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Question Number: 9889

Law 11 - Offside

Joe of , MD asks...

I'm fairly confident about my knowledge & application of the LOTG, yet I wouldn't mind the panel's opinion on an application of one of the simplest laws, Offside. I worked a game last weekend in which almost every attack had a player in an offside position. Often, the offside players were out on the wings and well away from an attack down the center, and I did not whistle the infraction. One particular situation, however, made me curious enough to Ask the Ref...On one attack, the right winger was way offside near madfield, easily 5 yards or so. There was a through ball launched far down the right touchline, far past the offside attacker who took off down the line after it. Everybody, and I mean everybody, knows this girl is offside. Nevertheless, I held the whistle for a time as the attacker, still 30 yards from the ball, could not truly be considered as being involved in the play or gaining any advantage at this point; and there was a reasonable chance she could realize the impending infraction and pull up short...As the ball continued downfield, it became clear that it would cross the touchline before it could be played by the offside player. My understanding of the newer USSF advice is that there is no offside infraction here, and I could just swallow the whistle and restart with the throw in. (In reality, I let the attacker chase it for about 10 yards before signalling the Offside.)..So, on such a slow motion offside situation, what is your opinion on when or if the offside infraction should be whistled?

Answer provided by Referee Chuck Fleischer

No infraction! ..Don't swallow the whistle unless you have an extra long lanyard attached, you do want it back don't you? ..Your question is answered by the letter on the top of our main page. The circular mentioned, #987, may be found here: .. ..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 goal line than the ball?.3. Is the player nearer the goal line than the last but one opponent or the last two opponents?..If all are answered yes GOTO 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 GOTO question 1. ..The player is in an offside position, ask two more questions: ..a. Is the player 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 at the moment the ball was touched or played by a member of his own team...Remember that it is not contrary to the Law to be in an offside position. After the ball is played 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 colleague that player may not get involved, without penalty, even if the ball bounces off an opponent or an opponent misplays it. ..Regards,

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Answer provided by Referee Victor Matheson

Strangely, at this very moment in time, the entire world is questioning what to do with a play like this. FIFA recently changed the LOTG so that you should hold your whistle/flag until that attacking player actually touches the ball. (Therefore, you never would have blown the whistle and the correct restart would have been a throw.) The USSF as well as several other organizations including the English Premiership have said that waiting for the offside player to touch the ball simply wastes time, wears out the players, and is unpleasant for everyone involved. Therefore, the USSF says that you should blow the whistle/raise the flag once the player takes off after the ball and as soon as you are sure that no other teammate could beat that player to the ball. Therefore, you would have been correct under the USSF interpretation to blow the whistle. If you have watched any of the World Cup qualifiers where the new laws are being applied, you will notice that the new rule is an absolute disaster. I don't anticipate it lasting very long. As a US referee you are free to blow that whistle as soon as you see that player take off after the ball and judge that no other player will get there first.

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Offside Question?

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

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