Interfering with play – an offside case study

Interfering with play when you’re in offside position. There’s lots of clips to learn from. I’ve added Concacafs new 2020 video about offside and interfering with play first. Below that you’ll see a case study I’ve created before that will explain step by step what you need to do. Both great videos to learn from.

Concacaf video about interfering with play

Tip: subscribe to the Concacaf Referee Channel on YouTube.

Dutch offside case study

So here is a video that will show you a real match situation with an explanation. I’ts about interfering with play. Watch the video below.

The match situation

Heracles plays against Ajax. They’re 1-0 behind, but got awarded a free kick on the left side of the pitch. The ball swings in and Heracles attacker Wout Weghorst jumps towards the ball, but does he touch it?

Here’s in 3 steps how to make your decision:

Offside position or not?

Find out if the player is in offside position at the moment of the pass. Answer: yes.

Interfering with play: offside position or not?

In active play (or not)

Is the player involved in active play? Please remind yourself when a player is in active play. If you look more closely at the match situation, you can see Weghorst is not touching the ball. But is touching the ball necessary? No. The Laws of the Game say that a player can be in offside position when “interfering with an opponent by preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by

  1. clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
  2. challenging an opponent for the ball or (The first point of contact of the ‘play’ or ‘touch’ of the ball should be used) or
  3. clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
  4. making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

The 3rd option is relevant here. Weghorst is not touching the ball, but as you can see he is attempting to play the ball which is close to him. The Laws of the Game do not mention how close a ball needs to be, but the situation below has to be judge as “close” to him.

Interfering with play: touching the ball or not?

Flag for offside

Because the player was in offside position at the moment of the pass and because he comes in active play, there is an offside offence. The assistant referee needs to give a flag signal and the defending team gets an indirect free kick.

Assistant referee flagging for offside.


  • Anthony

    A question about the assistant’s positioning….

    Suppose a player is an offside position. The ball is played to them and they make a run towards it but don’t touch it.

    What does the assistant do? Hold their position from where the offside run started (ready to call the offside) or continue in line with ball until the attacking player actually touches it then call the offside? Cheers

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      It’s not a mistake to be in an offside position. The restart is where the player interferes with play or an opponent. So as AR you wait for your signal until that and until then you keep up with play.

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