Law 11 – A “Wait and See” Approach

So, this happened in a high level competition match in Spain, about three levels below La Liga:

35 yd to the goal, one player is slightly offside. He’s sent a long ball from the left wing, he runs towards the ball, he shows clear signs to play the ball, and I raise the flag for offside. All of a sudden he fools us all, lets the ball through between his legs, an onside teammate takes it, runs towards the goal, and scores the equaliser.

In a later clarification, the referee above noted that no defenders were within 5 yards of the attacker.

Under the old guidelines of Law 11 (pre-2016), this action was correct – flag the player as offside – Gorgeous and Stuff.

Under the new guidelines from USSF, IFAB, and FIFA, this is incorrect. Referees are to take a “wait and see” approach:

  • If there is obviously no other teammate of the offside-positioned player running up for the ball, then go ahead and flag as offside.
  • However, if there is one, do not flag and WAIT AND SEE what develops.

We have to remember that a player in the offside position that does NOT touch the ball and does NOT interfere with the opponent’s ability to play the ball – in this case, dummying the ball with no opponents within 5 yards as stated earlier – has not committed an offside offense.

The idea that “he made himself part of the play,” or “he intended to deceive the opponent” is NOT, repeat NOT, correct understanding of Law 11. Deception is not a requirement for consideration of Law 11 – Law 11 does not say “deceiving an opponent”, only “interfering with an opponent”.

Being part of the play is ONLY a requirement if the attacker has interfered with the defender’s ability to play the ball – ie. shielding, impeding, obstructing goalkeeper line of sight, or challenging the defender for the ball (other offenses that fall into Law 12 are to be penalized that way).

Remember also that “gaining an advantage” (as some have quoted as their reasoning for offside) is ONLY in the context of a deflection or rebound from a deliberate save – this particular point is spelled out in the Practical Guidelines for Referees.

The changes are nuanced, so we must be more consistent with the approach. It will take time to replace old habits with the new.

A Pretty Good DIY Referee Comm System

I’ve been reffing soccer for several years now, both indoor and outdoor, and I have the privilege of enjoying what I do. Yes, there are quite a few uneducated parents out there. Yes, there are quite a few similar coaches out there too. They don’t deter me from getting out on the field and refereeing – at the end of the day, it’s about the kids, not about the W’s.

One of the perks I’ve come up with is a DIY referee communications system. Fancy-shmancy ones can cost anywhere from $700 (for an entry-level 3-user set) to $4500 (for top of the line equipment). I don’t know about you, but I don’t make THAT much reffing – but I wasn’t about to be deterred from figuring out how to put one together for less.

After lots of research, I ended up with this configuration: (costs are as of 9/7/17)

A set of three Motorola Talkabout MH230TPRs, purchased from – $ 89.99
Motorola boom mic headset part number 56320B – $17.30 (x3)
NIVIY Outdoor Sporting Arm Bag Running Trekking Hiking Cycling Mounting Strolling Armband, Black – $5.59 (discontinued)

The Talkabouts are rechargeable and come with a two-seater charging cradle, but you can also charge them via USB – it uses a USB 2.0 Mini-B 5-pin cord. You might still have one laying around your house if you didn’t throw away your old cell phones from 2012 or earlier, but if not, Amazon sells them for just under $5.

The reason I settled on the Talkabouts is because more units can be added to the system – all you have to do is set what channel to listen on. The channels can also be encrypted so if you DON’T know what channel it is (and there are hundreds of combinations), you can’t listen in – not that any parents are out there snooping anyway, but it’s just a nice feature. The range is excellent – it says 2 miles maximum on the box, but a 75 x 105 soccer field isn’t an issue. The very first time I used it, however, we had interference from the metal stands and could not hear AR2 – after some research on the matter, I changed the channel to one higher up in the frequency that allowed for encryption. No issues since.

Talkabouts are also VOX (Voice open channel) or PTT (push-to-talk), depending on the headset used. The default mic that comes with the units is PTT. The 56320B boom mic is VOX if you plug it in and THEN turn on the unit – otherwise it’s default PTT.

