With the 2010 FIFA World Cup due to kick off in South Africa on June 11th, soccer fans will be scrutinising the game like never before and disputes over the offside rule are sure to rage in living rooms across New Zealand.

Though the offside rule in soccer is the source of much debate between soccer enthusiasts, it is actually defined by a short set of easily understood conditions. The outline of the offside rule below will make you an expert on the subject.

When is it an Offence?

The first thing you need to know about the offside rule is that it isn’t an offence simply to be in an offside position. For the referee to raise the offside flag a player must be both in  an offside position and involved in active play.

The Definition of an Offside Position

The laws for defining whether or not a player is offside are as follows:

  • A player is offside when he is nearer to the opponent’s goal line than the ball and the second last opponent. Being level with the second last opponent does not constitute being offside, neither does being level with both the last two opponents if they happen to be in line.
    • When judging the condition of being “nearer”, only a player’s head, body and feet are taken into consideration. The position of a player’s arms does not count.
  • A player cannot be offside in his own half of the pitch regardless of where he is positioned in relation to the ball or members of the opposing team.
  • A player is not considered to be offside, regardless of his relative position, if he receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick.

Active Play

For the purposes of an offside infringement, a player in an offside position must be involved in active play. An offside player can be involved in active play in three ways:

  • By interfering with play.
  • By interfering with an opponent.
  • By gaining advantage by being in an offside position.

The International Football Association Board defines the three situations as:

Interfering with play – “playing or touching the ball when it has been passed or touched by a team mate”.

Interfering with an opponent – “preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements” or “by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent”.

Gaining an advantage – “playing a ball that rebounds off a post or the crossbar after having been in an offside position” or “playing a ball that rebounds off an opponent after having been in an offside position”.

Armchair Expert

By taking the time to familiarise yourself with the conditions outlined above and by applying them to real-game situations, you’ll become an armchair expert on the soccer offside rule in no time.

Fifa.com provides a great video demonstration of how the offside rule is applied here.

How to Understand the Offside Rule in Soccer, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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