No offside because of deliberate play (a case study)

No offside because of deliberate play.  That’s when good communication between referee comes in. The assistant referee can usually see the offside position, but the referee also plays a role to see if it’s a deflection or deliberate play. An updated blog post with new video’s. 

Offside situation in MLS

What I’d like you to do is watch the following situation and make a decision first. Because you’ll learn the most when you judge yourself first, I’d you to answer this question first before watching the clips

What is your call?

Your first thought probably is: offside! But what happens after the pass pictured below?

Explanation by Alan Black from PRO

Alan Black, PRO’s Head of Coaching, Education and Evaluation, shows FIFAs criteria for a deliberate play on the ball in a statement from PRO. (Great job that you publish this, PRO!) This helps you to interprete the action from the defender.

  • A defender goes to play the ball – conscious action
  • The defender has time and options
  • The defender has control of his actions – not the outcome of the action
  • There is distance and space between the pass and the defender playing the ball

Because of these criteria, their and my conclusion is that the goal should count. “Ultimately the goal by Jordan Hamilton was legitimately allowed to stand to give Toronto a 2-1 lead at this point in the game.”

Role of the referee

This is where the role of the referee is important. You’ve probably noticed the assistant referee raise his flag and put it down very quickly. It seems like the referee clearly communicates (via headset f.e.) that the ball comes from a defender and it’s a deliberate pass. In a previous blog post I wrote about the referee’s responsibility with offside.

Example from the Mexican league

First I’ll share the original video in a tweet to you. What is your call?

Make your decision quickly, as you have to in a normal game.

Ben from shares this example with me on Twitter. The assistant referee sees the offside position, but does not see the deliberate pass. Ben explains: “Great situation to learn/teach offside law as it stands. Forward pass by attacker is played on by defender to co-attacker in offside position. Unfortunately, the assistant referee misses this and flags for offside, which is upheld by centre ref”

Incident in the Premier League

Below you’ll find a longer case study based on a clip where there’s no offside because of deliberate play.

That’s also how Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) judges the penalty and offside incident in the game between Liverpool and Tottenham. Jon Moss gets it right, but what can you learn from this match incident? A case study.

Discussion of Jon Moss and AR: no offside because of deliberate play?
Discussion of Jon Moss and AR: no offside because of deliberate play

PGMOL statement supports referee Moss

“Jon Moss was in a good position to see that a Liverpool player deliberately played the ball before it fell to Harry Kane in the penalty area”, is mentioned in a statement by the PGMOL, cited by lots of newspapers. “He then correctly judged that Kane was fouled by Lorius [sic] Karius. However, given the speed of the attack he was uncertain of the identity of the Liverpool player who kicked the ball.”

Watch the situation

The deliberate pass is not the most clear hear, but this video got something I want to show you. It’s Jon Moss talking with his assistant referee Eddie Smart.

PGMOL continues their statement. “Eddie Smart, having identified that Kane was in an offside position, correctly sought clarification on whether Dejan Lovren had deliberately played the ball.”

In the video you’ll see some confusion, because Moss is not sure which Liverpool player touches the ball. “Moss knew a Liverpool player had touched the ball, but not that it was Lovren.” Moss asks 4th official Martin Atkinson what he sees on tv, but he can’t watch tv footage. PGMLOL ensures Atkinson has not acted as a VAR. He also gives no advice about what to do.

Difficult series of decisions

After the talk with Eddie Smart, Moss is sure. There is no offside because of deliberate play by a Liverpool defender. That is why he awarded a penalty. “In real time this was a difficult series of decisions which the match officials judged correctly in recognising that Kane was not offside, as Lovren had deliberately played the ball, and he was fouled for the award of the penalty kick”, says PGMOL.

And this is crucial for your definition as referee:

“The interpretation of “deliberately” kicking a ball considers whether a player has intentionally tried to kick a ball. It does not consider whether the ball ends up where a player may have wanted to kick it.”

No deliberate save

This was clearly a miskick, but the ball ends somewhere else. The Laws of the Game add something. “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.”

The defender is a few metres outside of his own penalty area. The LOTG only talk about a “save” 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.”

A defender outside the box is not very close to the goal, so this is not a deliberate save. Correct call by Jon Moss.

Also wrote another story about offside and the responsibility of the referee.

Game management for referees – tips from Howard Webb

Game management for referees is so important. It’s very important to remain confident and that you’re not going to hide when players react negatively to your whistling. That’s one of the key learnings I’ve taken with me from the keynote Howard Webb gave during the Ontario Soccer Summit.

