There was a discussion at halftime today between me and another AR about the proper way to signal and call offsides. As a center ref, I prefer to have my AR’s hold up their flag when they notice someone in the offside position so I can watch them as well to see if they become involved in the play. As an AR, I was doing that for the center ref today. The other AR asked why I was signaling the offside position this way and went as far to say that it was against the rules to signal offside until there is an actual offside violation. Is this true? I asked around today with some regional referees and there didn’t seem to be a clear consensus on this issue.
USSF answer (November 24, 2009):
Assistant referees should NOT flag to indicate offside position; nor should they be instructed to do so. The AR’s job is to indicate that a player in an offside position is actually offside ONLY at the moment that player becomes involved in play by gaining an advantage from the offside position or interferes with either play or an opponent. Then the referee makes the final decision as to whether that player is actually offside.