March 24, 2015

Video Training - Co-operation in Offside Goals (Referee, AR, AAR)

Reflecting a lot of high-stakes football and overall not completely satisfying refereeing in UEFA's club competitions, whose K.O. phases have begun a few weeks ago, two match situations serve as good video examples for how co-operation in potential offside goals should or should not look like. Both situations are placed and analyzed below.

General Comments: Co-operation in offside goals

Often times, offside situations are relatively clear to perceive and decide. Other situations are more complex and need more in-depth interpretation than others do. In some cases, assistant referees do not possess sufficient pieces of information to interpret whether an offside position is to be penalized. This is e.g. the case when it is unclear who touched the ball last or whether a player in an offside position has either obstructed (or impeded) or not obstructed (or not impeded) the goalkeeper's line of sight, movement or actions.

In such cases, the entire referee team responsible for the respective side of the pitch and penalty area need to co-operate in order to come to the correct conclusions.

As mentioned, sometimes assistant referees perceive an offside position but cannot be 100% sure about whether the player really touched the ball or whether he became active by interfering with an opponent - that's basically due to his 90° angle on the path a ball shot onto the goal normally takes. Given his visual angle, the assistant referee can often not identify the distance between a player in an offside position and the goalkeeper or cannot estimate whether he was moving in his line of sight and therefore obstructed him.

The referee and additional assistant referee have better chances in this regard though. If they are correctly positioned, they have better visual angles and can identify who touched the ball last, which attacker (maybe two attackers come into question, one offside, the other onside?) scored the goal, whether a goalkeeper was significantly obstructed by a player etc. Of course, referees and additional assistant referees do not have the responsibility to perceive the offside position as such. They can however deliver valuable pieces for interpreting the offside position perceived by the assistant referee.

So, keep in mind:
1) Due to visual angles, assistant referees sometimes have little or even no chances to interpret an offside position they have perceived.
2) Referees and additional assistant referees are able to deliver these missing pieces of information which is necessary to interpret the offside position perceived by the assistant referee.
= There is an interdependent relation between the triadic team "Referee, AR, AAR".

But how to proceed in game-reality? A goal has just been scored - the assistant referee perceives an offside position, but is unable to assess whether the player really interfered with play or an opponent due to his bad visual angle.

These steps should be followed:

1)  WAIT-AND-SEE! (as usual!)

This is the usual technique deployed by assistant referees to communicate doubts. After goals, assistant referee normally have to sprint about 20-30 metres towards the midfield line, while the referee should signal the goal by using an arm signal. The idea is that the referee gets a confirmation from the sideline that the goal has been clean. If the assistant referee stands still, rooted to the spot, then the referee immediately knows that something is not all right.

While standing still, the assistant referee should ask the referee to come out to him. If there is just one small piece of information that should be discussed (and if the stadium is not that loud), the following steps can be maybe even done via headset, as long as they are available. Also keep in mind that referees should not go out to their assistants for peanuts. Otherwise players get too easy food for protests, which could endanger the referee's acceptance. But in very doubtful situations and a noisy atmosphere, the referee should better go out to clear that face-to-face.

The referee should have noticed that his assistant wants him to come out to him. The next step is guaranteeing that you can discuss the situation with the necessary calmness and time without being affected by players (one team wants to convince the referee of OFFSIDE, the other team of NO OFFSIDE of course...). 
The referee should therefore instruct all players to go away some metres. Isolate yourself from the furious mob of players. If there is an additional assistant referee, he can even integrated into the discussion. The three officials should calmly exchange with each other at the sideline (for such a purpose, the AAR should be allowed to enter the field of play and leave his position).
Then you should start to discuss and exchange doubts, pieces of information and begin to interpret them corporately.

5)  THINK!
Putting all pieces of information together is like putting pieces of a puzzle together...the more complex it is, the more time it might take. The referee team should take their time before coming to a decision. Nonetheless, a certain level of efficiency should of course be considered (it should not take more than a minute...).

Based on all relevant pieces of information, the decision is taken in a clear and determined way. The referee should raise his arm for offside and sprint towards the location of the player penalized for an active offside position, the assistant referee can signalize it with his flag.

Such decisions need to be sold sovereignly. The referee should calmly explain the decision to the players of the team affected (preferably their captain) by using precise and brief words.

More on this can be found here and on Offside Explained. But now, let's focus on the two match situations taken from Champions and Europa League.

Video 1: FC Basel - FC Porto
Officials involved: Mark Clattenburg (Ref), Stuart Burt (AR2), Kevin Friend (AAR2)

- Decision? Situation?
- Was the decision-taking process efficient, sovereign and well-communicated?
- What could have been done better?

In the course of a corner-kick from the right side, Blue #6 scores a goal. Two of his teammates are standing in front of the goalkeeper. Both are in an offside position, as replays at [0:32] and [1:20] clearly show. 
Despite an inaccurate positioning play (not really on 2nd last defender level), the assistant referee is able to perceive the offside positions of both players. What he cannot be 100% sure about: They are clearly impeding the goalkeeper so that their offside position becomes active and therefore punishable. As the assistant referee did not have the best possible view on this, he indicated doubts by applying the standing-still-technique [0:34-0:35] instead of running towards the midfield line. The referee then walked out to him and both exchanged their information. Maybe AAR2 was able to support them via micro, too. After this thinking process, the referee ordered the assistant referee to flag offside (reading his lips it seems that he told him "You flag off!" at [1:30]) and sprinted towards the location of the infringement with a raised arm in a determined and sovereign manner. In the meantime, the fourth official explained the decision to the, understandably, furious Porto coach.