Howard Webb stresses that you need to raise your profile as a referee these days. “To gain control of the game. You have to step up when you have to be seen and heard when the game needs you to be seen and heard.”

Howard Webb at Ontario Soccer Summit

Adapting is part of game management for referees

“Not everyone can do that”, says Webb. And it’s not easy to adapt constantly. “But they are the best referees, the ones that are able to do that. They step out and step back in again. And they allow the players to play, but they’re there when they need to be there.”

World Cup refereeing

During his speech Webb talks about his game management in the World Cup final as well. After 22 minutes and two more yellow cards Webb realises this game was not going to plan. “The yellow card did not have the effect it should have”, he says. “It’s quite a scary feeling for a ref.”

During that game he shows eight yellow cards to the Dutch team, resulting in Heitinga being send-off with his second. The Spanish players also receive five yellows. During the 2018 World Cup Webb sees a similar game with referee Mark Geiger. “That was a really, really tough game. That’s probably the hardest game I’ve seen after this one.”

How to stop awful behaviour

Because of that game between Colombia and England I asked myself the following. What do players think when they approach the referee while shouting, protesting and making crazy gestures? To answer it I wrote a blog post that this awful behaviour has to stop.

(below the image you’ll get some advice on game management)

How to manage difficult situations

Howard Webb says that every referee will try to find a good way to deal with it, but it’s always uncertain how players will react. “Because you fear that if you pull out the wrong thing, you end up losing control.”

Don’t hide yourself

“The games I’ve lost control of in my life, are the games I lost self-belief”, Webb admits. His advice is: despite all reactions you get from players, keep making your calls. “The worst thing you can do is stop blowing your whistle, going to hide. So whenever you have a tough game, don’t lose that self-confidence. It might not come out perfectly, but much better then when you hide away.”

To keep confident, you need to focus. How do you do that? Check out these tips to stay focused for 90 minutes.

Check out Howard Webb’s keynote

Check out the keynote speech from Howard Webb at the Ontario Socccer Summit.

Week 24 Laws of the Game Quiz 2018-2019

It’s time for week 24 of the Laws of the Game Quiz 2018-2019.

An interesting one with a few questions I made for Tournaments Abroad Referee Academy. For example with a player who’s outside the field of play and wants to come in while standing besides the goal-post. He sees that a shot is going into the goal and he steps onto the field of play and kicks the ball forward. What do you decide then?

View from besides goal post

The quiz

Good luck with the quiz.

Laws of the Game changes 2019-2020

Laws of the Game changes 2019-2020. IFAB announces some changes. Biggest changes is on handballs and the place subbed players have to leave the field of play and the position of the goalkeeper at penalty kicks.

Laws of the Game changes 2019-2020

Handball changes

On the topic of defining handball, a decision was taken by The IFAB to provide a more precise and detailed definition for that constitutes handball, in particular with regard to the occasions when a non-deliberate/accidental handball will be penalised. For example a goal scored directly from the hand/arm (even if accidental) and a player scoring or creating a goal-scoring opportunity after having gained possession/control of the ball from their hand/arm (even if accidental) will no longer be allowed.

Subbed player leaving FOP

Following experiments in different parts of the world, the AGM also approved changes to the Laws of the Game related to a player being substituted having to leave the field of play at the nearest boundary line, yellow and red cards for misconduct by team officials and the ball not having to leave the penalty area at goal kicks and defending team free kicks in the penalty area.

Goalkeeper one foot on line with penalty kick

Additional approved Law changes included: measures to deal with attacking players causing problems in the defensive ‘wall’, changing the dropped ball procedure, giving a dropped ball in certain situations when the ball hits the referee and the goalkeeper only being required to have one foot on the line at a penalty kick. The changes also mention: ” cannot stand behind the line”.


The DOGSO changes in the Laws of the Game changes are reviewed and will remain the same. “The feedback for both changes has been overwhelmingly positive and The IFAB has not received a single complaint; not even from the public.”

