(Originally published on 7/7/17. “Operation Restore”)
Darrell, an adult amateur player, asks:
Can you comment on example circumstances which allow for the offside sanction even though the player in the offside position has not yet touched the ball?
Sure. In fact, we have been known to comment on just about anything involving soccer (for exceptions, see the “About” page). So, let’s review for a moment. Law 11 says that, once a player is in an offside position, there are certain things that player cannot legally do: (1) interfere with play, (2) interfere with an opponent, and (3) gain an advantage by being in the position.
For purposes of this answer, we can ignore (3) because, actually, it is not an independent or separate way of committing an offside offense. It has more to do with issues related to the offside position. Even the terms of “gain an advantage” in Law 11 themselves rely on a player in an offside position committing an offense only if he or she interferes with play or interferes with an opponent.
We come back now to the specific question that asks whether a player in an offside position can be charged with an offside offense without having “touched the ball” and the answer has to be, yes, because there is a whole second category of offside offenses that don’t involve touching the ball at all. An attacker can also be punished for an offside offense if he or she, while in an offside position, blocks an opponent’s line of vision, challenges an opponent for the ball, or makes an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball, to name a few.
There you have it — three specific ways to commit an offside violation without ever having to touch the ball.