In response to the May 18, 2011 question about the meaning of “directly” in Law 11, I imagined the following hypothetical scenario:
Red takes the throw-in, #7 is in an offside position. Ball is received and played by Blue, and no Red player gets to touch the ball. While meandering about in the Blue half near the halfway line, Blue #4 passes back toward Blue GK, with no Red player still having touched the ball since the throw-in. Red intercepts the backward pass and scores.
My instinct tells me that this should be a call for offside and disallowed goal, because the ball wasn’t deflected or misplayed, and it appeared that Red #7 was intentionally in that position to gain an advantage. At the same time, it seems to comply with the letter of the law, in that he was not guilty of an offside offense because the last time the ball was played by a teammate was the throw-in. Since the ball is not in play until the thrower releases it and it enters the field (my understanding), can #7 be called offside here? If so, why (if possible, refuting the arguments presented as if a referee needed to defend his call after the game)?
USSF answer (August 11, 2011):
No, Red #7 cannot and must not be called offside in this situation. Red #7 was indeed in an offside position when the ball was thrown in by his teammate, but that is not an infringement of the Law under any circumstances.
Why? The Law does not say that a player may never be be in an offside position during the game. In fact, Law 11 excludes a player in an offside position at a throw-in from being called offside directly. Law 11 also states that a player in an offside position may be called offside only if he (or she) is in an offside position at the moment a teammate plays the ball and the player in the offside position is involved in play. In addition, Blue, the defending team, took clear possession of the ball from the throw-in and thus Red #7 can not be called for offside until one of his teammates plays the ball and he becomes involved in play.
Finally, referees have to answer questions only from their assessor and in response to their own conscience.