Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 32803

Law 11 - Offside 10/15/2018

RE: Competitive Under 18

James of Bakersfield, CA United States asks...

My question is in relation to the offside call when a ball is played through to an attacker who is in an offside position.. When should the flag be raised?

I've heard varying degrees of opinion on this over the last couple of years, and found myself in a heated postgame discussion about this over the weekend.

If the ball is played through and it is clear that ball will reach the goalkeeper before the attacker can get to it, I was asked to raise the flag and signal for offside, rather than to wait and see if the actual infringement occurs.

This makes sense to me if there is likely to be a collision. In my opinion, safety here should take precedence of the precision of the rule.

However, if I can see there isn't likely to be a collision, and the GK will receive the ball. Why should I raise the flag? There is no infringement yet right?

What if the GK misplays (not saves or deflects. actually misplays) the ball when it arrives? Then the attacker would have a legal opportunity to challenge for the ball?

Also, what if the attacker is fouled while in pursuit? Under the current law, the attacker is awarded a free kick?

Shouldn't these possibilities be allowed to play out?

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi James,
offside is a two part equation
1st we have the 'position: which is a freeze frame snap shot establishing their ineligibility to participate in the outcome of play.
The 2nd is 'involvement' in the outcome of play by either physically touching the ball or clearly interfering with an opponents' ability to play or get too the ball .
The AR is instructed to raise the flag to signal the CR ONLY if there IS, in the ARs opinion, an offside infraction. The judgement of INVOLVEMENT is NOT a maybe, but a certainty, otherwise we keep the flag down. If we are unsure of whether a good goal is scored, we assume the, I need to talk position, as opposed to running up the touchline to get into kick off position.

You are correct a player in an offside position is moving towards the ball with the intention of playing the ball and is fouled before playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the foul is penalised as it has occurred before the offside offence

but think a bit here

an offence is committed against a player in an offside position who is already playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the offside offence is penalised as it has occurred before the foul challenge

Imagine a PIOP on a breakaway but the ball is still TOO far ahead to be playing yet its toss up who gets there him or the keeper but not KNOWING he can not play the ball a distressed defender unaware the opponent is PIOP tries to grab him a bit to hold him back? Which foul are you going to go with? Given you were just about to raise your flag for offside?

your quote
If the ball is played through and it is clear that ball will reach the goalkeeper before the attacker can get to it, I was asked to raise the flag and signal for offside, rather than to wait and see if the actual infringement occurs.
end quote
Hmm not a good idea? He may be trying to keep you safe if the keeper has easy possession, even if we were to flag, the CR could apply advantage & wave us off if we are too quick with the flag making it his decision not yours . Not much chance of the PIOP being fouled if you take him out of the play early with the INDFK.

With regards to safety if there is a CHANCE of a collision, you look at the speed and distance involved and ensure stoppage ahead of any real confrontation. You need to think about where this collision will happen because inside the PA most likely the hands would be used outside though that possession of the ball is NOT as certain.

The LOTG do allow for this contingency if the PIOP is the only player in pursuit of a ball where there is no uncertainty the ball could exit into touch ahead of his arrival. If there is the slightest doubt we WAIT & see!

If you discern the attacking PIOP is clearly attempting to play a ball which is getting ever closer, then when, in YOUR opinion , his actions clearly impacts on the ability of the opponent/keeper to also play the ball at some arbitrary first clear impact, point you raise the flag . You watch & analyze as the PIOP player is running right at the opponent/keeper. As the distance closes & speed increases the physics of mass and potential energy release, you want that safety valve! Remember LOTG want CLOSE proximity, CLEARLY affecting actions, not just in the general area. But if there is no real pressure, the keeper has oodles of space & time you are correct if he deliberately plays the ball and makes a hash of it, it could reset the offside and the advancing PIOP could take advantage of it unless it was a save, rebound or deflection

Each CR is an entity to themselves and if in the pregame they request something it is best to comply. Still in general the concept of the early flag is still not in favour as the old adage When in doubt do NOT wave it about! is a better option.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi James,
As the law stands at the moment, I think it is fairly clear that the flag should not go up until the potentially offside player actually becomes involved in active play - or, as also specified in the law, it is clear that no other team mate moving from an onside position has an opportunity to play the ball.

Having said that, I think there is also an unwritten convention that if there is a risk of a collision between a potentially offside player and the opposing goalkeeper, that should also lead to an 'early flag.'

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi James
The Law is fairly clear on this. Offside occurs when the player in an offside position interferes with play by touching the ball or interfering with an opponent in the situations outlined in Law 11
Now when Law 11 was amended back in 2005 to only include the touch of the ball and actual interfering the onfield experience of certain assistant referees sought and got an amendment to the Law that allowed for an early flag in the case of the lone PIOP and offside more than likely to be met
The wording issued in the circular stated
** 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.**
That still applies today.
Now the problem that has developed is that IMO the concession here has become abused by many in that I see offside being given for situations that the Law never intended such as the ball going out of play with no challenge, the ball going back to the GK with no possible challenge etc.
What we need to ensure that there is no likely collision between a PIOP with an opponent and that is a judgement call. Interfering with an opponents usually is by way of a challenge for the ball.
As to the foul on a PIOP the Law is explicit on that in that the foul happens before the offside is completed.
For example a ball is pushed through for a PIOP to run on to and an opponents pulls him back with the ball nowhere near the players. That is a holding foul NOT offside. The referee will more than likely call that as a foul so the AR should keep the flag down.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 32803
Read other Q & A regarding Law 11 - Offside

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.