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[Archived] The Offside Law Explained


colin

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The Observer from Sunday

An interesting article from Keith Hackett which explains something that I long suspected - that the MOTD & most other punters & commentators don't have the faintest idea about the laws of the game.

At least we'll be all clued up now.

Here's the text, pretty sure Mr Hackett & The Observer don't mind me copying it on here..............

Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and TV pundits everywhere are queuing up to criticise the modern offside law - and the officials who enforce it. The Premier League's head of referees explains why they're wrong

Keith Hackett

Sunday March 23, 2008

The Observer

Last weekend's Match of the Day criticised the offside law. Questioning Jérémie Aliadière's valid goal for Middlesbrough against Arsenal, they made a wider point, which I've heard before. Match officials can't work with or understand the modern offside law: if you had 10 referees in a room, they said, you would get 10 different decisions.

Let's be clear about this. Match officials do know the laws and apply them to the best of their ability - but time and again pundits criticise perfectly valid decisions. The Match of the Day analysis of the Aliadière decision was a case in point. They suggested the goal should not have been given, that the striker should have been flagged for 'gaining an advantage' after being in an offside position from the long ball. That is simply wrong.

It is immensely frustrating. The law, clarified by the International FA Board in 2005, is a good, effective one, but it seems to have totally eluded some in the media. Officials understand it perfectly, and so could the lads in the studio if they wanted to - it's set out in black and white for anyone who can find the time to read it. Many pundits do a great job, but I hope they respect my right to point out when they are misleading fans, and winding themselves up with old or wrong information.

The law really is simple and well defined. First and foremost, it is important to know the key principle: it is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position. Assistants will not flag the moment someone strays offside. A player is only penalised if he then becomes active.

The source of most confusion is clearly in the definition of 'active'. Pundits keep falling back on the dictionary definition of the word, or their own version of it, rather than the one set out in the laws. It's intensely frustrating to see them spreading misinformation - misinformation that leads to the sort of abuse that drives officials out of the game.

To be clear, the definition, in the laws, is this: in deciding whether to flag, assistants must watch out for three things, any one of which would make an offside player active.

First, is the offside player interfering with play? As advised by the IFAB since 2005, that means playing or touching the ball. Attempting to play the ball does not count - he must actually play or touch it.

Second, is the player interfering with an opponent's ability to play the ball, by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or movements, or by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent?

And third, is the player 'gaining an advantage'? This last point is specific, and is not what Match of the Day seem to think it is. It applies only to an offside player playing a ball that rebounds to him from an opponent, the post or the crossbar. If he does not play the ball from the rebound, then he is not penalised for being in that offside position. Nothing else counts as 'gaining'.

And that's it. If a player ticks any one of those three boxes, he is offside. The three-part definition is remembered as 'PIG' - if a player doesn't Play, Interfere or Gain, he is fine.

The law is a real positive for the game - the pundits should love it. The active definition helps games flow - there are fewer stoppages for offside now - and it makes negative play far less profitable. No sensible team today uses the arms-aloft offside trap made famous by George Graham's Arsenal in the 80s and 90s. That trap was totally against the spirit of the offside law - it was never intended as a device for earning cheap free-kicks. The active system means that the offside trap is now a dangerous tactic to use and allows the benefit of the doubt to be always with the attacking team.

Of course, the fact that the law is unambiguous does not put an end to split-second mistakes, and we will always try to learn from them and improve. When officials do get it wrong, for example in the Manchester City v Tottenham game last Sunday, or in the same Arsenal v Middlesbrough match when Emmanuel Adebayor was wrongly given offside, we can expect criticism, and the officials concerned are given operational advice. My point is that pundits' criticism of officials should at least be fair and informed, based on a proper knowledge of the laws, not on some vague idea of what they might be. If I hear one more co-commentator criticise an assistant referee for a 'late flag' - when the assistant is clearly waiting to see if an offside player ticks any of the three PIG boxes - my TV will go out of the window.

I'm honestly very proud of the officials who put themselves forward for what is a thankless task. They are hard-working, dedicated and honest, and deserve so much more respect than they get. All I'm asking is that pundits and phone-in critics read the laws before complaining. Failing that, if they really do know better, they should step forward, sign up and have a go themselves.

Keith Hackett is general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Limited

The 'active' system: case studies

Blackburn v Liverpool

Easter Sunday 16 April 2006

Robbie Fowler chests the ball towards Fernando Morientes, who is onside. But Djibril Cissé, in an offside position nearby, with no

defenders around him, sees the ball coming his way, and raises a leg to play it. However, he stops himself just in time, realising he would be flagged for being involved in active play if he made contact. The ball runs on to Morientes, who crosses back to Fowler, who scores.