The earpiece of the boom mic fits over the ear and sits snugly. We did have to use medical tape to keep the boom itself in place. The mics did account for windy conditions, so we weren’t hearing a ton of wind. Also, with this VOX system, the first sound “activates” the channel, so if you want to be heard, you have to say something first before speaking, like “Dave, Dave, last touched by white.” What the others will hear is “Dave, last touched by white.” This dovetails perfectly with the CR’s whistle, as the whistle doesn’t carry over into the channel – unless it’s a very long one… but then again, each unit has it’s own volume control anyway, so that works out as well.

The armband was specific because the units are thicker than a typical cell phone, which is what the majority of the armbands on the market are designed for. What is needed is an armband that has a pocket for the unit with a velcro flap that will not impact the antenna or the cord. Technically, the armband could have a zipper pouch where the antenna can stick out, but the velcro is much more secure. Amazon sells other ones like it like “Sports Armband By Guardians Double Pockets Outdoor Arm Bag Pouch universal” for $8.99. Only the CR needs the armband anyway – the ARs can have the wire clipped to the back of the collar and the drop down inside the jersey to the unit which can clip to the waistband of the ref shorts behind the back.

I ended up purchasing a fourth unit and rechargeable battery from eBay for $14 (unit) and $3 (battery). I figured if we had an occasion to have a 4th Official, might as well be prepared.

After using these for a while, I wondered if there were better headsets out there and so I went ahead and purchased this:

GoodQbuy® FBI Style Covert Acoustic Tube Headset/Earpiece with VOX-PTT Switch for Motorola Talkabout Radio Walkie Talkie MR350R EM1000 MS350 MT350R TKLR-T3 FV200 SX920R 1-pin – $14.99

This is exactly what it says – a clear FBI-style over-and-in-the-ear earpiece coupled with a collar/lapel microphone. You can set this to VOX or PTT with a switch. I ended up getting two more of these because they worked so well. I did encounter a problem where when all three were in use and all three were in VOX mode, randomly one of the three could not be heard. The solution for this was to set the CR to VOX and the others to PTT. I have yet to determine if this ended up being user error or a glitch with this particular setup. However, when we used the boom mics, there was no issue, so maybe one of the FBI headsets’ switch wasn’t working correctly (or in the wrong position).

Bottom line – total initial cost for the entire system was $147.49 with free two-day shipping because I’m an Amazon Prime member. After all the extras were purchased, I’ve invested a total of about $210 for four units. That’s about $500 less than a THREE unit system!

SO, if you’re budget-conscious but want to have a comm system for your games, this is a viable alternative.

Law 11 – Is it or is it not offside?

So this happened:

And the debate that raged centered in two camps:
1) The goal should be disallowed because the attacker was in an offside position when the ball was originally shot and a deliberate save was made by the defender which pushed the ball into the post.

2) The goal should be allowed because the attacker’s offside position is reset due to the defender’s deliberate play on the ball which pushed the ball into the post.

While there is no debate about the wording of Law 11, the debate really centers around the definition of a save as given by the 2016-17 Laws of the Game (published by the IFAB at

An action by a player to stop the ball when it is going into or very close to the goal
using any part of the body except the hands (unless a goalkeeper within their own
penalty area)

The words “VERY CLOSE” are what are keeping the discussion lively.

Some referees believe that “very close” means balls that are headed toward a position near the goal. Others believe that “very close” means balls that almost enter the goal.

I attempted to find guidelines on the subject from FIFA. What I found first was mentioned in several blogs about “UEFA Guidelines” which state:

Deliberate Save (UEFA Guidelines)

    Deliberate save:

  • made by any player
  • save means "to save a goal from being scored"
  • In cases where the ball was clearly not heading towards the goal, there can be no deliberate save

However, UEFA does not actually place their Guidelines online. I was about ready to give up on the search, and I found this, from Referee Joe McHugh (Ireland, Grade 1 Senior):

“As regards deliberate save the Law is vague on this and we are left to seek interpretation from our associations on this. These interpretations are given to our most senior referees. UEFA has opined that deliberately playing the ball requires a clearly deliberate act of a player making a clear movement towards the ball while the quality of this action is to be ignored by the referee. A deliberate save can be compared to a goalkeeper’s save. It is applicable for every player on the pitch though and means that a potential goal is prevented from being scored by this save.”

Additionally, Referee Richard Dawson (Canada, Class 2) had this to say:

The deliberate save generally involves the keeper but can be attributed to defenders’ goal line clearances that prevent the ball from crossing the goal line under the crossbar and between the posts without the keeper in behind. … [Balls which] DO NOT reset offside must in the opinion of the referee impact the player without his knowledge or at a speed and distance where there is no time or space to react effectively by choice.”

