William, an adult pro coach, asks:
In a recent SPL game, Celtic player N`Cham left the field of play, his body momentum carrying him over the goal line in a Celtic attack. However, knowing he couldn`t be considered offside if he remained off the playing area, he stayed behind the goal line as the attack produced a goal seconds later. Could he be considered in breach of the rules? Thank you for your assistance.
Although the website’s archives are filled with offside scenario Q&As (many touching on this point), it has been a while and we are posting this Q&A mainly to continue reminding everyone of how Law 11 is properly enforced.
Based solely on the specific wording of your scenario, we need to make one correction to your statement and then offer an answer to your basic question.
Under the Law, an attacker who overruns a perimeter line and thus exits the field is considered to have left the field in the “normal course of play.” As such, the lack of permission from the referee is waived and, by itself, is not an offense. However, that player is still considered to be in an offside position if all the requirements of an offside position are met. So, your statement that the attacker “couldn’t be considered offside if he remained off the playing field” is incorrect.
If, even from his “off the field” location but still in an offside position, he does any of the things defined in Law 11 as an offside offense, he is charged with an offside offense and the restart is an indirect free kick at the point on the perimeter line closest to where that attacker was (unless that puts the restart within the opposing team’s goal area, in which case the kick can be taken anywhere inside the goal area). So, for example, suppose the attacker was just a foot off the field across the goal line and the ball came within reach of his foot while still on the field and he then took the opportunity to kick the ball. He has, from an offside position, interfered with play and thus has committed an offside offense. Or, under the same circumstances, he shouts to distract the goalkeeper: he has interfered with an opponent while in an offside position and thus has committed an offside offense. Or, looking at another possibility, suppose he ran back onto the field while the same play of the ball was occurring and then interfered with play or with an opponent. He will have committed an offside offense because he came from an offside position even if, at the time of interference, he happened to be (say) farther from the goal line than the second to last opponent. If he neither interferes with play nor interferes with an opponent while either still off the field or upon returning to the field during the same play of the ball, then he has not committed an offside offense.
In your scenario, he did none of those things and a goal was scored “seconds later” so, absent some other problem, the goal would stand. Remember, being in an offside position by itself is not an offense.