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Question Number: 31810

Law 11 - Offside 9/23/2017

RE: Adult

Kyle of Luton, Beds UK asks...

Ball gets played through to striker who is 5 yards offside. He still runs for the ball and rightly gets flagged. He runs to within 2 yards of the ball, another player runs in, shouts leave it as he wasnt offside to which he gets a helpful nudge away from the ball and the 2nd player promptly scores.
At what point is the 1st player deemed to have been offside and interfering with play?
As the keeper, i stopped when i saw the flag go up as it would've been an unnecessary 50/50 between us and a clattering we could've done without. Im under the impression that the law now is if a player goes for it from an offside position, he's offside. Not this whole 'only when he touches it'

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Kyle ,
sorry no your impression is erroneous.
NO player should ever play the flag!
The flag is a signal by the AR to the referee ONLY!
The CR can wave off the flag!

How close is too close.?

The LOTG do state that if a PIOP is in pursuit and it appears that he will DEFINATELY get to the ball before it goes out of play with no other teammate in pursuit ( where we are told to wait and see) or an impeding collision appears inevitable an early flag is permissible.

This OLD information which is stated in the description of the LOTG guidelines is in direct contrast to the new description as the location of the involvement not the position is now the restart point & has caused questions like yours to arise!

Most assuredly if there is a PIOP and an opponent keeper or defender on a collision course the interference by the PIOP is created well before contact! Interfering with the opponent. The distance factor is increased the faster the players travel. However this also assumes no other opponent is in pursuit with a chance to play it. Although the safety aspect MUST be considered if the PIOP will indeed possibly collide with the opponent. The new description of what to look for do detail proximity and reasonability as factors.

Interfering with play in my opinion is touch based not pursuit based unless it is 101% obvious there is no other conceivable outcome. I have seen PIOP players UNAWARE of their restricted status pursue balls into the goal itself but FAIL to touch it and the goal is awarded but if that ball had skipped off his toe or brushed his body it would be no goal INDFK out. The fact they TRIED to participate did NOT change the outcome! If in that pursuit they had blocked the keeper or the defender from being able to get to the ball then an easy INDFK out!

It is not without precedence that teams adapt to the lotg tactically by understanding the new interpretations and create doubt by dummying in PIOP with a late arriving non PIOP to scoop up the leavings.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Kyle
Let's deal with the easy bits first.
Only the referee and the whistle stops play, not a flag. So we play to the whistle
It is not an offence to be in an offside and move towards the ball particularly when an onside player is also there.
Law 11 has been amended over the past number of years to limit the way offside can be called. It is now interfering with play which is touching the ball and / or interfering with an opponent which means one of the following
# by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision
# challenging an opponent for the ball
# clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent
# making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball .
Now when an onside player is present those factors have to be also measured in the context of the impact of that onside player on the opponents. If an onside player can challenge as well as the PIOP then the impact by the PIOP alone may be mute unless there is a clear challenge.
In your example there is no line of sight issue, there is no challenge by the PIOP as he is 2 yards away, there is no attempt by the PIOP to play the ball and neither does it read like there was an action which prevented you from playing the ball other than fear of collision which no doubt also may have applied to the onside player.
The event was really caused by an erroneous flag which while it should not happen the old age principle of playing to the whistle applies.
The learning point is that in situation with onside and offside positioned players the defending team should continue to play on the assumption that there is no possible offside. If a defending player including the goalkeeper is challenged by a PIOP or the PIOP plays the ball then offside will apply.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Kyle,
The situation you describe is almost identical to the one found on page 196 of the Laws of the Game and which states as follows:

''An attacker in an offside position (A) runs towards the ball and a team-mate in an onside position (B) also runs towards the ball and plays it. (A) did not touch the ball, so cannot be penalised.''

There is a corollary to this, which is also stated on the same page:

''A player in an offside position (A) 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.''

However as you describe it, there clearly was another team mate who had the opportunity to play the ball (and did so) therefore the second quotation would not apply.

There is a third scenario which is not specifically mentioned in the Laws but which most officials would agree with and that is where it is apparent that there is the likelihood of a collision with an opponent (most often the goalkeeper) it is also acceptable to penalise the offside-positioned player (OPP). Although not explicitly referenced in the Laws as a specific scenario, I suppose this could nevertheless be thought of as falling within the scope of 'interfering with an opponent.'

So I would say that while the referee was definitely right in not penalising the OPP for simply running towards the ball, there could be a case to be made for interfering with an opponent if, as you say, there was a clear and present danger of a collision with the goalkeeper (in this case, yourself). However from your description it sounds as though the collision was not actually imminent, it was just something that you thought might occur if play continued on far enough so that may have influenced the referee's thinking.

On a side note and just to reinforce what my colleagues have mentioned, the AR's flag is not a reason to stop playing, only the referee's whistle is.

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