One of the most difficult laws of the game to understand and enforce is the rule of off-sides. The law is open to referee discretion and has various nuances that make it subjective to say the least. There are times during a game when a player can be in an off-side position, but not violate the off-side rule. However, there are other times when a player receives the ball in an on-side position that violates the off-side rule. Finally, there are areas of the field, as well as moments during a game, in which the off-side rule doesn’t apply at all.
The purpose of this article is to help explain what is and what is not off-sides. It is not meant to be a tactical article on when to try to implement the Law of Off-sides to your advantage through running an off-sides trap. Instead it is intended to offer an explanation along with simple scenarios that often occur during the course of a game to paint a clear picture of the Law of Off-sides.
Rule- A player is in an off-side position if he/she is nearer to his/her opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second to last opponent. (In almost all cases the opposition goal keeper will be one of the two opponents keeping a player on-side)
Note: A player is not in an off-side position if:
- He is in his own half of the field of play
- He is level with the second to last opponent
- He is level with the last two opponents
Off-side Offense/Violation- A player in an off-side 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:
- Interfering with play
- Interfering with an opponent
- Gaining an advantage by being in that position
No Off-side Offense/Violation- The off-side law is not applicable when a player receives the ball from:
- A goal kick
- A throw-in
- A corner kick
If a player is deemed to be off-sides by the referee the opposing team is rewarded an indirect free kick from the place where the violation occurred.
Let’s continue by looking at several examples of what is and what is not off-sides. Please note that all diagrams are shown on half of a field since, as the law states, you cannot be off-sides in your own half of the field.
Download the examples: Understanding FIFA Law 11