OFFSIDE – THE MORE COMPLICATED PORTIONS – LAW 11
Understanding offside in soccer can be very confusing. After reading and understanding the “Introduction to Offside” and “Offside – The Basic Scenario,” there are a number of concerns, nuances, odd situations, and rules interpretations that make the Offside Law more complicated. These are explained here. By way of review, the “Two-Question Test” presented in the Introduction to Offside provides that, for an offside violation to have occurred, at the moment the ball is passed (played or touched) the potential receiving teammate must have both 1.) been in an offside position, and 2.) interfered with play or gained an advantage from being in the offside position.
The most common case of offside in soccer being penalized is when the potential receiving teammate has only the opposing goalkeeper between him and the goal at the moment the ball is passed (he is in an offside position) and he receives the ball (has gained an advantage from that position). FIFA refers to the two elements of the Law as “Offside Position” and “Involvement in Active Play.” A helpful summary is: “Offside Position plus Involvement in Active Play equals Offside Violation.”
Pertaining to the OFFSIDE POSITION:
You are not considered to be offside in soccer just by being in an offside position.
A player is in an offside position if:
- any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half of the field of play (not including the halfway line), and
- any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.
The hands and arms of ALL players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered in any of the decisions associated with offside in soccer. The definition of hands and arms is the same as that used for “handling,” from the tip of the fingers to the bottom of the armpit.
A player is not in an offside position if he is level with:
- the second-last opponent, or
- the last two opponents.
“Level” means that any part of the attacking player’s head, body, or feet is shadowed or covered visually, from the perspective of a properly-positioned Assistant Referee, by any part of the second-last defender’s head, body, or feet.
A player may be in an offside position but there is no offside violation if the player receives the ball directly from:
- a goal kick,
- a thrown-in,
- a corner kick, or
- a dropped ball.
A player is not in an offside position if he is:
- behind the ball, or
- in his own half of the field of play.
Whereas the CoachingAmericanSoccer.com® “Introduction to Offside” and “Offside – The Basic Scenario” refer to the ball being “passed,” the technical wording in “Law 11 – Offside” of the Laws of the Game is “played or touched.” (The vast majority of the time the ball is passed.)
A player has not committed an offside violation in soccer if they are simply in an offside position. A second action must also be true.
Pertaining to INVOLVEMENT IN ACTIVE PLAY:
A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a teammate is only to be penalized for an offside violation upon becoming involved in active play. (Played or touched is defined as the “first point of contact of the ‘play’ or ‘touch’ of the ball”.)
Involvement in Active Play includes:
- interfering with play, or
- interfering with an opponent, or
- gaining an advantage by being in the offside position.
Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball previously passed or touched by a teammate.
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; or, clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts an opponent; or, making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball. (This includes making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the Referee, deceives or distracts an opponent. The opponent must be reasonably close to the play so that the blocking, deceiving or distracting makes a difference.)
Gaining an advantage means playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when the ball rebounds to him off a goalpost, the crossbar, a match official, or an opponent; or, when the ball has been deliberately saved by any opponent.
A player in an offside position who receives the ball directly from an opponent who has deliberately played the ball, including by a deliberate handball, has not committed an offside violation, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent. A deliberate save is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into, or very close to, the goal with any part of the body except the hands or arms (other than the goalkeeper within his penalty area). This can be the goalkeeper or another defender.
A player in an offside position who directly receives the ball from either a direct free kick or an indirect free kick taken by his team has committed an offside violation.
Interfering with play –
- An attacker in an offside position deflects the ball after a teammate shoots and the ball goes into the goal. Offside violation. (No goal.)
- An attacker in an offside position does not interfere with play and does not touch the ball when a teammate shoots and scores. No offside violation. (Goal.)
- Two attackers, one in an offside position and the other in an onside position, both run toward the ball passed by a teammate. The player in the onside position gets to the ball first and the player in the offside position does not touch the ball. No offside violation.
- An attacker in an offside position may be called for an offside violation before even touching the ball if, in the opinion of both the Assistant Referee and the Referee, no other teammate who had been in an onside position has an opportunity to play the ball. (Happens most on the wings.) Offside violation.
- An attacker in an offside position runs toward the ball but the ball goes over the end-line before the attacker touches it. No offside violation. (Goal kick.)
Interfering with an opponent –
- An attacker in an offside position and in front of the goalkeeper blocks the goalkeeper’s line of vision and does not touch the ball while a teammate shoots and the ball goes into the goal. Offside violation. (No goal.)
- An attacker in an offside position stands still off to the side of the goalkeeper, and does not impede the goalkeeper or obstruct the goalkeeper’s line of vision and makes no gesture or movement that deceives or distracts the goalkeeper, while a teammate shoots and scores. No offside violation. (Goal.)
- An attacker in an offside position runs toward the back of a defender but does not interfere with or make a gesture or movement that deceives or distracts the defender. The defender happens to kick the ball over the end-line. No offside violation. (Corner kick.)
