I was the center for an adult mens game this week. The attacking team was on a fast break and the thru ball was deliberately handled by the defender to stop the attack. The defender was one of the last defenders (they were almost flat…in a straight line). The Attacking player who was to receive the ball would have been on his way to goal with no defender in sight. The deliberate ball handling took place about 35 yards from goal.

I blew the whistle and gave the defending player a straight red. The AR then called me over to tell me that the attacking player who was to receive the ball was in an offside position. At the half, my other AR said I should have considered the distance from goal that the handling occurred and thought I should have given a yellow card.

Does the fact that the attacking player who was to receive the ball was in an offside position change the card or scenario?

Does the fact that the handling took place 35 yards from goal change the card or scenario?

USSF answer (November 21, 2008):
Yes, as we have answered several times in the past, the fact that the player who might have scored was in an offside position does indeed change the card and the scenario. Although it’s a bit late to do anything about it now except remember it for the next time it occurs.

If the referee accepts the assistant referee’s flag for the offside — which he or she seems not to have shown in this case — that advice is then binding on the referee, who must decide for offside and misconduct. The correct decision is to caution the defender for unsporting behavior and restart with an indirect free kick for the defender’s team, taken from the place where the attacker was when his teammate passed the ball.

However, just to head off questions we know will come from others who read this particular Q&A, let us note several things.

1. if the offside is not accepted (and it is certainly difficult to accept an offense that wasn’t signaled by the AR in the first place) or if the attacker hadn’t been in an offside position, then the issue you raise boils down to this — but for the handling, would a goal have been scored?

2. And someone is bound to bring in the 4 Ds, which actually figure into that decision only marginally.

3. The referee can’t say that DGF occurred simply because, but for the handling, the attacker might have passed the ball to his teammate and his teammate in turn might have been able to take a shot on goal and the shot on goal might have gone into the net. ┬áIn this case, it is either a red for DGF because the ball would have gone into the net from the player’s shot on goal or it would be a caution for a tactical foul (illegally handling to prevent the ball from going to a teammate of the player).

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