Defenders protest, but the decision is correct. Cissé did not play the ball. 'Attempting to play the ball' does not count. He did not interfere - there were no defenders near him - and he didn't gain an advantage (there was no rebound).

Manchester City v Blackburn

Thursday 27 December 2007

Blackburn cross from the right: the ball goes over the head of David Dunn, in an offside position, and reaches Roque Santa Cruz, running from an onside position, who scores. The assistant referee flags Dunn offside - but quickly realises Dunn wasn't active: he didn't play the ball, interfere with an opponent, or gain an advantage. The assistant calls the referee over, explains why the goal should stand, and the referee agrees. This example shows the importance of assistants not being too quick to flag.

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Very good article. Unfortunately any law regarding a game as fast as football needs to be simple, easily understood by all and quick to judge. Keith Hackett's article is the strongest shout for video refereeing that I have ever heard.

btw Fowler was aiming the pass to Cisse imo.

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Second, is the player interfering with an opponent's ability to play the ball, by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or movements, or by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent?

................................................................................................................................................................................

Blackburn v Liverpool

Easter Sunday 16 April 2006

Robbie Fowler chests the ball towards Fernando Morientes, who is onside. But Djibril Cissé, in an offside position nearby, with no

defenders around him, sees the ball coming his way, and raises a leg to play it. However, he stops himself just in time, realising he would be flagged for being involved in active play if he made contact. The ball runs on to Morientes, who crosses back to Fowler, who scores.

Defenders protest, but the decision is correct. Cissé did not play the ball. 'Attempting to play the ball' does not count. He did not interfere - there were no defenders near him - and he didn't gain an advantage (there was no rebound).

I'm sure there were defenders near him thinking he was going for the ball, correct me if I am wrong.

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The Observer from Sunday

The 'active' system: case studies

Blackburn v Liverpool

Easter Sunday 16 April 2006

Robbie Fowler chests the ball towards Fernando Morientes, who is onside. But Djibril Cissé, in an offside position nearby, with no

defenders around him, sees the ball coming his way, and raises a leg to play it. However, he stops himself just in time, realising he would be flagged for being involved in active play if he made contact. The ball runs on to Morientes, who crosses back to Fowler, who scores.

Defenders protest, but the decision is correct. Cissé did not play the ball. 'Attempting to play the ball' does not count. He did not interfere - there were no defenders near him - and he didn't gain an advantage (there was no rebound).

What a load of absolute rollocks from Hackett - using every criteria he quoted Cisse was clearly "active"!

My recollection was that Cisse didn't leave the ball deliberately realising he'd be offside but simply missed it thereby completely throwing our defenders who otherwise would have rightly assumed he was offside.

The law can actually be described a lot more succinctly:

If it's one of the "big 4" it's onside.

If it's not it's offside.

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Plus under Hackett's weird interpretation of the rules, hardly anyone could ever be offside could they?

According to him if the ball is pumped up to a forward who's standing five yards offside, and he doesn't actually manage to get a touch on the ball then he's not offside.

However that decision seems to be given 100% of the time (rightly imo) if the ball is heading in the general direction of the offside player.

Plus according to his definition arguably a player in an offside position could make a legitimate challenge for the ball in the hope of putting off the defender sufficiently so that the ball ran through to another player and as long as the offside player doesn't touch the ball it's onside.

I can see that one washing against Man Ure at Old Trafford.

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I just want the last player to have to be infront of the last defender to be on-side, not in line, not no daylight, but behind.

I still would like to see a video challenge system where play is allowed to continue if borderline and if a goal is scored from the subsequent play a video challenge can be made once from the captain, if he is wrong he forfeits challenges the rest of the game, if he is right he keeps his challenge active. Like tennis.

This should be rolled out to all goal scoring, red card/second yellow offences or penalty decisions.

Diving should be given a straight red on video replay of penalties. That is a penalty for no contact,

But I digress, they seriosuly make this offside rule harder and harder everytime they try to make it easier.

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.

Doesn't seem anything like a feint to me, there were no Rovers players near Cissé so who would he be trying to dummy?

I can't say I like the law or the way it's interpreted, but it's quite obvious how that goal has stood.

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.

Doesn't seem anything like a feint to me, there were no Rovers players near Cissé so who would he be trying to dummy?

I can't say I like the law or the way it's interpreted, but it's quite obvious how that goal has stood.