This situation is definitely a great example for how teamwork should look like. Nonetheless, there are, as almost always, some ways to optimize the decision-taking process.

At first, the referee signalized the goal almost automatically after the ball had entered it. He should be reminded on the following:
Offside is not only the assistant referee's duty. Referees should develop a feeling for it and must be concentrated for potential offsides like this one. Signalizing GOAL after the ball has entered it might be an understandable, automatic reflex. But it needs to be inhibited, specially when two attackers are standing nearby the goalkeeper and have a clear impact on him which was well visible for the referee in the concrete situation. Therefore, the referee's and his team's decision-taking-process could be optimized by a) being aware that there could be an offside bothering your colleague at the sideline and by b) looking out to him as a consequence before signalizing GOAL with your arm. 
In fact, the Porto players had already celebrated their goal and returned into their own half ready for the kick-off when the referee team finally took their offside decision. Keeping in mind that the concrete case of impeding was relatively easy to see for AAR2 and specially the referee, it is a bit surprising that the decision-taking process took that much time. 

In conclusion, the call and teamwork themselves were absolutely great and well-sold. However, 1. a bigger awareness (referee) for critical offside situations and 2. a quicker and therefore more efficient decision-taking process could optimize the decision. Of course, this is criticism on a very high level considering the impact of the officials' decision and the pressure on their shoulders.

Video 2: Villarreal CF - Sevilla FC
Officials involved: Daniele Orsato (Ref), Alessandro Giallatini (AR1), Paolo Mazzoleni (AAR1)

- Decision? Situation?
- Was the decision-taking process efficient, sovereign and well-communicated?
- Did the referee team express confidence, certainty and self-organization?
- What could be done better?

At the moment of the initial shot on goal, there was no relevant offside position. The referee correctly deemed the handball by White #25 to be undeliberate. Then, after some chaos in the penalty area, there finally was a pass to Yellow attackers #7 and #14. One player was clearly not in an offside position (#7), while the other (#14) was maybe a small centimetres offside with his upper body (maybe even level, taking into account the blurred camera angle - but for the purpose of discussion and fairness with the officials, we assume that it was a tight offside position). Only one of them interfered with play by shooting the ball into the empty goal. The other neither interfered with play, nor with any opponent.

The question for AR1 was: Who scored this goal? 
From his position, both players were positioned behind each other. Both players made a shooting-movement. It was completely unclear for him who scored the goal. By observing the goal celebration, one could have maybe guessed that it was #7, who was not in an offside position. But as AR, you cannot rely on that.
The decision taken by the team (GOAL) was correct in the end. But the decision-taking process was below expectations. To summarize it:

The referee signalized GOAL. He then recognized that there were some doubts. He walked towards AAR1. Then to AR1. Reading his lips, he probably said "sette è in gioco" ("seven was onside"). Then the referee walked back to AAR1 and exchanged information with him. Then he walked to AR1 again and both decided GOAL. More than confusing. As you can easily grasp, it was even ridiculed by the commentary. The decision-taking process was characterized by ...

1) ... inefficiency: Instead of transporting one piece of information after the other from official A to B, again from B to A and once again vice versa (from pillar to post more or less), the trio Ref, AR1 and AAR1 should have come together quickly and solve this corporately at one location close to the corner flag.

2) ... incertainty: Considering the referee's body language, he made the impression that he had no idea what he was doing and what he was about to do. He conveyed a hectical and an unsure impression and lacked the necessary and desirable calmness you need in such situations.

3) ... missing isolation: The referee did not care about the high number of players who importuned him and his teammates while exchanging information and thinking about it. He should have isolated himself and his teammates from the players. His only reactions on players confronting him were quite nervous and hectical [0:48].

4) ... poor communication: Apart from some hectical and rather authoritative words and arm gestures, the referee did not communicate and sell his team's decision adequately.

5) ... much ado about relatively little: All AR1 had to know is who scored this goal. I dare to say that an attentive AAR and an attentive referee could solve this almost via micro. But even if the referees goes out to his assistant, all they have to exchange is that #7 scored and that #7 was in an offside position.

As an essence, the referee should have ideally walked out towards the corner flags and should have discussed it with both AR1 and AAR1. He should have ensured that all players keep a certain distance to the officiating trio - the trio could have easily and calmly exchanged the small piece of information which was missing in the assistant referee's "calculation". A prudent and confident decision could have been taken.
The fuss the referee created by running from one official to the other multiple times gave Sevilla's players unnecessary food for hope and protests, led to confusion as well as laughter and therefore undermined the referee's authority. And, unfortunately, it was his own fault.

What do you think about both situations?


  1. Great post. Our referee group was just discussing a situation where a "consult" was required. I just linked this post to them as a very thorough follow-up. :)

  2. Thank you very much, those are great examples, videos and explanation.It is extremely difficult to use headsets in environment as in the above matches, therefore the key actions of the refereeing team should be grouping/isolating/exchanging information/decision making.
    As for the explanation I appreciate your view on fact that ARs, due to proper and required positioning, are sometimes unable to see what is going on in certain moments.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I am understanding all your enthusiasm. But it would be appreciated if comments under this post belong to the post and not about violent conduct. Please transfer the discussion about this situation to your site.

  4. Guys I want to hear your opinion on this video:Suppose the player in the offside position didnt touch the ball,Would you still call it offside?

    1. Of course not. In case of NO TOUCH by the player in offside, this should be a regular goal. Keeper doesn't make any attempt to save the ball so he is not influenced by that presence, he jsut looks at him.
      Of course, the touch is a stupid action, but he couldn't think that when scoring!


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