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Foul before offside offence (a case study)

Referee Anthony Taylor spots foul before offside offence, but is he correct to award a penalty kick? In this case study you’ll learn what to do.

Because it’s good to think first, try to ask the following question first. What do the Laws of the Game say about fouls and offside situations?

Offside before the foul

Offside position or not

The first question: is Kane in offside position?

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

Because arms and hands of players are not considered, we should look at Kane’s head. If you look at that on the image, you can see Kane is in offside position.

But that is not all. Always keep in mind: “It is not an offence to be in an offside position.”

The moment of the foul

At the moment the ball is still high in the air, Kane is amending is position to head it towards the goal. But it’s Mustafi who bumps into Kane’s back and this push fouls Kane. The Tottenham striker is unable to play the ball.

Foul before offside offence

The Laws of the Game explain three rare scenario’s for players standing in offside positions:

  • when a defender fouls an attacker when already playing the ball
  • players are standing in he way of a defender
  • when a defender fouls an attacker before playing the ball

The latter is important here. The Laws of the Game say: “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 penalised as it has occurred before the offside offence.”

Yes, Kane is moving towards teh ball, but there is no attempt to play the ball. He is also not challenging the defender in front of him. It’s the defender (Mustafi, 20) behind him who fouls him. So the foul is penalised. Correct penalty kick decision.

Below you’ll see the referee’s view and a video.

Anthony Taylor sees the push clearly

There’s also lots of discussion on Twitter whether Kane was challenging Koscielny for the ball or not. Interesting to check for yourself as well.

Former EPL referee Mark Halsey  wrote a good piece on this as well. As it’s not clear for anyone – even top officials disagree – how to interpret this, how should refs at all levels? Check out the article: “Kane penalty shows offside is a mess”

Video of the incident

A video of the incident where you see a foul before the offside offence.


  • Richard

    Kane engaged in active play by making contact with the defender (pushing off) at the top of the 18, when the ball is played. He has challenged the opponent for the ball. Offside.

  • Pete Brown

    I just don’t see where Kane challenges for the ball. I think this is down to the referee’s interpretation in a similar way to a foul challenge. But for me it’s a penalty as the current laws are written.

  • Nick Sideris

    Truly that was a good penalty call by Taylor. It occurred before the off-side offence. BUT, what has happened to the law of encroaching by teammate during the taking of a PK, before the ball is in play and a goal is scored. I keep watching Premier League games and I keep seeing this rule not applied.
    Are we, as MOs, overlooking the rules here?

  • Tim Rands

    Your excerpts from LOTG and subsequent interpretation make it absolutely clear that this was a foul and penalty because it occurred before the player could be considered offside. It might not make total sense to those of us who’ve been around the game for decades, and who’s opinions are formed based on previous versions of LOTG.
    I would be cautious about citing Mark Halsey. Unfortunately I find he doesn’t stay up to date with LOTG, and is engaged in an ongoing, endless, and personal, battle with the English Professional Referee’s Association (PGMOL?). Plus, he writes for The Sun, which is a rag designed to hype up opinions and sell copy. PGMOL came out quite clearly after this incident and affirmed this was the correct decision by the referee. As referees we should always do our best to understand a decision taken by a referee, and stand by it if it is correct. Knee-jerk criticisms only undermine referees and refereeing.
    Well done to you for your careful analysis.

  • David

    For me it’s offside because Kane and Koscielny are in a physical battle to win the header – hence he is active

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