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Question Number: 33279

Law 11 - Offside 4/27/2019

RE: Adult

S of Syd, Nsw Aus asks...

Regarding offside. 3 years ago I would consider a play by a team mate in offside position but only to have a defender attempt to stop it with a poorly control play at defending with the ball rebound through to offside player. Gaining an advantage. I've come back to refereeing and understand if a defender plays the ball by foot or head it playing the ball and is not offside. What if it's poorly controlled. Is this still offside? Or only if it rebounds of chest body thigh or post and goal keeper? Please help me out. I believe the original is more common Sense.

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi S,
There were some changes to law 11 in recent years but the state of the current law is not quite as you describe. There is nothing in law 11 in relation to gaining an advantage, that talks about a defender using the head or foot. At the risk of sounding a little patronising, I would say that often the best way to understand what the law says, is to read what it says.

The actual wording that covers what I think you are referring to is:

''A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.''

You will see from this that the important thing is not which body part the defender uses to play the ball, but whether the play was deliberate. Unfortunately, there is no additional guidance in the law itself to aid the referee in deciding what constitutes a deliberate play (as opposed to a deflection, which does not 'reset' offside). However for what it's worth, both FIFA and UEFA have in the past, published documents giving the following criteria:

''Deliberate Play: Player moving towards the ball; The ball is expected; A deliberate act; Enough time to play; Balanced and ready to play; The ball is properly played

Deflection: Ball moving towards the player; Finds the ball coming against him; An instinctive reaction attempt to play the ball; Not enough time to play the ball; Has to find his balance first; The ball deflects from the player''

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Law 11 has changed in the past number of years. In addition greater clarity has been brought to the advice and the basis behind that is to try to limit the way offside can be called.
In relation to *gaining an advantage* the advice has been tightened to clearly exclude situations where the ball has been played even poorly as distinct from clear deflections. Referee Grove has outlined the advice by some associations as to what constitutes a deflection.
Now from experience I would say that some referees are still trending back on offside which is not helpful.
The challenge for the game is to get Law11 consistently applied. I believe the difficult ones are in the grey area which left to interpretation
Have a look at this video which caused a lot of debate in referee circles. FIFA opined that it was offside yet many felt that it was a badly executed deliberate kick
Now have a look at this video
Blue clearly plays the ball to the player in an offside position and play was correctly allowed to continue.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi S,

Unfortunately (or not, depending if you're attacking or defending!) the laws around offside are now much harsher on defenders. Previously there was an implied notion of control - that if a defender misplays the ball (that is, tries to play the ball but fails to control it - for instance, it skims off the boot or head) then that doesn't nullify the offside. Where as simply playing the ball poorly (for instance, making a bad pass to another defender that is a bit off target and gets intercepted) nullifies the offside.

There were some problems in that there was a lot of room for interpretation of actions. Personally, I don't think the problem was that severe and I'd rather err on the side of 'not nullify'. But what we saw start to creep in was this notion of 'should have controlled it'. No idea where it came from, it wasn't supported by FIFA, but the 'plays/misplays' aspect was almost irrelevant at the top levels because most misplays 'should have been controlled' (apparently) and so justified nullifying the offside (apparently). For instance, under the interpretation as written, a defender trying to volley the ball but completely miskicking it and having it slice off the foot would not nullify the offside - but we saw this idea at the top levels where it would nullify because 'at this level, he should have controlled it'. So, we started to get different referees thinking the law said different things, and that's a problem (because those things start to filter down, in parts, to lower levels, increasing inconsistency).

I think this is part of the reason (that, and FIFA keep wanting to reduce the impact of offside decisions) that the law was changed so that 'misplays' was basically no longer a consideration. It's either a deflection, or a play of the ball. That basically means that a deliberate action by a defender towards the ball nullifies offside.

Personally, I still shake my head at this - I think it's an incredibly unfair law. As a defender, it's your job to try to stop the ball. Even if it's hard to reach - so under this law, desperately lunging for a ball flying past but only really getting a toe on it now nullifies the offside. I've argued, since this law came in, that it punishes defenders for doing their job.

But, as referees, we're obligated to apply the law. There have always been laws I didn't like, and there always will be. Offside will change again in the future.

So, if the ball is kicked into the defender before they had the chance to react, offside remains. Defender tries to play the ball but does a poor job of it, no offside.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Offside is the other law of the two most irritating aspects of the game in league with the dreaded deliberate handling (being the other) conundrum that plagues the modern game. I suppose we could say cardable misconduct plays a close third in respects to DOGSO or excessive versus reckless but then as usual I am wandering off topic. sigh.

The evolution of offside criteria has been to lean towards the attacking soccer & scoring more goals rather than error on whether or not a body part was slightly ahead of the other and it is blatantly unfair to have a maybe good goal.

It was not really the interpretation of offside that created confusion it was the ability to recognize in REAL time the spacial aspect of position more so than what constituted involvement . With the introduction of VAR (Video stop start rewind referee evaluation) ) at the high end level EXACT positioning is easily determined and ONLY what constitutes interference by an offside player against an opponent or what an opponent does to deliberately play the ball are up for interpretation.

You are correct in remembering that control was sort of the basis many referees, albeit incorrectly, used to determine if they would permit a played ball by a defender (thus the ball is no longer last touched by a team mate) to reset the other sides attacking privileges if they were already guilty of being on a restricted offside position, determined from the previous last team mate touch.

We should not reward mistakes by defenders but neither should we award goals to the attacking players who when they are guilty of offside positioning they are in defiance of the stated LOTG on offside if interfering with an opponent thereby creating the defenders'misplay or hesitation or actively touching the ball itself . So there is the decision & opinion of what is a deliberate save or deflection/rebound versus a deliberate play by the defender & just how close or what action is the attacker doing that prevents this control?

If we judge the defender has made a deliberate save or the ball defected or rebounded then we hold previous restricted offside attackers as gaining an advantage if they do get to that ball despite the ball not being last touched by the attackers' team mate. Yet a deliberate attempt to play the ball that is NOT considered a save is not a guarantee of control or an expected outcome and may well be a mistake or error in tactical awareness.

A lunge to to kick away a ball or a jump up to head a ball away that was destined to arrive at the feet of an offside player 20 yards away by a defender CHOOSING this deliberate action that is not cleared effectively but is mistakenly directed into the waiting offside positioned attacker USED to be adjudged as offside in the past is NOW adjudged as a mistake and resets offside because it is now considered a deliberate play gone astray .

Placing attackers in offside positions by moving up quickly is a practical aspect of defending stratagem just as it is for a attacker to run into an offside position that draws a defender away who could ignore him but decides not to. So to, an incoming ball that
allows for choice by a defender, IF there is TIME, IF there is sufficient distance to plan, IF there is ROOM, IF there is AWARENESS, If there is NO UNFORESEEN change in speed or direction & IF there is no interference from an offside restricted positioned attacker who is also challenging for that same ball.

Notice I said challenging, not waiting for it to get to him ,not running towards the ball or into space to get to that ball but actual physical presence and action that definitely interferes with a defenders' deliberate actions o ability to play the ball (NOT THE THOUGHTS OF WHY he is choosing to do so).

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