I n response to a question of October 23, with regards to a missed signal for a goal and subsequent confusion, you wrote that “there is no way that dropping the flag and moving up field should be interpreted as an offside decision.”

I’d like some clarification of this opinion with a view to your answer of August 18, when you wrote that in order to properly implement the “wait and see” principle without disadvantaging the defending team on their restart or pulling the AR out of position, the AR should follow play until the offside player is actively involved, then “when the referee sees the raised flag and blows the whistle, the AR makes eye contact with the referee and points the flag to the far, middle or near side, whichever is correct. The AR then moves back down the touch line to a point in line with the correct spot for the restart.”

However, in the conclusion of your Aug 18 ruling, you note “there is no specific advice on the matter because it is left to the discretion of the referee to cover the issue in the pregame. The issue, simply put, is that the AR must continue to maintain proper position during the period of time between when an offside position is noted and when the offside violation is clear enough to be flagged. The AR’s position must be maintained in this scenario because of the possibility that an offside violation may not occur. The issue outcome hinges on identifying the correct location of the restart.”

The obvious difference between the signal for a missed goal vs offside is the AR giving the far/middle/near signal prior to running upfield. The latter procedure is covered in neither the Guide to Procedures, ATR, LOTG, or Q&A (please correct me if I am wrong).

Considering this, it is easy to envision miscommunication resulting from this procedure if the center has exercised his “discretion” in neglecting to cover the issue in pregame, done all too frequently, through levels of play such as PDL where waiting for a touch or impending collision to signal offside is imperative. This site is the only place where I have seen this specific procedure laid out; many referees would contend that the proper procedure is for the AR to hold position until the advantage is clear, then signal or recover.

While not the most frequently used AR routine, the “wait and see” offside is common, and miscommunication could easily have negative effects on man management. If this procedure is recognized as “proper,” should it be included in Guide to Procedures and adopted as a recognized signal? At the very least, it seems that it should be reviewed by instructors sufficiently that confusion does not result.

USSF answer (November 5, 2008):
Although we applaud your faithful attention to the various Q&As published here, the issue you are raising below is based on a false premise — namely, that these two scenarios are connected in any way.  The potential confusion you point to could arise only if the officials involved acted in the way which we clearly stated was incorrect in each case.

In the October 23 scenario, the issue was the referee misunderstanding the AR’s correct procedure for indicating that a goal was scored despite the fact that the ball appeared to have stayed on the field.  We said then, and confirm again, that the referee simply was wrong in believing that the AR had indicated an offside violation and, in that context, said that the AR dropping the flag and running quickly up the touch line could not under any circumstances be considered proper mechanics for indicating an offside violation.  All aspects of this situation are clearly covered in the Guide to Procedures and Advice to Referees.

In the August 18 scenario, we were asked about the proper mechanics for the AR when two attackers are making a play for the ball, one coming from an onside position and the other coming from an offside position.  This is fairly clearly covered in the Guide to Procedures and the Advice to Referees, but we also acknowledged that the subsidiary issue of properly locating the restart (if an offside infringement occurs) does not have a definitive answer in these publications because it is left to the discretion of the referee, who should include the matter in the pregame.  

We said then, and confirm again, that the AR should be maintaining proper positioning for offside even though, if the offense does occur, this might place the AR some distance away from the restart location. If the referee wants assistance from the AR in locating the restart, the AR should move up the field but only after giving the complete signal for the offside offense.  In other words, although it might seem that the AR is merely dropping the flag and moving upfield, this is not what has signaled the offside offense. The offense was signaled in the correct way when the offense occurred (all in accordance with the Guide to Procedures and Advice to Referees) and then, only if this is requested by the referee, the AR could drop the flag and move up field in order to assist in locating the restart.  In the alternative, the referee may decide that he or she needs no help advising players as to the restart location and would prefer that the AR stay back where the offense was signaled since, in all likelihood, this puts the AR closer to where the second last defender is at the time of the restart.

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