|Case Study #||11-2013|
|Date||9 Mar 2013|
|Competition||English Premier League|
|Fixture/Result||West Bromwich 2 – 1 Swansea|
|Referee/Badge||Lee Mason, Select Group|
|At Issue||An incorrect offside decision allows us to consider how we might handle a similar situation|
Late in this match, Swansea scored what appeared to be an equalizing goal, but it was ruled out for offside. Replays show that the ball was clearly played by a West Brom defender, making the “goal scorer” not offside. While the Assistant Referee must’ve been convinced that he saw the ball come off of a Swansea player, this incident gives us the opportunity to analyze how we might deal with a similar situation. If you are the AR and you see #14 receive the ball in an offside position, but you cannot tell who last played it, what are your responsibilities?
First, let’s refer to the USSF Publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” for overall guidance.
11.7 Making The Offside Decision
The assistant referee must not signal simply because a player is in an offside position, but must look for active involvement. In other words, the assistant referee must “wait and see.” Furthermore, if an assistant referee is in any doubt as to whether a player is in an offside position or if a player in an offside position is actively involved in play, the assistant referee must decide in favor of the attacker and refrain from signaling offside. To phrase it slightly differently: When in doubt, keep the flag down and give the benefit of that doubt to the attacker. The referee, too, must be certain that there is active involvement before deciding for offside.
The Advice is clear and is consistent with the old adage “when in doubt, don’t”. But this seems less than satisfactory when the AR has his/her view obscured. Certainly, you can’t put the flag up, that much is clear. But should you signal for a goal when in fact you couldn’t see who played the ball last and you know that the attacker who scored was in an offside position?
I turned to two former National Referees for advice, and not surprisingly, got contrasting answers. I choose the term “contrasting” carefully because they were not opposing views by any means. One followed the guidance of the Advice to Referees and Guide to Procedures diligently, while another took a slightly relaxed view, suggesting that the AR remain at attention, indicating a need to communicate with the referee. In fact, one referee said ‘there are times when offside is like a puzzle, and the referee and AR each have a piece.’
The bottom line is that there is no absolute guidance for this situation, so Law 18 must prevail. In any event, I believe all would agree that this scenario should be covered in a thorough pre-game. I know I will be adding it to mine.