Offside Or Not Offside.....

Last updated : 01 November 2003 By Kevin Markey
Thankyou for the Scunthorpe Telegraph ( for bringing it up and this is the article in full;

There was a very interesting talking point in the Liverpool against Leeds United Premier League game last Saturday.

It revolved around Liverpool's second goal and whether it should have been allowed due to three Liverpool players been in offside positions.

The first aspect to clear up is that it is not an offence to be in an offside position. Law 11 is very specific by saying that: 'A player is penalised only if he is interfering with play or interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage by being in that position.'

When deciding that the goal should stand, Jeff Winter the referee, had to ask himself and the assistant referee some questions.

The assistant referee of course only advises the referee that a player is in an offside position and it is the sole responsibility of the referee whether to act on the flag or not.

The first question to ask is, did the players in offside positions interfere with the goalkeeper affecting his chance of saving the ball from going into the net? I think it is quite clear that the goalkeeper had a clear view of the flight of the ball and the Liverpool players did not put him off.

The second question to ask is, did the Liverpool players go towards the ball in an attempt to play it? Again, I don't think any of the Liverpool players made an attempt to go towards the ball because they were four to five yards away from it when it entered the net.

And lastly, did they gain an advantage by being there? If the goalkeeper had parried the ball and one of the Liverpool players had then put the ball in the net, then yes they would be gaining an advantage and the goal would have been disallowed.

However, the ball went straight into the net, so none of the players gained an advantage. Another aspect to clear up is that of the Leeds defenders moving up to 'catch' attackers offside.

This tactic is okay if the attackers are committing any one of the three offences I've mentioned, but if they aren't it can be very dangerous as this example demonstrates.

On Saturday I was fourth official for the Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham City match, which was the lunchtime kick-off being shown live on Sky television. There were two penalty incidents that resulted in the attacker being cautioned for simulation (diving).

These again provided very interesting debates about what constitutes diving. It is clear that on both occasions there is some contact, but the falls were so exaggerated that the referee deemed them to be excessive hence the issuing of two cautions.

Some people would argue that because there was some contact, then that in it self warranted a penalty.

Others would argue that the two players were deliberately trying to deceive the referee into awarding the penalty, so they deserved to be cautioned.

My comment on this is that from a referee's point of view the challenges in Premier League games are made at such speed that it is difficult for the referee to see whether contact has been made or not.

However, the awarding of a penalty, or the issuing of a yellow or red card, is in many ways a gut reaction, which you feel at that split second in time. And of course television 'experts' watch incidents many times over and either agree or disagree with the decision.

But we haven't got that luxury!