Why ball direction is irrelevant (offside case study)

The relevancy of ball direction at offside situations. I never thought it was a big issue, but I was wrong. In matchdays, I post screenshots on my social channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. As Watford scores the 3-3 equaliser against Liverpool, I share a screenshot from television. The idea: can you see if the attacker in offside position is closer to the backline then the ball or the secondlast defender. But I got a lot of comments on the fact it is a backpass. In this offside case study I explain why the the ball direction is irrelevant.

Please answer for yourself if the player is in offside position. A little exercise now: summarize the offside criteria for yourself. Write them down before you scroll down to the video and explanation.

Ball direction in offside situation

A close offside call

Yes, it’s very difficult to spot, because it is so close. And in the real game it happens at high speed, which makes it almost impossible for the AR to call. To begin with it’s good to know that “it is not an offence to be in an offside position”.

The criteria to be in offside position are:

  • 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 second-last opponent is too far away to make him onside. Then the position of the ball is relevant, which means not the toes of the player who passes the ball. It’s a very close call. My idea is that he is in offside position, but love to see a 3D model of the situation. Let’s assume he is offside, but is it an offence?

The ball direction is backwards

Let’s get into detail what actually happens after the moment of the shot/pass by Watford 11. The ball goes backwards, touches a Liverpool player, Liverpool goalie Mignolet and the bar. Then Watford attacker Britos, who was probably in offside position, scores. An analysis below the video.

Analysis offside situation

The first thing: the ball goes backwards. Lots of referees replied on the social channels that it therefore can’t be offside. That surprises me, because it’s a wrong assumption. Not the ball direction is relevant, but the position of the players.

Because the Liverpool player is so close to the situation, he can’t respond properly. This not a save or deliberate play, but a deflection.

Interfering with an opponent

As the goalie touches the ball, the attacker has not played the ball yet. But the question is if he’s interfering with an opponent.

The Laws of the game say that players are 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

In this situation the attacker interferes with play and he impacts the ability of the goalkeeper to play the ball.


In this situation the goal should have been disallowed if the attacker is in offside position, because he interferes with the goalkeeper. Please keep in mind the player might be centimeters offside, so it’s something which is very difficult to spot during the game at full speed.

But most of all, I wrote this case study to explain that ball direction is not relevant.

If you see an interesting situation on the pitch, please let me know via jan@dutchreferee.com.

How to deal with encroachment at penalty kicks

How to deal with encroachment at penalty kicks? An interesting situation in the game between Newcastle and Burton. This case study is written as educational story to show referees how to handle in particular situations based on the Laws of the Game.

The situation. Newcastle has been awarded a penalty kick. Matt Richie takes it and scores, but the referee disallows the goal. Is it correct? And how does play need to be restarted? Have a look at the situation yourself first.

The Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game explain how a referee needs to handle. “If a player of both teams infringes the Laws of the Game, the kick is retaken.” And there’s a little addition: “unless a player commits a more serious offence (e.g. illegal feinting).” That’s not the case here, because the Newcastle player is not feinting to kick the ball after completing his the run-up.

Offence or not?

So no feinting, but do both teams make an offence?

Have you seen how many players entered the penalty area too early? It’s (almost) everybody who was visible on the tv screen.

Encroachment at penalty kicks

Correct decision for encroachment at penalty kicks

The correct decision would be to disallow the goal and order a retake of the penalty kick.

Personal question

In Uefa and Fifa games referees will tolerate a lot with encroaching players at penalty kicks. But how strict are you with encroachment at penalty kicks?

Share your thoughts below or vote on the Twitter poll.

DOGSO by pulling is still red (case study)

DOGSO by pulling the opponent’s shirt? That’s still a red card when it happens in the box.

Watch the match situation in the last minute of FC Twente – Cambuur in the Eredivisie.

Match situation
A FC Twente winger swings the ball into the box from the left.

Now think about the following question: What criteria do you need to look at if the defender is denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity?

DOGSO by pulling: swinging the ball in

The ball passes the first defender and is about to reach striker Luc Castaignos, but he is not able to play the ball. If you have a closer look, you will see defender Jamiro Monteiro is pulling his shirt.

DOGSO by pulling: the offence

As you can see: the referee’s view is not obstructed. He has a clear view on the situation.

DOGSO by pulling or not?

Does the attacker have a clear shot at goal when he would not be fouled? I’d answer this question with yes here.

Coming back at the question I ask earlier on in the post. Did you know the criteria you need to look at if the defender is denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity? The following must be considered:
distance between the offence and the goal. The defender pulls the shirt about 13-14 metres from the goal. A place from where you can score.
general direction of the play. The player is moving towards the goal.
likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball. The ball is coming via the ground, so is easy to control
location and number of defenders. There are four defenders and a goalie in the penalty area, but the attacker is closest to the goal.

Disciplinary action

The rules have been changed in 2016-2017, especially for DOGSO situations. But the Laws of the Game (page 89) are clear. “Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned unless” – and here it comes – “the offence is holding, pulling or pushing.”

That means sending the defender off is the correct decision.

Trick to pass the ball by Verratti (case study)

Verratti uses a trick to pass the ball back to his goal in PSG’s game against Nantes. The goallie passes the ball to him. He walks back with the ball to the edge of the penalty area. Because he can’t pass the ball with his foot he gets down on his knees and heads the ball back to his goalie. Have you ever seen this before? How would you handle the situation?

