I have been refereeing for about 4 years now. I now referee using both high school and FIFA laws of the game, and came upon a difficult call the other day. Basically what I would like to know is whether the defender’s arms and hands can be counted in the offside call. Here is the situation explained the best I can without a drawing.
While I was refereeing a game, there was a corner kick, which was passed back to the kicker, who I thought was in an offside position, standing just inside the goal line. I called the player offside, and then I thought about the call after the game. The issue was that there were two defenders standing about a foot and a half from the goal line with their arms fully extended and resting on the goal post. I was (and still am) under the impression that the defender’s arms and hands should not be used in determining whether the attacker is offside or not. If the attacker’s arms and hands are not a contributing factor in the decision, I believe that the defender’s arms and hands should not be either.
After this game, and reviewing the laws of the game and advice to referees a few times, I emailed the interpreter for the high school association that I referee through. (This was a high school game.) He replied to me and said that the player that I called offside was in fact onside. I did not agree with that, so I started asking other officials that I worked with. I asked another official that I officiate with at the high school level and he agreed with me. I also asked the head referee for the recreational league that I officiate through, and he agreed with me as well. (The recreational league follows FIFA LOTG)
I would simple like some clarification as to whether I made the correct call or not. I am aware that the game was a high school game, and the rules are slightly different, but the offside call is very similar.
If this were a game using FIFA LOTG, would that have been a correct call?
USSF answer (October 1, 2008):
The Law is quite clear about this. Any part of the body that can LEGALLY play the ball is considered when the referee looks for offside. That excludes the hands and arms, as they cannot legally play the ball. The same is true of the hands and arms of the opposing players.