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Question Number: 33639

Law 11 - Offside 9/9/2019

RE: competetive Under 17

Devery A Harper of NAPLES, FL United States asks...

Call offsides or allow goal?

Two defenders tending to two attackers just past midfield. The ball gets played into space where attacker 1, who is offsides, is running onto the ball. When attacker 1 sees the flag raised, he stops his run a couple of yards before playing the ball. I did not blow my whistle because I saw him let off. Attacker 2 meanwhile rounded him on the outside, got the ball, dribbled and shot a nice 25 yard goal.
Meanwhile the AR still had his flag up. I went over to him and we talked about the situation. He understood why I let play continue, but he feels his flag being raised and the fact that attacker 1 saw this and stopped his run, caused confusion among the defense. I told him the defense should play the whistle. And they should. But I understood that the defense lapsed and let off because the flag was raised and attacker 1 was oh so close to touching it.
I left the meeting deferring to his opinion and raised my hand for offsides. No goal.
What do you think? Should I have made a judgement call like this? Or should the defense have paid the price because they didn't play the whistle?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Devery,
Sounds like your AR really dropped you in this one! No matter what you do, one team is going to feel aggrieved. An incorrect offside flag always causes problems.

I will call this one 'incorrect' rather than simply early - because the flag went up before an offence had been committed.

A late, but correct flag is always better than an early but incorrect one.

You were left with a lose-lose situation, and I think speaking with your AR was the right approach.

As it stands though, no offence had been committed. Perhaps one was about to be....but it hadn't. So, your only choice is to award the goal.

Both team needed to play the whistle. One did, one didn't. The team that did benefitted. If the defence stopped because of the AR - when I guarantee you they've been told previously to 'play the whistle' that's their fault. Sure, the AR shouldn't have created that situation, but that doesn't mean a FK is necessarily warranted.

As a referee, all you can do is make the correct decision over the easy one and manage the consequences the best you can.

In terms of mechanics, if you see the flag go up when you're certain you're going to allow play to continue, as quickly as you can wave it down. Some referees prefer a discrete hand signal - and this works well when you don't expect play to be affected. In a situation like this where the moment it all happens you anticipate a problem, perhaps a loud 'No! Keep playing!' will help reduce the impact. You can then go and talk to your AR at the next stoppage anyway - but I would recommend trying to get the flag back down ASAP. This also means the AR is back in position doing their job rather than standing out of position and not able to assist with any other decisions.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Devery,
If you note our conversations of your last inquiry about the AR and flags some of that now applies here ! The AR flag is a signal ONLY to you DESPITE the fact that players still react to the sight of it. You are spot on, PLAY TO THE WHISTLE is the ONLY thing the players should respond too. In situations where a PIOP and an onside attacker are in pursuit of the ball we WAIT for physical touch UNLESS the PIOP has ACTUALLY interfered with an opponent in some recognizable manner.

You were right to allow play to continue because NO Offside involvement had yet occurred. The fact it might have is not relevant. However, by allowing play to continue you NEEDED to WAVE off the flag , the AR keeping it up it only increases conflict and in essence the ongoing situation forced you to make an incorrect decision, perhaps in the hopes it kept the game under control or relieve a guilty conscience that the officials created the opportunity.
By the AR popping the flag TOO soon the PIOP used that info to slow and the onside attacker kept on. Now you can theorize that the PIOP WAS definitively going to get to that ball first IF the flag was NOT raised spooking him from doing so. The issue is HE DID NOT! the onside player did . If there was no interference of an opponent by the PIOP then its play on, good goal. The AR can accept some blame for poor mechanics as can you for NOT waving him off and its a lesson learned. In someways its like the opposite of awarding a goal we KNEW was going to score but we blew the whistle too early before it crossed the line under the crossbar and between the posts KNOWING it to be true we can not make it true as the whistle STOPPED play. Here a good goal was scored but you choose to not award it on the possibility some bad mechanics created the opportunity to do so. This was not a judgement this was simply incorrect. Goal kick off would have been correct. And a quiet reminder in the ear of the AR to WAIT even as you remember you should have waved him off !

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Devery
In my pre match I always tells the ARs NOT to flag in these situations until the PIOP plays the ball. ARs by flagging early allows the PIOP to pull up and then perhaps allow an onside player to go after the ball. Wait until there is a touch and the question does not arise.
Now I have been in one of the situations in the recent past and I went with the flag immediately so subsequent play did not arise. The AR was inexperienced and he got sort of caught in the headlights so I bailed him out with an immediate whistle. The out clause is the fact that a player can be called offside without touching the ball when no other player can play the ball. Without the flag every chance the PIOP would have continued on.
I also had a goal one last season when the lead AR raised his flag for offside on a ball that was played through to a PIOP. The PIOP ignored the ball as I think he knew he was offside and the passer followed the ball on, regained it and scored. I look across and the ARs flag was up for offside so I went across to him. I asked him did the PIOP touch the ball or interfere with an opponent which he confirmed did not happened. I told him that it was not offside and I awarded the goal. The conceding team was none too happy and I asked them how could it be offside if the scorer was the only player to touch the ball. I told them the AR thought the ball was going to the PIOP which did not happen and that the flag was incorrect. Goal awarded with no real complaint.
As to your situation the decision depends on whether the PIOP interfered with an opponent and I suspect he did not. So there was no offside offence.
The advice as well to the ARs should have been to drop the flag immediately with a wave down after play is allowed to continue when it is clear that there is no offside.
So for me the only correct decision was to allow the goal as there was no offside offence. The raised flag meant nothing once there was no offside offence.
Have a look at this video
The referee clearly sees that Green plays the ball so Blue could not be offside. AR flags for offside thinking it was played forward by Blue when it was played by a Green defender. This flag maybe distracts some of the Green players yet tough luck. The old adage of play to the whistle applies. The AR drops the flag when he sees the CR allowing play to continue.
In your instance perhaps the best decision was to accept the flag as the conceding team will be apoplectic if it is not and throw into the mix the AR not dropping the flag as in the video example and continuing with the raised flag, plus his insistence that PIOP was going to play the ball had it not been for the early flag.
It highlight what can be the correct decision and what is the *best* decision for a game.

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