Look at a video of the match situation first, because that will give you a better idea of what happened.

LOTG about trick to pass the ball

The Laws of the Game are clear: “There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including if a player: (…) uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free kick) to the goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee etc. to circumvent the Law, whether or not the goalkeeper touches the ball with the hands.

Verratti uses trick to pass the ball

Playing with lost footwear and scoring a goal

A very interesting situation on the pitch: Jerry St. Juste is playing with lost footwear and scored a goal with one shoe.

The Heerenveen player gets the ball on his own half, but looses one of his shoes right after his first touch. He dribbles towards the opponent’s goal and without being challenged he is able to shoot. And he scores. The referee allows the goal, but is it a correct call?

If the video does not load well, check minute 4:24. That’s when this situation takes place.

LOTG: playing with lost footwear

The Laws of the Game are very clear (on page 42): “A player whose footwear or shinguard is lost accidentally must replace it as soon as possible and no later than when the ball next goes out of play; if before doing so the player plays the ball and/or scores a goal, the goal is awarded.”

Photo: playing with lost footwear.

Assistant referee Edwin Zeinstra explains. “It was a beautiful goal, nothing wrong with it”, he says to newspaper Leeuwarder Courant. “Previously he should have passed the ball immediately and was not allowed to continue. Now players allowed to finish their actions [until the ball goes out of play]”, says the member of Team Kuipers.

In the LOTG before the big revision in 2016-2017 the goal would indeed not be counted, because it says that there’s no infringement if a player “immediately plays the ball and/or scores a goal” after loosing his footwear. That’s not the case here, because St. Juste made a long run before his goal with only one shoe at his feet.

Always communicate as refereeing team

“Always communicate as refereeing team” – Bjorn Kuipers

Last week I went to the book launch of Bjorn Kuipers. He also gave a lecture about managing a game as referee. I thought it would be useful to share these tips with you on a weekly basis. One tip every week. I’ll start off with an example from one of his Champions League encounters. “Always communicate as refereeing team”.

Bjorn talked about an incident in the game between Juventus and Borussia Mönchengladbach. In the video below you’ll see a foul right in front of Kuipers. He let me listen to the voice communication with his assistant refereees. “Yellow card, Bjorn.” Then the other AR: “Red card, Björn. Two footed-tackle.” Different opinions, doesn’t it confuse? Why do you think he want his AR’s to talk to him?

Video of Hernanes tackle

Check the video first and think about the answer to that question. It should start at 2 min and 28 seconds.

“You can think that you are the referee who has to make the decisions”, says Björn. “I’m close to the situation, why are they talking to me via their headsets. But as referee you should take into account that it’s a possibility that someone suddenly blocks your view.”

Kuipers view got blocked. Lesson: always communicate as refereeing team.

Björn shows the video again and that’s when you see a Juventus player running right in front of Bjorn Kuipers. “That’s why you always have to communicate as refereeing team”, he stresses. If it’s standard procedure for your assistant referees to give advice, they will always be focused. If you don’t communicate via the headset and then suddenly ask them: have you seen something, because my view got blocked. Then they’ll have to come up with something out of the blue, which is not easy.

This is an insight into professional football, but you might not be using a headset. Then make sure you communicate with (buzzer) flags and if you’ve seen serious foul play, make sure the referee knows that before play has been restarted. Don’t tell him such important information when you’re back in the dressing room. Take your responsibility then as well and communicate with the rest of your team members.

What if multiple players take off their shirt to celebrate a goal?

An interesting situation in the Ajax vs AZ u19 game. Ajax was behind constantly and scored the 4-3 in extra time of the game. Due to the victory Ajax is on top of the league table again. Matthijs de Ligt (number 3) scores the winning goal. He takes of his shirt and accepts the yellow card. But the question is: What if multiple players take off their shirt to celebrate a goal? Also two of De Ligt’s teammates took of their shirt.

What if mulitple players take of their shirt as in this Ajax game?

Want to watch a wonderful game? Check the highlights of the mentioned youth game.

Laws of the game in 2015-2016 season

The current Laws of the game state in the section “Celebration of a goal”:

“While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive. A player must be cautioned if: (…) he removes his shirt or covers his head with his shirt.”

Laws of the game in 2016-2017 season

Also in the updated Laws of the Game under “Celebration of a goal”:

“Players can celebrate when a goal is scored, but the celebration must not be excessive; choreographed celebrations are not encouraged and must not cause excessive time-wasting. A player must be cautioned for: (…) removing the shirt or covering the head with the shirt.”

What does this mean if multiple players take off their shirt?

In both versions of the Laws of the Game the wording says “a goal has been scored”. So it doesn’t say that the one who takes off his shirt and deserves a yellow has to be the one who scored the goal. It only mentions two facts: (1) a goal has been scored and (2) someone has taken off his shirt to celebrate a goal.

According to the letter of the law you can give three players a yellow card.

What would you decide? Please share it in the comments.

PS: I would love to hear from David Elleray, who has made “probably the most comprehensive revision of the Laws of the Game in it’s history“, what his thoughts are on this matter.