Caught ‘Off-Side’?

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Off-Side Rule & Sri Lanka Football Referees

The Dialog Champions League 2018 match week 13 fixture between Super Sun SC and Renown SC was abruptly called off after the team that conceded the goal claimed that the scorer was off-side and walked off the field of play.

Super Sun disqualified & demoted

The Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) has taken swift..

The incident occurred in the 69th minute. Dimuthu Priyadarshana sent out a long ball towards the Super Sun goal where Dilip Pieris was lurking in an off-side position. Behind the defense line, Dilan Madushanka made a run, beating the off-side trap, towards the path of the ball.

The ball passed close to Dilip Pieris, who was still in an off-side position, and went to Dilan Madushanka, who collected the ball and took it towards the Super Sun goal.

The Super Sun defender did well to block the shot from Dilan, however the rebound fell to Dilip Peiris, who was now in an on-side position, and he scored the third goal for Renown.

The assistant referee and main referee deemed Dilip Pieris ‘Not Interfering’ with the play, and allowed the goal to stand, which led to the Super Sun players confronting the match officials.

The team management then got involved and the situation escalated to a level where the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) officials and security had to safe guard the match officials.

The Super Sun management indicated that they did not want to continue the match, despite the FFSL trying to restart the game. Time ticked by and the game was eventually abandoned and an inquiry is currently taking place.

This is not the only time a game has come to an abrupt halt in recent times in Sri Lankan Football. Even schools’ football matches have had similar incidents in the recent past. The root cause of the trouble is awareness or the lack thereof!

Many a fan in the local football arena is not aware of the Off-Side Law (Law 11).

The International Football Association Board is the governing body who set up the Laws of the game for Football. It comprises the founding boards of English FA, Wales FA, Scottish FA, Northern Ireland FA and FIFA.

To elaborate the law further as published on IFAB.

A player is in an offside position if;

  • any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
  • any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.  The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered.

A player is not in an offside position if level with the;

  • second-last opponent or
  • last two opponents
Courtesy: FIFA

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by;

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
  • interfering with an opponent by:
  • preventing 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 or  
  • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent or
  • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball or
  • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:
  • rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or an opponent
  • been deliberately saved by any opponent A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage. A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area). In situations where:
  • a player moving from, or standing in, an offside position is in the way of an opponent and interferes with the movement of the opponent towards the ball this is an offside offence if it impacts on the ability of the opponent to play or challenge for the ball; if the player moves into the way of an opponent and impedes the opponent’s progress (e.g. blocks the opponent).
  • a player in an offside position is moving towards the ball with the intention of playing the ball and is fouled before playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the foul is penalized as it has occurred before the offside offence
  • an offence is committed against a player in an offside position who is already playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the offside offence is penalized as it has occurred before the foul challenge

The above detailed law can be simplified as;

‘Interfering with play’ – Playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.

‘Interfering with an opponent’ – Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball. For example, by clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision or movement. 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’ – Playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or crossbar, having previously been in an offside position. Playing a ball, that rebounds to him off an opponent, having previously been in an offside position.

Courtesy: FIFA

To simplify the rule exceptions are in place such as;

  • Players cannot be offside in their own half of the field.
  • It is not possible to be offside from a throw-incorner kick or goal kick.
  • If the ball is deliberately played by a member of the opposing team, an attacker cannot be offside.
  • A player who is behind the other team’s goal line is considered to be on the goal line for the purposes of offside. It is an offence to leave or re-enter the field of play without permission but not if it is part of a natural playing movement.
  • If the player is behind the ball when it is played, he or she cannot be offside.
  • An attacker who is exactly in line with the 2nd last defender or the ball is not considered to be offside.
  • If a player does not become involved in active play, then it is not an offside offence even if that player is in an offside position.  
Courtesy: FIFA

With the new change;

If a Player returns from an off-side position to an on-side position, is deemed off-side if the player gets involved in the play before the ball is being touched by any other on-Side player.

This seems to be confusing for lot of the Local football fans, players and to certain extent coaches too.

The new rule is established to have the game flow with less interruption as a player can be in an off-side position. Even if the ball is played in his direction he or she will not be penalized until he or she gets involved in the game. The defending team has the opportunity to continue play and gain possession of the ball.

With the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) being used in the Spanish and Italian League as well as the English FA cup, the referees are now being given the advantage of checking back on their call. However Off-Side alone cannot be consulted on with VAR.  

The three points which VAR can be consulted on are;

  • A goal scored
  • A penalty awarded or appealed.
  • A mistaken identity.
Courtesy: FIFA

If a goal is scored and the referee or the VAR team is in doubt of an Off-Side a check can be made by the main referee on a screen placed close to the center line. This too has not been helpful on some occasions in the European leagues as the decision must be made by the Main Referee and not by the VAR team.


Having VAR in local football is not practical at the moment and for the time being the Assistant referees have their work cut out as the supporters and club management will be in their ears throughout the 90 minutes calling for every single move as Off-Side.

The Football Federation of Sri Lanka too has a great role to play in developing the quality and the standard of match officials as well as using technology whenever possible.

Spectator awareness to the laws of the game is not the obligation of FFSL however educating the Players, Team Management and Match Officials is the sole responsibility of the FFSL and if done right, we could avoid such situations.

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