Absolutely, he definatley was trying to flick it, the defenders pulled up, it definately put off Brad and made him move across goal. Agreed Phillip, the goal stood for one reason only.

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What a joke.

Playing offside was a defensive art form, but now it's a free for all.

How the f*** can split second decisions be made when there is so much trial, error and opinion.

In fact I argue it takes away the fairness of the competiton allowing rules to be subject to opinion!

Should be offside, or on. If your behind the defense when the ball is played forward then boom, flag goes up. I'm not fussed about counter arguments such as ''so if a ball is kicked right, and there is someone stood out on the opposite touchline offside blah blah bla...'' This was never a problem before, set a stone cold factual rule, and apply human common sense to it, like we used to.

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Nice explanation, though using the Rovers v L'pool case in point Cisse clearly "or by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent?" did THAT bit cos you can actually see at least one rovers defender react. So still clear as mud. I think Revs interpretation, using the big 4, is just about right.

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So all in all the offside is still not 'explained' - especially with what Hackett says there, as we all know still does not happen in the game alot of the time.

The comment from Rev

However that decision seems to be given 100% of the time (rightly imo) if the ball is heading in the general direction of the offside player.

rings true all the time , and especially where McCarthy is concerned as he is definitely flagged alot of the time even when he is not the intended target.

Another recent example was on Saturday, I don't know if anybody so the highlights of the Everton and West Spam game - can't remember who it was but a classic example of the flag going up straight away - even when the ball was played to the opposite side of tbhe field to the offending attacker.

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btw Fowler was aiming the pass to Cisse imo.

Robbie Fowler chests the ball towards Fernando Morientes, who is onside.

Every time I see it and from whatever angle Fowler was passing that ball to Cisse. How the referee decided how he did is prob down to Rev Blue's final opinion...... Big club .. its a goal! <_<

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Plus according to his definition arguably a player in an offside position could make a legitimate challenge for the ball in the hope of putting off the defender sufficiently so that the ball ran through to another player and as long as the offside player doesn't touch the ball it's onside.

"or by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent"

Making that challenge for the ball, forcing the defender to react to it (Instead of trying to intercept the pass at a later point or marking the intended target), would be deceiving and distracting.

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"or by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent"

Making that challenge for the ball, forcing the defender to react to it (Instead of trying to intercept the pass at a later point or marking the intended target), would be deceiving and distracting.

It depends how you interpret "deceives or distracts".

I wouldn't have thought challenging for the ball in a legitimate manner came under that heading.

Would it not apply to a player deliberately taking up an offside position with a view to making defenders stop, thinking he was offside, and then pulling away at the last minute? Or someone taking a swing at the ball genuinely intending to play it, but missing it?

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Good stuff from Hacket, why its taken so long to begin rolling out communications on the Laws of the game i dont know.

Hopefully there will be a lot more to come especially with the interpretation and implementation of PIG it does seem as though it could be simplified or tweaked a little bit for everyone to understand it more clearly.

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And did Dunn`s attempt to reach the ball not put a single Bolton player off?

Its a load of nonsense.

Agreed Alan, using Hackett's criteria, surely that goal should have been chalked off as well.

So really both examples used by Hackett tend to disprove what he says, or at least the decisions should have been given the other way.

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It depends how you interpret "deceives or distracts".

I wouldn't have thought challenging for the ball in a legitimate manner came under that heading.

Notice that it says "decieves or distracts an opponent". Thus there doesn't need to be intent to deceive, it's the deceit itself.

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Yeah I agree with someone above - Hackett has kind of tried to justify both goals as correct, but by using his definitions they both shouldn't have been ruled out!!!

For the Liverpool one Cisse was def guilt of "making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent" as you can see from the vid. As far as the PIG thing is concerned they definately gained because the Rovers players were distracted enough to stop, you can also see the ref looking at the linesman.

Rovers attacking vs Man Utd at Old Trafford --> It would've been offside!

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Yeah I agree with someone above - Hackett has kind of tried to justify both goals as correct, but by using his definitions they both shouldn't have been ruled out!!!

Eh? He has said both goals should have been given - and they were both given!

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The offside law certainly could be simplified, but Hackett has done a decent job of explaining it as it stands.

The reason for my original starting post was to echo Hackett's complaint that the "experts" on MOTD are criticising refs for their judgements without understanding the offside law themselves..

It's probably gong to be interesting to take in that article & watch MOTD & other TV football pundits just to see how wrong they can be in the studio.

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