- An attacker in an offside position runs toward the back of a defender and makes legal contact with the defender as the defender happens to kick the ball over the end-line. Offside violation.
Gaining an advantage by being in the offside position –
- A shot from a teammate rebounds off the crossbar of the goal directly to an attacker who was in an offside position when the shot was taken. The attacker shoots and puts the ball into the goal. Offside violation. (No goal.)
- A shot from a teammate rebounds off the goalkeeper (saved ball) directly to an attacker who was in an offside position when the shot was taken. The attacker shoots and puts the ball into the goal. Offside violation. (No goal.)
- An attacker is in an offside position when a shot from a teammate rebounds off the goalkeeper (saved ball) directly to another attacker who was in an onside position when the shot was taken. The attacker shoots and puts the ball into the goal. (The original attacker in the offside position does not touch the ball or take any action to interfere.) No offside violation. (Goal.)
- A shot from a teammate rebounds off a defender (saved ball) directly to an attacker who was in an offside position when the shot was taken. The attacker shoots and puts the ball into the goal. Offside violation. (No goal.)
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS for offside in soccer:
Fouls may occur just before, during, or just after an offside violation has occurred. Depending on the timing, the offside violation is punished or the foul is punished in accordance with Law 12. A player in an offside position who unintentionally impedes an opponent has otherwise committed an offside violation; a player who actively impedes is penalized under Law 12. A defender who commits a foul against an attacker in an offside position, before an offside violation is called, is penalized under Law 12. An attacker in an offside position who commits a foul before an offside violation is called is penalized for the foul. An attacker who has committed an offside violation who next commits a foul is penalized for the offside violation and then may be subject to a caution or ejection.
An offside violation results in the award of an indirect free kick to the defenders. (It is not a “foul” or “misconduct.”) The kick is to be taken from the spot where the offending player was positioned at the time the violation occurred.
A defender may not step beyond his own end-line in an attempt to place an opponent into an offside position. If this happens, the Referee shall allow play to continue and caution (issue a yellow card to) the defender for deliberately leaving the field of play without permission. The caution is to be issued promptly as soon as the ball goes out of play.
An attacking player in an offside position may step outside the field of play but only to demonstrate to the Referee that he is not involved in active play. A player who has left the field of play in this manner must ask permission from the Referee to re-enter. If, however, the Referee believes that the attacker has left the field for tactical reasons and has thereby gained an unfair advantage upon re-entry, the Referee shall caution the player for unsporting behavior.
An attacking player may stand and remain stationary between the goalposts or just inside the goal as a shot goes in and the goal is awarded. If the attacker does anything to distract an opponent, the player shall be cautioned by the Referee for unsporting behavior and the goal disallowed.
An attacker in an offside position does not receive the ball because it is intercepted and controlled by a defender. The defender mistakenly then attempts to pass the ball to his goalkeeper. The attacker intercepts the pass of the defender and shoots and scores. No offside violation. (Goal.)
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- See “The Offside Trap.”
- Remember, the offside position of an attacking player is determined at the moment that the ball is touched or played (passed) by a teammate, not when the ball is received. This must be reinforced with all young players.
- Remember that, although the Assistant Referee may raise the flag for offside, the decision to make the call rests solely with the Referee. Players must keep playing until an offside call is actually made by the Referee (the whistle is blown).
- The goalkeeper must be taught to ignore a player in an offside position and defend the goal to make saves against shots accordingly. The goalkeeper must put his faith in the Assistant Referee and Referee that, if the player in the offside position touches the ball or interferes with play, the offside call will be made.
- A player cannot “put himself back onside,” after having been in an offside position at the moment the ball was passed, by running in front of the defender to collect the ball.
- Assistant Referees are taught to slightly delay raising their flags for an offside violation in order to see what happens next and to ensure that they are confident in their decision. Players must keep playing until an offside call is actually made by the Referee (the whistle is blown).
- Defenders must never assume that an attacker is offside in soccer. They may not see a teammate who is keeping the attacker onside. Players must keep playing until an offside call is actually made.
- Defenders must not stop and raise their hand requesting a call for offside. Players must keep playing until an offside call is actually made.
NOTICE: This article is based on the soccer Laws of the Game as maintained by The International Football Association Board (IFAB). As represented in the article, the Laws may be paraphrased, edited for “American English” readability, or quoted in whole or in part. Supplemental wording presented by CoachingAmericanSoccer.com® should be provided in brackets. Every effort has been made to be faithful to the letter, spirit, and intent of the Laws however, since the Laws are subject to modification annually by the IFAB, recent changes may not be currently reflected. Although national associations are permitted to institute local rules changes to the Laws, particularly for “youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football,” the IFAB is the original source for the official English-language version of the Laws of the Game. If there is any question, the Laws of the Game may be found at TheIFAB.com.
© Copyright, John C. Harves