Offside – clarification

Law 11 – Offside

This is the shortest Law (text) but the most difficult to interpret and put into practice, especially when you are on your own (without Assistants).

The practical application of offside has not changed, merely simplifying the interpretation.

Here are the basic points (clarified at the last IFAB meeting in 2015).


The International FA Board (IFAB) Technical Sub Committee has provided additional guidance re Law 11 – Offside, with specific relevance to the practical interpretation of interfering with an opponent.

The two additional bullet points do not constitute a change in the Laws of the Game, but aim to provide greater clarity for the interpretation of interfering with an opponent.

It is important to note that the current interpretation of offside for Interfering with Play, Interfering with an Opponent, and Gaining Advantage from being in that position remain unchanged, and as such the additional guidance contained in the two additional bullet points is an addition to current practice.

Additional guidance

A player in an offside position shall be penalised if he:

clearly attempts to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent


 makes an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

Useful definitions

In addition to the two additional bullet points for interfering with an opponent, the following working definitions have been provided:

‘clearly attempts’ – this wording is designed to prevent a player in an offside position who runs towards the ball from quite a long distance being penalised (unless he gets close to the ball)

‘close’ is important so that a player in an offside position is not penalised when the ball goes clearly over his head or clearly in front of him

‘impact’ applies to an opponent’s ability (or potential) to play the ball and will include situations where an opponent’s movement to play the ball is delayed, hindered or prevented by the offside player

However, just because someone is an offside position it does not always mean that they are having an impact. e.g:

o if the ball is on the right-hand side of the field and an ‘offside’ player in the centre of the field moves into a new attacking position he is not penalised unless this action affects an opponent’s ability to play the ball

o where a player tries to play the ball as it is going into the goal without affecting an opponent, or situations where there is no opposition player near, he should not be penalised

It is important to remember that ALL three elements are required before the criteria for an offside offence is satisfied.

General Principles:

 Judgment should be based on the physical evidence i.e. movement and actions of the player in an offside position


 Attacking players who clearly ‘benefit’ from being in an offside position by clearly impacting on an opponent should be penalised

The full wording and many examples can be found here.


Earlier in 2013 further clarifications had been made; (at the last IFAB meeting in March 2013).

The following definitions apply:

  • “Interfering with play” – playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate
  • “Interfering with an opponent” – prevent an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or challenging an opponent for the ball [the words “deceives” and “distracts” have been removed]
  • “Gaining an advantage by being in that position” – means playing the ball
    • that rebounds or is deflected to him off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent having been in an offside position [the word “deflected” has been added]
    • that rebounds, deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save by an opponent having been in an offside position [the words “deliberate save” have been added]

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage.

This new text is more in line with actual game situations and will eliminate the confusion regarding what is meant by rebound, deflection and when the ball has been deliberately saved. The previous text created many discussions as it gave too much room for interpretation and was not precise enough.

Offside Challenge

Try test your skill at the Specsavers Challenge on the Scottish FA website.

Watch the videos and test your skill at applying the Law  specsavers_100x75

Click here to continue



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