The assistant signals an offside position against team A.
The central ref does not notice the signal. Meanwhile team B regains possession of the ball and on the counter attack they score. During all this time the AR still keeps his flag up. The central ref allows the goal, but before the restart he notices the AR’s flag and goes to him. The AR tells him about the offside position. The ref disallows the goal and comes back to award team B the indirect free kick due to the offside position signaled by the AR.
What should have been the correct decision? I have understood that there is no advantage at offsides, so the offside needs to be punished, right?
Myself, I would have allowed the goal, as I would have considered that the AR made a mistake keeping the flag up. The recommendation is that if the AR signals the offside position and the central ref does not see the signal, the AR must put down the flag when the defending team has gained clear possession of the ball. Right?
USSF answer (June 5, 2009):
The clear and uncontested answer is that the assistant referee (AR) should have lowered the flag as soon as the opposing team gained control of the ball. (See the Interpretation/Guidelines for Referees, Law 6, in the back of the Law book.) Allow the goal, slap the AR on the wrist for keeping the flag up unnecessarily and thus interfering with the game.
That said, there are some disturbing statements in your question that could confuse referees, assistant referees, players, coaches, and spectators.
1. Signal offside position?
The assistant referee (AR) should NEVER signal simply offside position. He or she should signal only a definite offside; this means that the player in question is in an offside position and is involved in play. The referee than makes the decision as to whether there truly is offside, or that the offside signaled by the AR will not be called. In other words, offside either is or is not. In all events, the AR must know for certain that a player in an offside position is involved in play before the AR lifts the flag.
The advantage clause can be invoked only on infringements of Law 12, not on infringements of other Laws. Those who say that advantage may be called on offside are confusing two meanings (or categories) of the same word. The first, “Advantage” as treated in Law 5, applies only to violations of Law 12: It means that the referee believes that the team that had committed the foul (or misconduct) would benefit from a stoppage and the team that had been fouled would lose a good opportunity to advance the ball. This is the only situation in which the the referee gives the advantage signal of upswept arms and states, “Advantage, play on.”
The second, a “silent” advantage, applies to any other violation of the Laws COMMITTED BY A PLAYER (offside, second-touch on restarts, encroachment under Law 14, interfering with the goalkeeper on a corner kick) for which the impact is so fleeting or the ball changes possession so quickly that stopping play would unnecessarily interfere with the flow of the match. Offenses for which “silent” advantage is applied would not be counted in determining persistent infringement. For all other violations of the Law not committed by a player (“foreign” ball or outside agent entering the field, lack of corner flags), no advantage of either sort would be appropriate and the referee would apply the concept of doubtful or trifling in deciding what to do.
A third situation that seems to afflict some referees is the wish to call “play on” and signal the advantage when there has been no foul, but simply some sort of contact that was not a foul. In cases like this, the referee should find something else to say other than “play on” and should definitely NOT give the advantage signal: “Go on, no foul”; “Nothing there”; or “I saw it, number 6 [or whatever number applies], and there was no foul.”