OFFSIDE & ADVANTAGE

September 28, 2011

Question:
To be offside, player must be in offside position and involved in active play. The Laws of the Game provide three instances: interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining advantage by being in offside position.

Am I correct to assume, if any of these three elements are present, and player is in offside position, then player is offside?

To me, The Laws of the Game, The Interpretations, and the Advice to referees, do not read the same. In the LOTG there is no “or” or “and” between the three elements, in the Interpretations there are “or”s between the elements (suggesting any instance will make the player in active play, and thus offside), and the advice to referees doesn’t provide guidance one way or another, on the issue of whether they are separate or inclusive.

The reason I ask is because there was a player deeply offside and his goalkeeper punted the ball. He ran from the offside position about 35 yards to try and head the ball in the air. He was disadvantaged being in an offside position because he had to work so hard get into position to head the ball.

NEXT QUESTION: Is it true advantage cannot be applied when a player is offside?

USSF answer (September 28, 2011):
1. Yes, if any of those conditions applies, then the player is declared offside. We would suggest, that you read the Law again. Here is the entirety of Law 11 for 2011/2012, full of ifs and ors:

LAW 11 – OFFSIDE
Offside Position
It is not an offense in itself to be in an offside position.
A player is in an offside position if:
* he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line 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
* he is level with the second-last opponent or
* he is level with the last two opponents

Offense
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:
* interfering with play or
* interfering with an opponent or
* gaining an advantage by being in that position

No offense
There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from:
* a goal kick
* a throw-in
* a corner kick

Infringements and Sanctions
In the event of an offside offense, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred (see Law 13 – Position of Free Kick).

The conditions are further amplified and defined in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees:

LAW 11 – OFFSIDE
Definitions
In the context of Law 11 — Offside, the following definitions apply:
* “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition
* “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate
* “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent
* “gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position

Infringements
When an offside offense occurs, the referee awards an indirect free kick to be taken from the position of the offending player when the ball was last played to him by one of his teammates.
//rest deleted as not germane to the question//

The Advice to Referees says precisely the same thing, but to quote it here would unnecessarily enlarge the response.

2. No, the advantage per se cannot be applied to infringements of Law 11; only to Law 12. What some players and coaches — and, unfortunately, some referees — incorrectly define as offside is simply the referee’s decision to wave down the assistant referee’s flag and not to punish what is not truly an offside. The assistant referee may flag for an “offside,” but the referee makes the decision.