Offside Revisited

by John Puglisi, NISOA Past - President, NISOA National clinician and NISOA local assessor.

During last night’s chapter business meeting/clinic, we discussed the three elements the Assistant Referee must consider before raising the flag to indicate an offside infraction. The goal of the clinic was to increase the consistency of offside decision making based on the common language and elements of Rule 11. In summary, in order for there to be an offside offense, the attacking player in an offside position must be:

  • Interfering with play (defined as playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate)  or;
  • Interfering with an opponent (defined as 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;
  • Gaining an advantage by being in that position (defined as playing a ball that rebounds or is deflected to him off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent or playing a ball that rebounds, is deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save by an opponent).

There was quite a bit of discussion about the “quick flag” for indicating an offside offense prior to the attacking player interfering with play as defined above. The following graphics (reference the FIFA Laws of the Game 2013-2014 edition) show versions of a similar play and how the AR’s decision should be made.


Please note the phrase “in the opinion of the referee” in this decision. Since opinions can vary quite a bit depending on the referee and assistant referee’s experience or angle of view, I expect this situation will not be dealt with consistently. In the diagram above, I suggest that the referee team wait to penalize the offside offense until the ball is played. However, if there was the potential for physical contact to occur (not shown in this case) between a defender and the attacker, the attacking player is considered to be interfering with an opponent and should be penalized immediately (before playing the ball).


In this instance, a “quick flag” would lead to an incorrect decision. In both situations, the referee and the assistant referee must read the play, observe the facts and make their decision accordingly.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 at 11:21 am and is filed under Instruction with keyword(s) . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Comments so far

  1. Jim Memos says:

    Excellent, Informative and Educational Presentation.

    If these procedures were properly understood, it will most definitely help an AR who is “trigger happy” to help him/her make a more decisive decision when applying the offfside rule.

    On a very valid point that was brought to the forefront (by Randy), in which I wholeheartedly agree on, is an early flag by the AR and a quick whistle by the Referee when a striker (in an offside position) and a goalkeeper are sprinting to the ball in a 50/50 challenge; will prevent a possible collision between the two (safety purposes).

    Thanks John. Well done!!

    • John Puglisi says:

      Thanks, Jim. In the case you describe, the offside offense is for “interfering with an opponent” so there’s no need to wait for the ball to be played.

  2. george Snizek says:

    A very good clinic !

  3. Randy Vogt says:

    I too believe that John gave an excellent clinic. Some officials are unfortunately “old-school” and continue to raise the flag as soon as the ball is passed in the direction of an attacker in an offside position. Most are now doing it correctly and waiting. As soon as all officials get on the same page, we will be better able to educate all coaches and players about the proper interpretation.