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Offside Explained

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

The primary understanding of offside requires the realization that it is comprised of two separate elements!

{1} POSITION which is NOT an offence but RESTRICTS the player from further involvement in active play

{2} INVOLVEMENT in active play by a restricted offside player creates an indfk infringement

Why is this hard to comprehend?
It is because of the confusion, created by the ever changing circumstances of offside!
Offside position must be established as 100% YES or 100% NO ironclad decision, ...BEFORE... we need concern ourselves to look any further.
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.
There must be an initial accurate positional assessment!
The inability to make a correct diagnosis at that critical moment can affect a match outcome. The verifiable accuracy of a 100% yes or no decision is complicated by the time delay sequence, understanding that the location of the INDFK occurs where the offside position is 1st established ...EVEN... if the involvement occurs later, at a different location. The AR or referee must be able to comprehend the evolving circumstances and apply their current level of knowledge to the continual movement of the players, both defending and attacking, at speeds of 20 miles an hour, running in opposing directions, chasing a rolling, bouncing ball, moving at possibly 3 to 4x that speed

When judgment of offside position is necessary, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his OWN team ask these questions:

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?

If all are answered yes GO TO next paragraph ELSE, IF any question is answered no, the player is not in an offside position and can participate in play until the next touch by a member of his team.

At that point GO TO question 1.

The player is in an offside position, ask two more questions:
a. Is the player actively interfering with play or an opponent?
b. Is the player gaining an advantage?

If either of these is true or becomes true before the next touch by one of his OWN side then the assistant flags for offside and the referee blows for the infraction and awards an indirect free kick, to be taken from where the attacker was previously,at the moment the ball was touched or played by a member of his own team, not from where the involvement occurs.

Remember that it is not contrary to the Law to be in an offside position. After the ball is played by a team mate or an opponent a footballer may run into an offside position and play it without penalty.

When a player is in an offside position and the ball is 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 the player runs to a position that is not offside and becomes actively involved. This includes returning to his own half!

ONCE a player has been 100% identified as being in an offside position, he is restricted from active play, no matter what he does and where he goes, because NOTHING an offside restricted player ... '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/touches 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 3 conditions WILL NOT RESET nor change an attacking opponents' restricted offside status!

(2a) Deliberately playing the ball must be a controlled possession or a controlled pass

INCORRECT - It is ball played with a conscious decision and realization of the consequences of action

Deliberately playing the ball involves a conscious act of a player whereby his making contact with the ball with his feet, head, hands or body was the result of him initiating a sequence of events in a timely manner! There is no guarantee of control or possession in a deliberate action. It does involve a PHYSICAL touch of the ball

(2b) A miss kick or poor header is considered a deflection/rebound

INCORRECT 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 feet or head, hands or body apparently trying to react does not necessarily mean the ball was deliberately played!

What criteria can we use to determine a deliberate play from an impact creating a deflection or a rebound?

•DISTANCE: How far away is the ball? ?
•FLIGHT PATH: Is the ball's speed, 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 impacting 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 indk or direct 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 video links below applicable to the changes in offside!

The first one is a demonstration/teaching video supplied by FIFA!

(1) FIFA

The second one is a series of MLS videos of recent offside decisions that highlight current offside thinking

(2) MLS

In the context of Law 11 – Offside, the following definitions apply:

• “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

• “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

• “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 an
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.

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Offside Question?

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

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