Just when I thought I had this figured out.
In the Referee Week in Review Week 22 (http://www.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_9502720.html), an example is shown where a player in an offside position changes direction to begin moving toward a passed ball and then takes four or five steps toward the ball before finally “breaking away” from it. He is easily within playing distance when he finally breaks away (Video Clip 6).
My confusion comes from the accompanying analysis. First we are to consider whether the player in an offside position interfered with play:
“Interfered with play: the player in the offside position does NOT interfere with play as he NEVER touches or plays the ball. An offside player may make a run/movement toward a passed/touched ball but until he touches/plays the ball, he cannot be declared offside unless the referee/AR determines that there is a potential collision or injury situation that may result from allowing play to continue too long.”
Later the analysis states:
“This decision is complicated by the movement of the offside player toward the ball, the time it takes for the original attacker to regain possession of the ball, and the fact that the defenders stop their runs and raise their hands begging for offside. ARs are not permitted to consider these actions in their decision as they are not factors in the three elements of “involvement in active play.”
The first part of the analysis is adamant (note the CAPS) in their interpretation that the player does not play the ball and reinforces that opinion by later stating that AR’s are not permitted to consider “the movement of the offside player toward the ball.”. This seems to contradict ATR 11.5 (unless it has changed in the new version).
There seems to be very little doubt that the player was making “an active play for the ball” for at least two or three seconds (four or five steps). And so although exercising patience in this scenario might have been fine, I certainly don’t see how the AR could have been second guessed in his interpretation.
The “wait and see” principal is fine in situations with this outcome, but when the ball is already in the net before the AR raises his flag (which it would have been if the first player had successfully taken the shot), the “temperature” of the game would have been dramatically increased.
I happen to believe the AR was justified and the analysis flawed, but I would like your opinion.
USSF answer (October 21, 2008):
No, there has been no change in Advice 11.5 for 2008. There is a small difference between the guidance given in the Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials and how the specific situation in the video was explained in the Week in Review.
The guidance given in the WIR pertained, as noted in the previous paragraph, to a particular situation, not to all cases involving interfering with play. The only point in Advice 11.5 missing in the WIR analysis was one other possible element of interfering with play that did not occur in this event and was therefore not included: A player may be called offside for interfering with play if that player has run from an offside position and will clearly arrive at the ball before any teammate can arrive from an onside position.