Offside Mechanics; Interfering with An Opponent

By: John Puglisi, NISOA National Clinician

Typical pre-game instructions between the referee and the officiating crew should always include some discussion about offside as well as procedures to follow when a goal is scored. The most important decision a referee crew must make correctly is whether a goal is allowed. Most of the time, this decision is a matter of observing the ball fully crossing the goal line, under the crossbar and between the goalposts. In many instances, there is a potential for an attacking player to be in an offside position when the ball goes into the goal. The mechanics and procedures for the referee crew to follow in this case are clear but worthy of discussion.

Assistant referees are primarily responsible for making offside decisions. They also assist the referee with determinations to allow or disallow goals. The intent of this article to discuss the mechanics and procedures for the Assistant Referee to follow in the case of deciding whether a goal should be allowed when there is a player in an offside position, specifically when an attacking player may be interfering with an opponent. As a review, “interfering with an opponent” is defined as “preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or challenging an opponent for the ball.” The video below shows an excellent example of an attacking player that interferes with an opponent (the goalkeeper) as a goal is scored. If you can not view the video, please download the QuickTime player for your web browser.

The correct procedure for the Assistant Referee in this case is consistent with the procedure when a goal may be disallowed. The Assistant Referee is to stand at attention near the corner flag with the flag down at their side. The angle of view for the assistant referee makes it very difficult to determine with 100% certainty that the attacking player is interfering with an opponent. In this case, the referee must observe the Assistant Referee’s position and action before restarting the game. If the referee crew is using wireless communication, the referee and assistant referee can quickly discuss what happened and restart the game properly with an indirect free kick for the defending team. If further assistance is needed, a quick, face to face conference between the referee and assistant referee may also improve the perception of teamwork to get the decision correct. There are many “well…what if” scenarios that exist for this play. Each of the scenarios may have a different mechanic and procedure to follow.

In summary, the Assistant Referee will feel compelled to make the offside decision and indicate with a raised flag in this instance. However, this is not the proper mechanic for this specific case. The referee team has to deal with this in the context of a goal that may be disallowed.