 11 - Offside 10/20/2014

RE: Competitive Under 13

Greg of Ventura, CA USA asks...

First off, I want to tell you that this is a terrific place to learn the nuances of refereeing. I've learned more here that just about any other source... well except for actually going out and refereeing. Anyway, keep up the great work.

My question is about offside and is more or less a follow up on the several answers you've provided in the past about involvement in active play, and more specifically interfering with an opponent. The typical scenario is this: A player from blue team is hanging out in an offside position near the halfway line. He's near several opponents from the red team but clearly he's in an offiside position. Play is on the other half of the pitch and one of his teammates boots a long clearing kick across the halfway line and over everyone's head (except the keeper). The race is on between the blue player who was in the offside position and the red players. They're racing and blue is out just a little ahead of the red players and just maybe could be viewed as preventing a faster red player from getting to the ball, but there is no contact. Does the fact that red is forced to race to the ball differently than would otherwise be necessary because they have to beat a blue player who was in an offiside position constituent interference by the blue player? Or would blue have to somehow make the red player change course, or very clearly block the red player from getting to the ball, or, of course, actually play the ball? As AR I've usually waited to see what develops but I've had more experienced referees tell me I could raise my flag earlier. Re-reading section 11.9 in the USSF Advice to Referees for the umpteenth time seems to vindicate the wait and see approach but I'm interested in your opinion.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Greg,
First off, thank you for the kind words. Those here who volunteer their time to share knowledge, ideas, insights and philosophy are always rewarded when we come across comments like yours during our answering sessions!

It is an astute observation!
The parameters of interfering with an opponent have recently been stretched hard with the "let's get more goals" stratagem FIFA has implemented.

In this case though you indicate a RESTRICTED OFFSIDE POSITIONED PLAYER (OPP) IS IN PURSUIT of a ball being chased by opponents! You make no mention of an onside attacker in pursuit? Even in the broadest of our wait and see options, an earlier flag here is a viable option, as he NEVER CAN be allowed to play the ball! Given NO OTHER TEAMMATE has any CHANCE at all, the only other possible outcome for this situation is a collision or interference with an oponent. Even within the FIFA interpretive videos they still maintain a flag is raised PRIOR to this player being allowed to touch the ball. You would refrain from raising the flag if the ball was obviously or possibly going out of play before the OPP could get to the ball or the if the opposing keeper has an easy pick up and punt out as advantage could be applied!

This is slightly DIFFERENT than our mandate to wait and see when offside and non offside teammates are in pursuit of the ball! Still dealing primarily with INTERFERING WITH PLAY but obviously interfering with an opponent is a very real consideration.
Even though we are instructed when in doubt not to wave it about, something's are what they are. If an offside restricted player acts as a deterrent, preventing an opponent from fairly challenging for the ball by, any physical contact, impeding him or shielding him within playing distance of the ball, thereby allowing an onside attacker to get to the ball first - this must be classified as offside and an INDFK awarded. Your quote
'Or would blue have to somehow make the red player change course, or very clearly block the red player from getting to the ball, or, of course, actually play the ball' describes interfering with an opponent and with play.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Greg
Wait and see will clearly sort this out without any debate. Once Blue touches the ball he will be called offside.
Now up until 2005 and since the game began, Referees and Assistant Referees were not required to wait until the ball was touched, but flagged when the offside player showed an interest in playing the ball or to use the IFAB term 'become involved in active play'. The 2005 advice change resulted in some on-field problems which were clarified by IFAB in Circular No. 987 dated 17 August 2005, issued to members of FIFA. The Circular explained that players may be penalised before playing or touching the ball in certain situation and I quote. (Bold text highlighted by me).
".... However, the first on-field experiences of the application of these decisions indicated a need for clarification of one particular situation. For that purpose, a working group meeting of the International Football Association Board, chaired by FIFA Vice-President and chairman of the Referees' Committee Angel Maria Villar Llona, took place in Zurich on 11 August 2005. The text and wording of Law 11 and its decisions 1 & 2 were not changed, nor was their spirit. However, the working group agreed on the following text as "advice on the application of Law 11, IFAB Decision 2":
"A player in an offside position may be penalised before playing or touching the ball if, in the opinion of the referee, no other team-mate in an onside position has the opportunity to play the ball".
"If an opponent becomes involved in the play and if, in the opinion of the referee, there is potential for physical contact, the player in the offside position shall be penalised for interfering with an opponent."

So since that date it is only an infringement of Law 11 if a player in an offside touches the ball or interferes with an opponent by preventing him from playing or being able to play the ball. If the referee believes that no other player in an onside position can play the ball then the requirement to touch the ball can be forgone, which is now part of the Advice on Diagram 4 Law 11.
One of the difficulties in recent times, in my opinion, is that there has been an increase in the use of the exception by ARs to flag quickly rather than 'Wait and See' what develops and to see who in fact touches the ball. It must be used though to prevent the possibility of contact between players that may result in a foul or collision which is going to be brought back for the offside anyway.
I might add that if the PIOPs run interferes with the run of the defender then that can also be called on interfering with an opponent as he will have prevented an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball. He may also be guilty of an impeding foul if he is trying to stop the defenders run and if he is close enough to do that then it is offside anyway IMO. There will not be any question about offside when the players get that close so as to affect play or subsequent play.

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Answer provided by Referee Gene Nagy


At the risk of oversimplifying offside here is my advice: Decide if the player is ACTIVE or PASSIVE in the play. In your scenario, he clearly becomes active because he is chasing ball from an offside position. Sure, wait and see still stands but in this case he does not have to touch the ball; he is already ACTIVE.

One other way a player can be 'active' is by being in an offside position and blocking the view of the goalie. A goal was scored by Sergio Aguero on Oct 18 (Man City 4 Spurs 1) that should have been offside for just such an offense.

Since there are so many things an A/R has to think about and give a decision quickly, if there is a rule of thumb that you can use, it may help you to sort things out and give the right decision in a timely fashion.

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