September 4, 2014

Understanding Law 11 - Offside

"Offside is when the referee blows his whistle."
free quote by Franz BECKENBAUER, German football legend and expert in offside

Nonetheless, it is necessary to understand what has to go on in assistant referees' mind making or not making them raise their flag for offside, also keeping in mind that it is maybe one of the most complex and complicated issues at the moment.

Our collection of offside posts can help you deepening your understanding of the offside law and its practical application. You can through the following topics step by step and also have a look into our regularly posted video training posts which - every now and then - comprise interesting offside clips or questions.

Before clicking on one of the following areas, you should however read the article unfolded below to get a first overview on what offside means at all.

Articles on Offside

For an even deeper insight into Law 11, check Offside Explained - from our point of view the world's no.1 website in terms of Assistant Refereeing and Offside in particular.

Law 11 - Basics

A player IS in an offside position,
- if he is nearer to his opponents' goalline than both the ball and the second-last opponent.

A player IS NOT in an offside position,
- if he is in his own half of the field of play or 
- if he is level with the second-last opponent or
- if he is level with the last two opponents

Only body parts, with which a legal goal can be scored, are integrated into the judgement whether a player is nearer to his opponent's goalline than both the ball and the second-last opponent - this excludes both the player's hands and his arms.

This clip shows a real example of being nearer to the opponent's goalline than the second-last opponent. However, the player starts in his own half at the moment of the pass so that he is not in an offside position. Watch this clip from stadium view:

What is meant with "the second-last opponent"?

The Laws of the Game formulate this in a quite unspecific way since both every defender but also the goalkeeper can be the second-last opponent depending on the specific match situation. The following clip illustrates an example of an offside position where the goalkeeper is the second-last opponent explained by former referee Urs Meier and some virtual features.

The goalkeeper is the second-last opponent so that attacker #11 is in an offside position, as he is nearer to the goalline than the goalkeeper.

However, the Laws of the Game specify this further: 
"It is not an offense in itself to be in an offside decision". 

This indicates that the offside position must be interpreted on the basis of specific criteria:

A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by


These criteria are extremely important. You will be able to find them explained by clicking on them as soon as the respective threads have been published!

However, there is no offense if a player receives the ball directly from
- a goal-kick
- a throw-in
- a corner-kick

In case of an offside offense, play must be re-started with an indirect free-kick for the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred. For more game-scenarios, offences and the written Law 11, please check this FIFA file.


An accurate decision-taking process in terms of offside consists of four steps.


PERCEPTUAL JUDGEMENT = a value-free and fact-based process deciding...
- whether a player is nearer to the goalline than the ball and the second-last opponent and
- whether he is positioned inside the opposing team's half on the field of play.
- whether he is not receiving the ball from a goal-kick, throw-in or corner-kick.

If these considerations are positive, the player is adjudged to be in an offside position.

Keep in mind: Not every offside position is punishable! The question of whether the flag has to be raised for offside depends on the following steps:

INFORMATION = the assistant referee is aware of relevant information which define the punishability of an offside position. This includes the following questions:

Basic Information:
- Who passed or played the ball, who touched it last?

Further Information:
- Was there a defensive player deflecting or deliberately playing it before the attacker reached it?
- Did the player in an offside position interfere with play?
- Did he interfere with an opponent by obstructing his line of vision?
- Did he interfere with an opponent by challenging him for the ball?
- Did he gain an advantage by being in that position?

Please note that being provided with accurate information is not only the assistant referee's duty, but also the referee's responsibility. He should be motivated to be informed about Law 11, to understand it and to be aware of his duty to assist his assistant referees!

INTERPRETATION = the collection of all relevant pieces of information in order to deem the attacking player either being involved in active play or not being involved in active play. 

The final DECISION is the consequence of the INTERPRETATION:

Interpretation: Attacker is involved in active play - OFFSIDE OFFENCE
Interpretation: Attacker is not involved in active play - NO OFFSIDE OFFENCE
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