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Question Number: 31350

Law 11 - Offside 3/15/2017

RE: Amateur Adult

George of Parangarecutirimicuaro, CA Sacratomato asks...

Defenders are lined up at midfield. Attacker A on the offside position sprints back right at the middle spot of the circle towards a crisp pass headed upfield. Since attacker A beat all the defenders to the ball, defenders freeze and then start moving into position to defend him. Right as attacker A reaches the ball, he hops right over ball without touching it. The ball then continues on to a wide open attacker B on the wing who is onside.

In this league, play can get rough so we have an in-house rule to flag offsides immediately in the name of player safety. So naturally, I flagged for offside and pandemonium ensued.

My question, if I ever see this play again, and I am sure I will, is this considered offside within the modifications? Attacker A is clearly involved in play. He has clearly affected the play. But he never touched the ball. The play was intended for attacker B all along.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi George
The question the AR has to answer is did one of the following conditions occur
Did the player in an offside position
# prevent an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
# challenging an opponent for the ball or
# clearly attempt to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent or
# make an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball
From your description we can rule out all but point 3 which is the attempt to play the ball. We know that attempting to play the ball is not enough on its own for calling offside. So we have to ask whether the attempt to play the ball has an IMPACT on an opponent for it to be called offside.
Here are some other examples
Some we can definitely say that the attempt had an impact whereas in a few it is debatable. With offside it can also be difficult to decide. In your example the fact that the PIOPs action happened in an onside position did not help as those viewing it will see the PIOP only in an onside position. Couple that with not playing the ball and it will look highly questionable. I always find that the play of the ball by a PIOP in a clear onside position always draws complaints. I might add that if a PIOP wants to not participate in play he must avoid the ball. We are told that if there are two players one offside and one onside running for the ball we must wait to see who plays the ball. The PIOP might give up the chase once he realises that he is offside and he could influence defenders yet not impacted on them. A world of difference.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi George ,
Hmmm I have grave misgivings here!

your claim he CLEARLY affected play?? Is this because you believe the defenders reacted to his proximity to the ball?

The THINKING of defenders plays NO Part in an offside decision. Their decision to follow an OPP (offside positioned player) or defend in a certain way are their choices alone.

As long as the OPP does not physically restrict their ability to get to the ball, such as cause them to reroute their path to be able to play the ball or are so close they are in actual competition to get to the ball by coming together as in going up for a headed ball together or a tackle to win ball possession.

Offside is a condition that both sides adopt tactical strategies to compensate for how the LOTG are interpreted! The offside run towards a ball then leaving it is a FAIR tactic as long as that run does not hinder or prevent an opponent from doing the same.

IF, there is an ACTUAL danger of a conceivable impending collision by an offside attacker chasing a ball that an opponent is also chasing, usually in opposing or intersecting directions, to stop play for an offside INDFK to PREVENT that collision is certainly allowable.

Although we are usually instructed to wait until an actual touch of the ball occurs or an actual challenge for possession is taking place this becomes an AREA of concern in a challenge for the ball where proximity plays a large part in the equation. Fast approaching individuals from opposing directions, the AREA of involvement is much larger because of the direction and speed of the challenges .

That said, just because there is a nearby OPP attacker who COULD choose to play that ball the best thing a chasing defender could do would be to continue the pursuit hoping for the OPP to actually touch the ball as it will be CLEAR to the referee the defender will NEVER get to that ball ahead of the OPP an thus his run to get to that ball is not HINDERING a defender's ability to be faster or see the ball to play it. If the OPP was running with arms out wide, changing direction, slowing down, thus forcing chasing defenders to go around him to prevent running into him then he is interfering with the opponent NOW he is guilty of offside as he is involved in what the defenders choices ARE by HIS choices.

WE should ONLY judge offside on what the OPP does or is doing not the reactions or decisions of the defenders.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi George,
You say that the player 'is clearly involved in play.' However the offside law, probably more so than any other law, uses very narrowly-defined wording and ascribes meanings to phrases that (slightly unfortunately in my opinion) do not always match the meanings they would carry in everyday speech. Firstly, the law says that the player must be involved in 'active play' (not just 'play)' and then it goes on to give very specific definitions of what constitutes the various ways a player can be involved in active play.

Clearly, this player did not either interfere with play or gain an advantage according to the definitions of these phrases used in the law (and which, as I say, do not match the meanings these same phrases would have in everyday usage) so that leaves interfering with an opponent.

Referee McHugh has given the full text of the law as it pertains to this and as he says, while there is a chance under one of the sections of it, it's not evident that the player has clearly and definitely infringed according to any of the clauses the law contains.

I think the question you have to ask yourself is, even if many might consider that the player has become somehow involved in play in a general sense, has he truly and clearly become involved in active play by interfering with an opponent using the very specific definitions and phrases used in the law.

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