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: 33286

Law 11 - Offside 4/29/2019

RE: Competitive Under 19

Matt of Bristow, VA USA asks...

I have a question regarding rather to penalize a PIOP after a misplay by a defender - specifically in the case of a defender misplaying a ball that goes directly to an attacker in an offside position.

How do you define a deliberate play? How do you differentiate between a deliberate save and a deliberate play? Does a save have to be made against a shot?

I think there are two cases where a ball that some might call a deliberate play should not be called as such depending on the level of play.

If an attacker sends a low hard ball towards his centrally located striker from 45 yards out and the defender sticks his foot out, is this considered a play? If it skips off his laces and goes straight to the attacker who was a PIOP, is he or she penalized? In my mind, in this case, an argument can be made that the defender may have attempted to play the ball, but they did not.

In my second scenario, the defender gets more of a foot on the ball, but the ball is deflected to a PIOP on the wings. In this case, the defender has extended themselves to the limits of their ability in order to make a play on a ball that may or may not be a shot in their eyes. We as a well positioned officiating crew know that it is a pass, but they have no idea. In this case, I think, depending on the situation, it could be considered a deliberate save and the offside call could still be made.

Point number 3 - I think age/level of play also make a huge difference. I would make the offside calls above without much of a question in a U12 rec game. If I were a national/international ref, I probably don't make the call. Those players are more in control of their bodies and should be expected to have much better situational awareness. In between it all depends and is impossible to litigate on a blog.

To paraphrase US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, 'I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ['deliberately played'], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it...'

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Matt
Thanks for the question
My Association UEFA has tried to advise its referees on this subject
The advice page can be viewed on this site
In your first one I would say it reads more like a deflection and certainly it has more of the deflection criteria rather than the deliberate play one.
On the second one if it reads like it was played out to the PIOP then there should be little complaint about a reset.
As to the final point I would agree that we cut more slack to the Underage player in these circumstances. It will probably look more like a deflection anyway.
A save can be by any player including an outfield player. A save though has to be a shot on or close to goal and the further away from goal the less likely it may be a save or it is more difficult to opine if it is a save rather than a through ball. Again judgement is required.
Ultimately it is left up to the referee to decide on the day. It is very important that both the referee and the ARs are on the same page on deliberate plays. It is never helpful for a wave down by the referee on an offside flag that results in say a goal. To use the phrase * I know it when I see it* has to apply to all three officials.
I had one at the weekend where a defender went to block a shot that reared up high to a PIOP. The AR popped up the flag and I took it. I could not see it as a deliberate play due to the fact it was a shot and the player tried to stop it.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Matt,
no matter how long this beautiful game has existed the arguments for, yes it was, no it was not, when it comes to offside & handling, are by far the two most controversial subjects in the game today. The powers that be, have studied, rewritten the descriptions, added numerous videos and instructional materials all endeavoring to get officials to view the game from a similar perspective so the coaches & players can have some degree of uniformity to decisions made!

My idea of a deliberate save is the reasonable expectations that a goal was likely to be scored or thought of as likely and ONLY the deliberate intervention SAVED that possibility.

A keeper who dives to push a ball wide that MIGHT have gone wide anyways will still be credited as deliberate save as he was unaware the ball would have just missed the post.

He dove and reacted as a keeper trying to save a shot on goal and the offside attacker at that same post, who plays that ball into the goal will be held accountable as gaining an advantage with an INDFK out .

Where I might differ is if the keeper is IN goal and a defender is trying to challenge the attacking shooter whether I see it as deliberate save will depend on the distance to goal, angle and position of who is there that might also intervene?

Lets say on that same shot at the corner EVEN if it might be going just wide ,the keeper was out of position on the other side, I see the action as a deliberate save as the defender could not be sure that ball was not headed into the goal.

In your scenario you say stuck his foot out? How fast was this ball? How far away? Was he aware of the ball flight? Did he have time to react? Did he move towards the ball? Was there room? Was he unchallenged & in control or was it an instinctive reaction ?

If there is ANY contact with the ball by the intervening defender then in theory the attacking teammate is NO LONGER the last person to touch the ball. YOUR job is now to determine was that NEW touch a deflection rebound or a deliberate save as any of these ignores the new touch as far as lifting the the restriction of the opposing PIOPs.

If it WAS a deliberate play but a whiff it WILL lift the restriction of the opposing PIOPs. We do not reward mistakes by defenders.

If you conclude the defender had no knowledge , the ball simply hit him or he only reacted instinctively as there was no time to do anything deliberate then offside remains in the game for the oppositions PIOPs

I too think we hold the professionals to a higher standard but then again 45 yards is along way to be or get prepared if the ball flight is easily tracked. But if the ball was swerving away or difficult to get to and only a reactive lunge can possibly get to it that could seem more of a deflection that an opportunity to make a deliberate play.

However, a lot of jumping headers on balls that the defender should leave can tick off the head to reset offside as that is an easily seen deliberate motion. You run towards a ball then misjudge it and then stick your foot out that too is an easily seen deliberate play.


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 33286
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.