February 14, 2014

Law 11 can be confusing..

At the beginning of the week I focused on further explanatory videos for the new offside rule and one special facet of it. One of them showed a situation having occurred in German Bundesliga in the match between Hertha BSC Berlin and 1. FC Nürnberg. While the pre-dominant emphasis was put on challenging an opponent for the ball and what this term means at all in this specific video, another question for debate was raised by a user's comment. Before unfolding it, please check the video again.

The - unfortunately anonymous - user canvassed the following scenario: Imagine the red-dressed defender on the goal-line would not have committed a deliberate handball in order to deny the obvious goal. Imagine that the blue #20 had not interfered with the goalkeeper in a way that made the assistant referee flag for offside. Given that scenario, the defender would have used another part of the body, most likely his head, to clear the ball and prevent the goal from being scored. Imagine the ball would have nonetheless arrived directly in front of the blue forward whose task to score a goal from that position would have been surely very easy in this case. It might claim some faculty of imagination from you.

Let's sum up the scenario:
1) The blue #20 is closer to the goal-line than the second last defender (the goalkeeper).
2) The high shot on goal obviously reaches the goal (if there is no defender).
3) The red-dressed defender clears the ball on the goal-line, let's say, with his head.
4) Blue #20 receives the ball from this clearance and scores.

Law 11 has a special facet that was already subject to debate in the blog: gaining an advantage by being in an offside position. Usually, attackers are in punishable offside as soon as they gain an advantage from being closer to the goal-line than the second last defender. However, the rule says that players receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberate plays the ball, are not considered to have gained an advantage. Deliberately playing the ball means the clear intention to play the ball, mostly indicated by a clear movement towards the ball, regardless of whether the outcome exposes an advantage or disadvantage. But the rule makes one exception here: Players receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately played the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage. In other words: when a player receives the ball from a deliberate save, he is considered to have gained an advantage and is in a punishable offside position. A deliberate save is defined as preventing a clear goal from being scored and basically targets at protecting goalkeepers or defenders who block a dangerous shot on goal. 

So...what we have to constitute here is that - in our fictive but possible scenario - the defender on the goal-line clearly and intentionally moves his head towards the ball. He therefore deliberately plays the ball. But, he does so in order to prevent a clear goal from being scored - if he does not make the header on the goal-line, it is a goal.
Two criteria are theoretically colliding here. On the one hand, Law 11 prompts that the goal would be scored legally (deliberate play), on the other hand, the same sentence in this new rule suggests that the goal would be scored illegally, i.e. from an active offside position (deliberate save). The important thing is that the rule calls the deliberate save an exception of deliberate play. So this means, in the presence of this deliberate save, the deliberate play becomes irrelevant. The goal should not have counted in this case, as the attacker has gained an advantage from being in that position by receiving the ball from a deliberate save. Even though the law seems to be precise in this case, it can be quite confusing. The law does not define that deliberate saves can also contain clear movements towards the ball and can be one sort of deliberate play. It rather prompts that they are two distinct things. This led me to irritation and I apologize for the previously wrong analysis of this situation. Anyway, this scenario illustrates "except a deliberate save" in a good manner and shows how much empathy Law 11 is demanding from assistant referees in the current form, since the intention of defenders is emphasized in an extra-ordinary manner.


  1. Maybe I do not see the real problem, but:
    I think, this scenario is a good example, why the exception (deliberate save) in the new formulation is sensible. It makes clear, that in this case the offside position becomes active. Of course, it is in the same time deliberate play, but IMO the rule is clear in this case.
    To extend the example: If the defender had not stood on the goalline but next to the goal, it would not have been an active position and a legal goal. This is also somehow sensible, because now it is the defender's fault/stupidity and a new reason for the striker's chance.

    1. Thanks Philipp. I was a real blockhead. The "aha-effect" came by reading your comment.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes. The offside situation is not lifted by the deliberate play from the defender on the goal line, because the defender blocks the ball from going into the goal and hence makes a deliberate save (with his hand or otherwise).
      Required decision: indirect free-kick to Red Team. No further disciplinary measures. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

      This example shows that referees must have a very good knowledge of the LotG and must be faster than light in applying it. To be honest, I am sure I would not have known 100% the correct decision if I were the referee for such a situation. It is only now, with all the time of the world and a copy of the LotG that I am able to state the above. Referees have a tough job around the world, and it is not being made any easier by the sometimes vague communication of rule changes by the powers that be (IFAB, FIFA).
      I hope this will develop in time, so that this appendage to the offside rule becomes just as known as, say, the part that says offside is not lifted by a goalkeeper's save.

    2. Anonymous16/2/14 09:22

      No, it is not in every case. It depends on way of playing the ball by defender. If he played the ball regularly the attacker gained the advantage of his offside position and, therefore, it is offside. But if defender played the ball irregularly it is, in my opinion, not offside. The attacker did not challenge the defender at his playing of the ball.
      Best regards.

    3. Please define "regularly" and "irregularly". Do you mean a header / a handball?

    4. Anonymous16/2/14 19:49

      In this case yes.

  3. Anonymous16/2/14 16:05

    The right decision is penalty and red card for the defender who played the ball with his hand.

    1. See the other post..

    2. Anonymous17/2/14 10:57

      But this is the official answer!

    3. See the other post...I did not say anything else there...don't take it personal but sometimes it would be useful to read some articles.

  4. I have disagreed on this situation previously, and I still do, defender had time and room to react better. But it was for the sake of discussion.
    If "the rule calls the deliberate save an exception of deliberate play. So this means, in the presence of this deliberate save, the deliberate play becomes irrelevant" (copy from the article above) I accept I am/was wrong.
    However, for the sake of correct application of the Law 11 in future, it would be great if we could get official opinion on this situation from UEFA/FIFA.

    1. Well, UEFA's definition is clear in this case, so a deviant official statement would mean they contradict their own instructions.


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