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Question Number: 31888

Law 11 - Offside 10/10/2017

RE: Competitive Under 14

Aaron Speca of Virginia Beach, VA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 31878

This issue of where a player off the field of play is considered for offsides is interesting to me, so I have a question about a hypothetical variation of this situation. So the player off the field of play is considered ON the end line for the purposes of offsides - so let's say the ball is played back by a blue teammate toward the blue attacker who has slid off the field. And at the time the ball is played, he has not yet returned to the field of play AND there are two defenders actually determined to be on the endline (perhaps the keeper and another defender helping to defend the goalmouth). Then by my interpretation that player, even though he is not in the field of play, is not restricted from returning to the field to receive the ball; as long as he did not leave the field deliberately and is making a timely effort to return. Is that correct?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Aaron
That is correct provided both opponents are physically on the line. The attacker is placed on the line so he is level with the last two opponents so that is onside.
If either of the defenders are not ON the line or breaking the plane of the line at the moment of the touch the returning attacker is offside by inches, maybe even the width of the line Rarely are defenders actually on the line so it is going to be a tight call at speed. .

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Aaron,
it is a wise man who covers all bases .
You have it correct!
IF at the time of the attacker's teammate passing or shooting the ball forward (last touch)there are two defenders who are standing on their goal line despite the fact the attacker is 3 feet past scrambling to get up he is on that EXACT same line thus EQUAL thus NOT offside upon his return even if those two defenders moved up and away AFTER the attacker's teammate last touched the ball. The returning attacker has done nothing illegal or immoral and may look like it is unfair if he were to participate but it is not! That said be sure they are actually on or breaking the plane as a matter of centimetres could separate onside from offside .


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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Aaron,
Technically, by the letter of the law, you may well be correct. However you would have to be sure that the two defenders were completely on the line and not even the slightest fraction of their body was in front of it. Given that the extent of a player's body is greater that the width of the line I would say it is almost impossible for them to be completely on the line - some portion of their body will be in front of it (unless they are completely behind it which again, would be extremely unusual). The position of the attacker though, is an imaginary or 'virtual' position where they are considered to be exactly on the line for the purposes of offside.

So I would say that in this situation the decision would almost always lean towards this being an offside offence and I believe that is also the intent of the law and the reason it was written this way by the IFAB. The Laws of the Game contain the following:

''The Laws cannot deal with every possible situation, so where there is no direct provision in the Laws, The IFAB expects the referee to make a decision within the 'spirit' of the game - this often involves asking the question, ''what would football want/expect?''

In this situation, I think there is an argument to be made for a 'spirit of the game' interpretation of the law that would call for an offside decision.

However as always it's your decision, your game and your reputation and if you decided to see the attacker as level and therefore not offside, it would be difficult to say you were incorrect.

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Offside Question?

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

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