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Question Number: 33410

Law 10 - Determining the Outcome of a Match 6/2/2019

RE: Under 14

Filippo of Palermo, Italy asks...

The last section of Law 11 contains two paragraphs that deal with how offside is to be judged when attacking/defending players are off the field of play:

«A defending player who leaves the field of play without the referees permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play or until the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is outside its penalty area. If the player left the field of play deliberately, the player must be cautioned when the ball is next out of play.»

«An attacking player may step or stay off the field of play not to be involved in active play. If the player re-enters from the goal line and becomes involved in play before the next stoppage in play or the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is outside its penalty area, the player shall be considered to be positioned on the goal line for the purposes of offside. A player who deliberately leaves the field of play and re-enters without the referees permission and is not penalised for offside and gains an advantage must be cautioned.»

I actually have the same two questions for both paragraphs, so they're technically four questions (just in case one or both of these questions have different answers depending on whether we're talking about defending or attacking players being off the field of play):

" is a defending/attacking player still considered to be on a boundary line even after he has re-entered the field of play? (*)
" do these paragraphs apply to defending/attacking players who leave the field of play as part of a playing movement as well? (**)

(*) This first question stems from the fact that neither paragraph says that re-entering the field of play actually stops this virtual-repositioning-on-a-boundary-line that otherwise happens for the purposes of offside.

I'm especially curious about this for what concerns attacking players, as this seems to imply that an attacking player who had stepped off the field of play and then got back will still be considered to be a 'ghost player' in offside position even if five minutes pass and the ball has been kicked around multiple times, as long as play never stopped, and the ball never left the penalty area while being kicked towards the halfway line.

(**) This second question stems from the fact that both paragraphs seem to be about very specific situations, as the first one is about players leaving the field of play without the referee's permission, while the second one is about attacking players leaving for the purposes of not being involved in active play.

While I understand that if a player leaves the field of play with the referee's permission, e.g. because of an injury, it's only natural that he shouldn't be considered for the purposes of offside anymore, Law 11 never touches the important situation of a player leaving the field of play as part of a playing movement as per Law 3.8, so that I'm unsure about what the referee should do when e.g. an attacking player temporarily leaves the field of play to go past an opponent, or when e.g. a defending player accidentally steps behind their own goal line while attempting to defend their goal.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Filippo
Thanks for the question.
These paragraph are to take account of circumstances that referees and assistants come across in the regular playing off the game.
In the case of the defender that leaves as part of a playing motion that defender is placed on the goal line / touchline for offside purposes. If the player is injured a further calculation is required. If the player is an unable to return, once the ball is cleared away outside the penalty area towards half way the defender is not calculated in offside calculations.
In the case of an attacker who moves off the field if play as part of a playing motion it is unlikely that the player will be involved in active play. However once he re-enters then his presence must be considered in offside in the normal way. If he re-enters after the ball is played he is considered on the goal line at the moment of that touch by a team mate. Otherwise his onfield position is taken at the moment of the touch.
Have a look at this example
The Blue defender behind the goal is considered for offside so the goal was good. Had the ball been cleared upfield the injured defender is no longer considered in the calculation.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Filippo,
When it comes to offside, the position of players (both defenders and attackers) is considered as a 'snapshot' of the moment when the ball is last touched by a team mate of the player who may potentially be guilty of an offside offence. The next time anther touch occurs, the position(s) of the player(s) are re-assessed. It doesn't matter where the players go after that, until the next relevant touch happens. It's the same principle as when the player is on the field - in terms of offside, you only consider where the player was when the touch by a team mate of the potentially offside player occurred, not at some later point. This is the reason why an attacker who was onside when the ball was played, does not become offside if they go forward after the ball was played.

So for the attacker who was off the field when the ball was played by a team mate, when that snapshot is taken we place him on the end line, rather than say, considering that he is not potentially liable for an offside offence.

Similarly, if a player goes off the field as part of a playing movement, that's only relevant if a touch by an attacking player occurs while they're actually off the pitch. If it doesn't, there no offside offence to be considered anyway.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Filippo,

If the defender or attacke is simply outside through momentum you expect them to promptly return and reassess their goal line position on the NEXT touch of the ball.

The LOTG have evolved over the years to help guide the referee in dealing with the possible permutations of any given situation. Fair play and understanding when things are done not to cheat but simply to rejoin play.

Players have both deliberate and accidental inclusion in the development of play.

Players in pursuit of the ball along the touchline or goal line can through momentum accidentally exit the FOP .

PLAYERS can deliberately CHOOSE to do the exact same thing, which is to step out side the FOP.

The referee will be forced to consider the WHY of their actions & them possibly attach a motive for that behavior .

An attacker can step out over the goal line into the netted area of the opposing goal to show NON involvement, in other words, 'Hey Referee I am not trying to be in the way, I know I am offside positioned, just trying to remove myself from active play to NOT interfere.

THE problem is for the DEFENDER he CAN NOT deliberately step out on purpose without POSSIBLY creating an act of USB because he CAN NOT remove himself from the offside equation as the last or 2nd last opponent. If this is done as a tactical decision to unfairly deceive the positional evaluation of the opposing team the LOTG state clearly such a defender is to be cautioned and shown a yellow card. This is not a defender who has accidentally left but one who chose to hide the fact and create an offside call against the opposition or pretend to be injured to hide the fact he remained outside

The important thing here is to remember that POSITION is NOT a factor on offside if the attacker is NOT involved but the DEFENDERS' POSITION as the last or 2nd last opponent is in fact what determines stage 1 of offside for the attackers' position as to whether an attacker is restricted from future involvement.

An attacker who voluntarily removes himself from play to show non involvement is HELD accountable and is not allowed to just step back over the goal line to continue play because he is in fact trying to gain an advantage. The LOTG state for the purposes of offside evaluation the players are ON the goal line no matter if they are 1 inch or ten feet past. An attacker can not leave on the right side of goal then causally creep around and reappear on the left side of goal to be handy to pop in a goal. The attacker should seek permission from the referee to be allowed back on through the touchlines

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