Some case studies abou these DOGSO law changes:

Free kick changes

  • When there is a ‘wall’ of three or more defenders, the attackers are not allowed within 1m (1 yd) of the wall; an attacker less than 1m (1yd) from the ‘wall’ when the kick is taken will be penalised with an indirect free kick
  • When the defending team takes a free kick in their own penalty area, the ball is in play once the kick is taken; it does not have to leave the penalty area before it can be played

Dropped ball

  • If play is stopped inside the penalty area, the ball will be dropped for the goalkeeper
  • If play is stopped outside the penalty area, the ball will be dropped for one player of the team that last touched the ball at the point of the last touch
  • In all cases, all the other players (of both teams) must be at least 4m (4.5yds) away
  • If the ball touches the referee (or another match official) and goes into the goal, team possession changes or a promising attack starts, a dropped ball is awarded

Other decisions

  • A yellow card for an ‘illegal’ celebration (e.g. removing the shirt) remains even if the goal is disallowed
  • With goal kicks: the ball is in play once the kick is taken; it can be played before leaving the penalty area
  • The team that wins the toss can now choose to take the kick-off or which goal to attack (previously they only had the choice of which goal to attack)
  • If the referee is about to issue a YC/RC but the non-offending team takes the free kick quickly and creates a goal-scoring opportunity, the referee can delay the YC/RC until the next stoppage if the offending team was not distracted by the referee
  • A team official guilty of misconduct will be shown a YC (caution) or RC (sending-off); if the offender cannot be identified, the senior coach who is in the technical area at the time will receive the YC/RC


Changes in force on 1st of June 2019

All changes come into force on 1st June 2019. Competitions starting before that date may  apply the changes from the start of their competition, at an agreed point during the  competition (e.g. after the mid-season break) or may delay them until no later than the start of the next competition.

Two separate cautionable offences

Two separate cautionable offences in close proximity. It has never happened to me that I have to show a player two yellow cars plus a red card within seconds. How about you?

The only situation I remember is with Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır, but that is a while ago. During the Uefa Champions League game between there is a similar one with referee Felix Brych. Real Madrid player Nacho has the “honour” of receiving two yellows in one minute.

Have a look at the video and keep in mind: how does the referee handle it? Below I’ll share my take-aways from this including an explanation about the laws that apply.

Recognize situations yourself

I always ask you to look at the referee, because it’s very important for you to learn yourself. You can read tips below, but it’s always important you recognize situations yourself as well.

Two cautionable offences: Brych cards Nacho

LOTG about two separate cautionable offences

The Laws of the Game are very clear on this. “Where two separate cautionable offences are committed (even in close proximity), they should result in two cautions.” IFAB also has provided us with an example. “If a player enters the field of play without the required permission and commits a reckless tackle or stops a promising attack with a foul/handball, etc.”

You get it, right?

The Nacho situation

Referee Felix Brych officiates the game between Real Madrid and Ajax in the UCL quarter finals. There is a lot of tension, because Ajax is in the lead in Bernabeu.

Tip 1: Be alert when players lose a ball

The clip starts with a cross to the left corner. You might think, why there, but there is a reason I show this long clip. You’ll see Nacho is trying to pass a defender and fails. He thinks it is a foul, but the German referee signals that play continues.

As a referee you should be alert now. That is when he wants to win the ball back and will put some extra effort in.


But not always in the right way.

Game management with fouls

Nacho is sprinting back to his own half and is too late with his tackle. He is not endangering his opponent’s safety in my opinion, but the yellow is correct. You need to show these yellows. These are not calls that decide a game in terms of a goal, but are key in terms of game management.

Tackle by Nacho on defender

Tip: Go to the situation

With these tackles, make sure you’re present. Move closer, as Brych does, because fouled players might get frustrated. Here the Ajax defender stays calm and Nacho walks off.

All fine then. But unfortunately for Nacho Ajax player Ziyech is there. We can’t hear what they say, but it’s clear that he stops Nacho and probably says something about that tackle. And then Nacho reacts and pushes Ziyech away.

What would you have done in this second situation normally?

  • No cards
  • Show both players players a yellow
  • Show only Nacho a yellow

Does it make a difference for you if someone is about to receive another yellow as well?

Red card by Felix Brych

Showing the cards

Felix Brych immediately points at Nacho as it was obvious for him that he was the one who caused trouble there.

When Brych shows the first yellow card Nacho turns, so he misses the second yellow card. Amongst tv presenters there was also some confusion. Some even mention that VAR is saying something to the ref. That is not correct.

Tip 3: Communicate – also to the tv watchers

Consequently, Brych shows the cards again and also communicates the reasons. The first one was for the tackle, the second for the push. You can tell it to players, but the whole world is watching on tv.

So communicate to the world. Good job there.

My takes on this situation. How would you handle this?

Brych communicates push to others