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Offside Explained

Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson former and current editor of 12/28/2005

Offside We can explain it to you but we can not understand it for you!

When judgment of offside position is necessary, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his OWN team, we suggest you see/imagine it as ...FREEZE... frame picture of ...ALL... the participants, calculated at a single moment of time, when a ball is ...LAST... touched by a team mate and determine yes or no to the 3 questions below :

This concept while easy to understand is often so simplistic in nature that its nuance and complexity are lost or important details are overlooked because of the rapid movement of the participants and the line of sight on all concerns. The AR or referee must be able to comprehend the angle of view to determine who and when and even how the ball is last touched, correlating the evolving circumstances of movement, separated by distance, entangled by speed, complicated by the continual locomotion of the players, both defending and attacking, at speeds of 20 plus miles an hour, running in opposing or intersecting directions, chasing a rolling, bouncing ball, moving as fast as 130 mph WITHOUT losing focus. The ability for the human mind to see, record and interpret the fast paced data creates time lags in real time to the illusion of position at a given moment! This is why the phrase "WHEN IN DOUBT DO NOT WAVE IT ABOUT! " (We are talking about the flag!) was created to help the official realize on a close play a decision derived at in a blink of an eye. The mind is tricked into thinking things are moving slower than they were, incorrectly interpreting the player as being in an offside positioned and raising a flag, unnecessarily taking away good goals or halting the scoring opportunities. Only with the development of ingrained good habits, excellent communication and sound mechanics will the team of officials, no matter what system is in use, be able to make quality decisions!
Understandably there are a few unusual conditions that reflect offside positional conundrums. Players and coaches, here is a heads up! Note the halfway line is part of BOTH sides, so if you are leaning over it you are closer to the opposing goal even if you are mostly inside your own half!
Relating to the defenders: the last or 2nd last opponent can be ANY defender! The keeper is but one of 11 defenders. If a defender exits the FOP (field of play) through momentum or without the referees permission he shall be considered to be on his own goal line or touch line for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play. If a defender willingly exits deliberately as an act of USB to deceive the AR or referee, apply advantage and caution said player when the ball is next out of play


Relating to the attackers: the PIOP (player in offside position) attackers who try to show Non-involvement by taking themselves into touch or inside the netted area to get out of the way of active play are not to be punished for their actions unless they did so to gain a tactical advantage i.e. sneak around the goal to get clear. They must request the permission of the referee to re-enter the FOP If an attacking PIOP was not interfering with an opponent while off the FOP and a goal is a scored the goal is good! If however, the ORP (offside restricted player) off the FOP or inside the netted area of goal was to verbally distract an opponent, then the goal must be disallowed, player cautioned for USB and play restarted with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped.


The flag is a signal to the referee by the AR that he is of the opinion play could be stopped. It is NOT, repeat NOT, a reason to stop play! You stop play ONLY for the whistle by the referee. ONLY the CR decides if he will go with the flag or wave it off. Do not stop attacking, just because a flag is popped! Do not stop defending, just because a flag is popped! The flag is ...NOTHING... to you! It is simply a communication device the AR uses to get the referees attention that something ...MIGHT... require his attention!


1. Is the player in the attacking half of the field?

2. Is the player nearer the opposing goal line than the ball

3. Is the player nearer the opposing goal line than the last but one opponent or the last two opponents?

In the context of Law 11 Offside, the following definition applies to the phrase NEARER TO HIS OPPOSING GOAL LINE

"nearer to his opponents goal line" means that any part of a player's head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition

For a less technical explanation - ANY legal playable body part but not the arms or hands. It MUST be noted the REASONING the arms and hands are not included is NOT because they can not be used (keeper can do so in their own PA) but rather it was determined no one can accurately gauge their placement in real time effectively unless the player were dead still and is not how offside usually evolves.

If all 3 questions are answered ...YES... then go to the next paragraphs (A1 & B2)! If any question is answered ...NO..., the player is not in an offside position and can participate in play until the next touch of the ball by a member of his team requires a re-evaluation.

Once a player is in an established offside position, ask 2 more questions:

(A1.) Is the player actively interfering with play or an opponent?

� "interfering with play" means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate

� "interfering with an opponent" means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or challenging an opponent for the ball
Additional Clarification "Interfering with an opponent"
In addition to situations already outlined in the Laws of the Game, a player in an offside position shall also be penalised if he:
� clearly attempts to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent or
� makes an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball
Guidance & Clarification of terms
� "clearly attempts" - this wording is designed to prevent a player who runs towards the ball from quite a long distance being penalised (unless he gets close to the ball).
� "close" - is important so that a player is not penalised when the ball goes clearly over his head or clearly in front of him.
� "impact"- applies to an opponent's ability (or potential) to play the ball and will include situations where an opponent's movement to play the ball is delayed, hindered or prevented by the offside player. However, just because a player is an offside position it does not always mean that he has an impact.

For example:
� if the ball is on the right-hand side of the field and an offside player in the centre of the field moves into a new attacking position he is not penalised unless this action affects an opponent's ability to play the ball
� where a player tries to play the ball as it is going into the goal without affecting an opponent, or in situations where there is no opposition player near, he should not be penalised unless he actually physically touches the ball be it on purpose or accidental makes NO difference

(B2.)Is the player gaining an advantage?

