Law 11: Offside Simplified

This article is not just for referees, but for coaches, players, as well as spectators on the sidelines who want to better understand the often times most controversial law of soccer: Offside.

First, we’ll take a look at what the rulebook says about offside. Then, we’ll view animated sequences demonstrating each aspect of the offside law.

Offside Position: Penalty Or Not?

It is NOT an offense in itself to be in an offside position.

A player is in an offside position if:

  • he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.”Nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of his head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition.

A player is not in an offside position if any of the following are true:

  • he is in his own half of the field of play
  • he is level with the second last opponent
  • he is level with the last two opponents

Is Being In An Offside Position A Penalty?

A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play, when doing any of the following:

  • Interfering with play

    Which means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.

  • Interfering with an opponent

    Which means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.

  • Gaining an advantage by being in that position

    Which means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position

When Is Being In An Offside Position Not A Penalty?

There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from:

  • a goal kick or
  • a throw-in or
  • a corner kick

What Does A Referee Do If An Offside Penalty Is Called?

For any offside offense, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.

Commentary and FAQ List

For a more detailed and verbose explanation on the offside rule in “plain english”, refer this excellent resource at the Soccer-Coach-L website: http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~dgraham/lotg/law11.html .