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Question Number: 32239

Law 11 - Offside 2/16/2018

RE: Youth to adult, comp and rec.

Barry Stewart of Chilliwack, BC Canada asks...

Offside 'wait and see' question.

For the last few years, we have been advised to 'wait and see' where the potentially offside pass is going to end up, before raising the flag.

If the ball is safely going to the keeper; the defence can easily play it; the offside player stands still or backs off; an onside attacker is going to get it; or it's going out of bounds: the flag is to stay down.

The one grey area for me is the long pass to a corner. Let's say the ball isn't likely to go out and the player who was offside at the moment of the pass is likely going to beat all others to the ball.

Page 194 of my 2016-17 Laws of the Game says, 'A player in an offside position may be penalized 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.'

Some say this is to avoid having the IDFK placement deep in the corner, which would be an advantage for the perpetrators.

Back to this long pass: the AR should be chasing this ball down the sideline, correct? In some situations, the CR may not know an offside call is pending, so is in a bit of a grey zone as well. (I suggested a while ago that the AR could/should have the flag half-cocked, as a 'pending offside' signal.)

As seconds roll by, (made longer by a CR-AR communications gap), the placement of the IDFK is becoming more and more stretched. By the time the AR figures this has gone on long enough and the CR blows the whistle, the offending player and the ball may have moved 20-30 paces, with the AR close behind.

So where does the indirect free kick take place?

Old-school ARs would have stayed in line with the second last defender at the time of the pass and flagged the offside back to that spot. No?

Am I correct in thinking the 'New-school' ARs need to be moving down the sideline, while they wait-and-see? As well, in this situation: how long should they wait?

As always, thank you for your valuable insights.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Barry
Have a look at this video
It is good example of when to raise the flag and probably an example of reading the play. In the video the AR has to figure out whether the ball will go out of play for a throw in and whether the PIOP will get to play the ball. The AR waits until it is obvious it is going to be offside with no other possibility and the flag is raised. If you watch closely the PIOP looks at the AR when she begins her run. If the flag goes up at that moment she can just stop her run which then may allow the passer to follow the ball. That then allows the Red team to question the offside flag where there are other possibilities.
Remember that the early flag is to deal with a certain offside and preventing contact between players. It is a concession based on how play unfolds and we must remember that offside is completed by interfering with play or an opponent. The position of the IDFK is of no great concern to the referee from a distance point of view. Put it like this if there is an onside player in the mix we wait until the touch before raising the flag and that is where the IDFK is taken from.
I had one recently as an AR where I felt the ball was going to go out for a goal kick on a through pass. I waited and just within a yard of the goal line the PIOP managed to get to the ball. That was when I raised the flag. Ball over the goal line and it was a goal kick.
Now as mentioned in other answers we see ARs raising flag prematurely on the single PIOP even when it is clear the ball is going out of play or back to the GK with no possible challenge. I had one recently in a game with an AR and an early flag. The PIOP pulled up at the early flag and there was a team mate that was in a position to follow up but not if the PIOP got on the ball. The attacking team was none too pleased with the early flag due to the no touch and with other possibilities in the mix and the pull up. I advised the AR afterwards that had he waited until the touch there could have been no complaint based on the fact that Offside was fully completed . The PIOP sort of stitched up the AR by stopping with other options available as shown in this example
Had the AR held his flag the PIOP would have played the ball IMO completing offside so no debate then
On the first video it shows the PIOP completing the offside anyway so the early flag was spot on and in my opinion at the right time. The IDFK is taken in my opinion from where the flag was raised as the law is mute on the location as there is no touch on the ball or involvement in active play with a challenge. Also that flag raised location does not require the AR to move position to signal the location of the IDFK

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Barry,
Offside interfering with play requires a PHYSICAL touch of the ball period!

Offside interfering with an opponent does NOT require a physical touch of the ball.

We CAN infer a possible collision or a possible situation where an opponent will be challenged by the PIOP in a future moment.

It permits us to halt play for safety as well as convenience with what we refer too as an early flag. Speed momentum, distance and mass we need to disperse that energy BEFORE an explosion occurs.

I dislike the way the LOTG have decided to keep the idea of a lone PIOP NOT requiring a physical touch if he is the ONLY player in pursuit and there is absolutely no way that ball will be going out of play. It is because an attempt to play is not yet a play and a genuine effort to BE involved is not involved. if we can remove the PIOP and nothing changes.
The LOTG state the spot of the INDFK is where the involvement occurs that in cases of interfering with an opponent requires proximity closeness. Any INDFK for offside is basically a gift of possession so unsure why the location means anything bad? The team that DID NOT have the ball is gifted possession?
When a lone PIOP is chasing the ball and NO opponent is in pursuit and the PIOP has yet to touch that ball as the PIOP closes the distance many think a flag raised is the correct call. I do not ! Until I see an opponent in danger of collision or having to rapidly redeploy to pursue and give chase only then is there credence to consider the act of pursuit as viable involvement

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Barry,
I think part of the problem in the scenario you describe is that it points to a contradiction in the law as it stands. The law on offside now says that the free kick should be taken where the player becomes involved in active play (rather than where they were when the ball was last touched by a team mate, as before). However in the case of flagging because the player is the only one able to play the ball, the player does not actually become involved in active play as defined in the law. So where to position the free kick? It can't be where the player became active (because they never did) and it shouldn't be where they were originally in an offside position according to the law so I suppose a compromise would be where they were when the AR decides to raise the flag.

I have to say that I do not like the current law as it pertains to offside free kick location and this is just one of the reasons. I am not a fan of the IFAB's reasoning that it should be this way in order to maintain consistency with other offences, since offside is different from other offences in many ways, especially in regards to the time and location considerations that go into it and its two-part nature. I also disagree with the idea that consistency is an overarching goal that must always be pursued no matter what the cost and am reminded of the Ralph Waldo Emerson saying about 'a foolish consistency.'

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Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 32239
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Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

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