� "gaining an advantage by being in that position" means playing a ball

i. that rebounds or is deflected to him off the goalpost, crossbar or opponent having been in an offside position

ii. that rebounds, is deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save by an opponent having been in an offside position

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is NOT considered to have gained an advantage
"Save" Clarification
As indicated in the last sentence a "save" can be made by any player and is not limited to the goalkeeper.
� A "save" is when a player stops a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of his body except his hands (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).
"Deliberately playing the ball" involves a conscious act of a player whereby his making contact with the ball with his feet, head or body was the result of him initiating a sequence of events in a reasonable manner! There is no guarantee of control or possession in a deliberate action. It does involve a ...PHYSICAL... touch of the ball
If either A1 or B2 is true or becomes true before the next touch of the ball by one of his OWN side, or a deliberate play of the ball by an opponent or the ball goes out of play then the assistant flags for offside and the referee blows for the offside infraction, the referee awards an indirect free kick to be taken from the position of the WHERE the offending player actually interferes with the opponent or the ball. THIS could result in an INDFK restart within the offside players OWN half.
Remember that it is not contrary to the Law to be in an offside position! ONLY to be INVOLVED in active dynamic play which clearly impacts the opposition from seeing or getting to the ball or when challenging for possession . The PIOP (player in an offside position) or ORP (offside restricted player) is simply restricted from participating in play which could impact the opposition! We judge the actions of the PIOP/ORP not the reactions or decisions of the opposition. To quote an old soccer aphorism, We do not reward mistakes!
When a player is in an offside position and the ball is deliberately or accidently touched or played by a team mate that player may not get involved, without penalty, if the ball rebounds or deflects off an opponent or an opponent makes a deliberately save, or he runs to a position that does not look offside and becomes actively involved. This includes returning to his own half! Once a player has been 100% identified as being a PIOP, he is restricted from active play, no matter what he does and where he goes, because NOTHING an 'ORP' can do on his own will change anything!


There are only 3 stages of play that could allow an offside restricted player (ORP) to rejoin active play.
One - a NEW teammate's touch of the ball
(1) Condition one requires the former offside restricted player to no longer be in an offside position when this new touch occurs. Offside reset occurs at ANY teammate touch of the ball deliberate or accidental creating a NEW phase of play with a new freeze frame snap shot of the new positioning of the players on the field

Two - opposing player deliberately plays the ball while not being challenged or interfered with by an offside player
(2) Condition two must simply occur, offside position is not part of the equation because condition one no longer applies. The former restricted offside player can legally contest ball possession if his opponents have deliberately touched/played the ball, this frees the previously restricted offside position attacker who is no longer, gaining an advantage, to rejoin active play no matter their position on the field
There are 3 exceptions pertaining to gaining an advantage
If the opponent/defender touch of the ball is deemed in the opinion of the officials to be a
(a) - rebound = a ball that bounces back after impacting a hard surface
(b) - deflection = a ball that alters it trajectory or being caused to change direction upon impact
(c) - deliberate save = a ball played with a conscious decision and realization of the consequences of action but is done preventing a goal
These conditions WILL NOT RESET nor change an attacking opponents' restricted offside status! Neither does it alter or change an attacking opponent's ONSIDE status.
A miss kick or poor header is more often a MISTAKE made when choosing to deliberately play the ball!

We do not award offside for a mistake, if it was a DELIBERATE PLAY!

However, the position or movement of the defender's feet or head apparently trying to react does not necessarily mean the ball was deliberately played!

What determines if a mistake is a deliberate play or was it a deflection or a rebound? We hold that when the ball comes to the player, no player will ever get out of the way and let the ball go by, there will always be a motion by the player as that is an instinctive movement. The question is whether it is an action or a reaction.

�DISTANCE: How far away is the ball?
�FLIGHT PATH: Is the ball's direction, or angle altered on its way towards the player?
�SPEED: How fast is that ball moving?
�SPACE: is there room to react?
�TIME: Is there time to prepare?
�IMPACT: Does the ball strike the player, without the player being aware or time to react?

An impact is NOT deliberately playing the ball, nor a mistake, it is either

�{a} rebound which is a ball that bounces back after striking a hard surface or

�{b} deflection which is a ball that alters it trajectory or being caused to change direction upon impact

Three - the ball goes out of play
(3) Condition three requires a restart of play!
Three restarts are free from any offside criteria by either team (Throw-in, Corner kick, Goal kick) where position is NOT a factor at the moment of the kick
A NEW positional offside evaluation will occur ONLY from the team taking the kick be it INDFK or DFK as there is a new touch of ball by the attacking team/or team mates. The opponents are exempt because condition two now applies!

Please view the interpretive demonstration/teaching video supplied by FIFA

(1) FIFA

LAWS OF THE GAME 2015/2016
Offside Law 11 Page 36

Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees
Pages 110 to 118 additional guidance, definitions and diagrams

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Offside Question?

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

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