Rule 11 – The most controversial law in football

The most controversial law in football is that of offside. It is highly technical, radical and extremely difficult to implement but obviously interesting when applied correctly in a racing situation. Center referees and their assistants are generally encouraged to show awareness in applying this very sensitive and controversial law.

One thing unique about the offside rule is the fact that the world governing body-FIFA usually changes the rules periodically and also gives the assistant referee the power to govern a player who is in an offside position. The central referee following the determination of his assistant may make the final decision to stop the game.

Hence the need for assistants to be totally focused throughout the game cannot be compromised as a lack of concentration can prove to be very costly. 100% certainty and an attacker’s attempt to be in active play directly implies that the assistant referee will signal for positional offside play. To signal an offside playing position, two conditions are necessary:

Location and activity / location without activity
The fact that an opposing player is in the opposing half does not necessarily constitute an offside position. Active player participation is very important when making a call. The offending player must have the intention of interfering with play before being punished for offside playing position.

The assistant referee must therefore make sure that before the flag is raised, he must be absolutely sure that the player is:

  • involved in active play
  • interfere with an opponent
  • trying to gain an undue advantage by being in that position

The FIFA rules of the game are normally reviewed periodically, hence the need for the referees and their assistant to familiarize themselves with the current additional rules. The controversy surrounding this rule has led FIFA and some football associations to sanction the use of a fifth referee who usually stands near the goal line during matches.

Exceptions to the rule
A player cannot be judged in an offside position when receiving the ball directly from:

  • a throw-in
  • a goal kick

Physical and mental fitness is required among referees to ensure that they are not too far from the actual playing position. When a referee is not physically or mentally fit, the tendency to make mistakes in reporting becomes inevitable.

In conclusion, a player cannot be said to be in an offside position if he does not interfere with the game. This means that it is not a crime in itself to be in an offside position. A call is made by the assistant referee when a player is closer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second but last opponent.

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