Ken, a U-12 and under coach, asks:
Can a player be called offsides on a rebound shot? For example: one of my players made a shot on goal which was touched by the goalie and another player on my team then received the rebound shot and scored. He was then called offsides and the goal was taken away. Can this be an accurate call?
Before explaining, we need to step onto our soapbox once again and plead with everyone to remember the proper terminology. First, there is no such thing as an “offsides” — unless you are talking about two or more of them. Second, “offside” is an adjective and, in any scenario involving an offside issue, nothing meaningful can be done unless and until this adjective is tied to one of two other words (both nouns) — position and offense. Law 11 deals with both and they are two very different things. To analyze a potential offside scenario, we either have to start with determining “offside position” or we have to assume an offside position before anything can be done about “offside offense” because the first (always and ever) requirement for an offside offense is for the player in question to be in an offside position — no offside position, no offside offense … offside position, maybe an offside offense.
With that mini-rant out of our system (at least until the next Law 11 question), let’s return to the scenario above. It actually involves both position and offense but the problem is that we don’t have enough information about “position” in order to move onto the issue of “offense” so we will simply make an assumption. In any situation involving a “rebound,” there can never be an offense unless the player receiving the rebound was in an offside position at the time her teammate made the shot that led to the rebound that led to the ball coming to to a teammate of the player who made the shot. Remember, “no offside position, no offside offense.” So, to get to the offense issue, we have to assume that the recipient of the rebounded ball was in an offside position at the moment her teammate touched/played the ball.
That issue out of the way, we arrive at the problem of an offside offense. Let’s call the player who received the rebound A15 just to keep things simple. Law 11 states generally that a rebound from any thing (e.g., crossbar, goal post, referee) does not alter the offside position status of A15 — if she was in an offside position before the rebound, she is still in an offside position after the rebound and it follows, therefore, that she commits an offside offense if she interferes with play (which she did) or interferes with an opponent (which she didn’t). A rebound from another attacker (e.g., A8 makes a shot on goal, the ball bounces off A11 who was not in an offside position at the time, and then goes to A15) is a new play/touch on the ball and thus the offside position status of A15 has to be reevaluated — we know (actually, we assumed) that A15 was in an offside position when A8 made the shot on goal but now we have to determine whether, at the moment the ball was touched/played by A11, A15 was still in an offside position or not. If not, no offside offense if A15 then scores a goal.
Things get a bit more complicated if the rebound comes from a defender (which is what this scenario is about). If the rebound came from a defender, the general rule is that the rebound does not change the offside position status of A15. However, the real issue is whether the contact with the defender was in fact a rebound. By using the term “rebound,” the issue is simplified because that question is already resolved. What makes life complicated is deciding whether the defender’s contact with the ball was, in fact, a rebound. If the defender possessed and controlled the ball (i.e., played the ball), that action is deemed to have removed any offside position from A15 because, now, the ball has not been last played by a teammate of A15. If the defender plays the ball badly and it goes to A15 (who is no longer in an offside position), A15 is perfectly free to score a goal without incurring an offside offense penalty. The goal would stand. The issue of whether the ball rebounded from the defender or was played by the defender is “in the opinion of the referee.”
A few years ago, Law 11 was modified regarding the issue of rebounds and offside positions. That change directed us to consider a “deliberate save” by any defender (including the goalkeeper) as not altering the offside position status of any attacker (i.e., a deliberate save was to be considered the same as a rebound). For guidelines on what constitutes a deliberate save, see p. 92 of the 2017/2018 Laws of the Game.
Now, to the “maybe.” If A15 was in an offside position at the time her teammate made the shot on goal and if the touch on the ball by the goalkeeper is considered a rebound or a deliberate save, then A15 was still in an offside position, she committed an offside offense by interfering with play, and the goal should be disallowed. If A15 was not in an offside position when her teammate made the shot on goal, then she couldn’t possibly commit an offside offense no matter how you interpret the goalkeeper’s touch on the ball and so the goal stands. If A15 was in an offside position and if the goalkeeper’s touch on the ball was neither a rebound (or deflection) nor a deliberate save, then A15 committed an offside offense and the goal should not stand.