So, did the defender’s actions in the video constitute a deliberate SAVE or a deliberate PLAY? Well, let’s go over the facts as presented in the video:

  1. The original “shot” is from just outside the 18 and about 5 yards wide right of goal. This distance is approximately 18.5 yards from the inside post.
  2. The defender slides and touches the ball at a point a yard outside the 6-yard goal area line and about 4 yards wide right of goal. This distance is just a shade over 8 yards from the inside post.
  3. Another attacker (the one who eventually scores) is directly behind and about 5 yards back from the defender who touches the ball
  4. The GK has moved to take a position on the inside post.
  5. The original trajectory of the ball, had the defender not touched it, would have ended either with the ball wide right of goal by approximately 2.5 yards OR the final attacker receiving it as a pass.

So, does this meet the definition of “very close to the goal” in order for the defender’s touch to be a deliberate SAVE?

Given the information presented, with the guidelines and interpretations above, I’d have to say no, this is a deliberate PLAY. Why?

  1. Distance to goal – The original shot is more than 18 yards out. The defender touches the ball 10 yards later. That is ample distance to choose whether or not to play the ball.
  2. The defender SLIDES to touch the ball – this implies a deliberate action.
  3. The trajectory – can’t be a save if the ball had no chance of entering goal. Wide right is not on target.
  4. The final attacker – the defender’s deliberate action initially prevents the final attacker from receiving the ball directly from the attacker outside the 18.

However, I am simply a grassroots USSF Grade 7 referee. There are many respected refs that have chimed in on the subject of this video from varying parts of the world. Two of the more current authorities on the subject:

Austin Gomez (former USSF National Referee, retired):

In my opinion, this is clearly NOT a ‘Save’ as such —– [due to the Goalkeeper still on/near the Goal line and this Defender NOT even close to the Goal itself, to be considered a ‘SAVE’] —— My belief is that is clearly a ‘DELIBERATE-PLAY’ wherein there was Movement towards the Ball, with Time & Space assisting this Defender! ………. Therefore, (‘Ergo”), this ‘offside-position’ Attacker should NOT be considered as ‘Gaining an Advantage by being in that Position’ (as LAW 11 stipulates)!

Murray Milavsky (current Canadian Soccer Association instructor):

Looks like a deliberate play on the ball by the defender, it’s at least 7 yards from goal where he made a play for it. It wasn’t like he turned around and it hit him. Don’t think you can consider this a save, there was no guarantee that ball was going into the goal.

My State Cup Runneth Over

So last week I was surprised by the note that I was approved to be a referee at the 2015 State Cup, which is the three week tournament of all the best of the best teams in the state. I was given a U17 girls center and a U18 girls AR.

I should have known I was in for a long match when I arrived half an hour before my game only to find that the referee tent was not where it has been for the ENTIRE YEAR. Instead, it was stationed all the way on the southwest side of the fields. By the time I found it, it was about 10 minutes until kickoff. Great.

As my AR’s, I had a grade 7 and a grade 8. Good thing, as I had forgotten one of the key rules for State Cup – once a player has been substituted, then may not return to the game in that half.

Things started off ok, a quick goal by both Red and White teams within the first ten minutes, then it started slowly going downhill. Midway through the first half, I had a caution for Delaying the Restart for a Red girl that took too long with her throw-in. Granted, she did take WAAAY too long – I gave her the usual 6-8 seconds, then told her to hurry it up, then another 5 seconds, then whistled for the caution. After that though, her team’s coach wanted a quicker restart of EVERYTHING White did. That’s when I knew the second half was going to get dicey.

The second half saw six cautions, four of which were to Red, one of those was to the head coach. In order, they were White Unsporting Behavior (#6 late tackle), Red Dissent (#17), Red Dissent (Head Coach), White Unsporting Behavior (#4 late tackle), Red Unsporting Behavior (#21 running through White player from behind), and Red Unsporting Behavior (#3 late tackle). And that last one was more of an “orange” card than a yellow – borderline red, but since the studs of her cleats were down, I chose to go yellow.

The final was 3-3, but after the game I heard parents talk that the White team was eliminated from the tournament due to points. Doesn’t really matter to me, as I have no stake in either team.

The second game had me switch places with the grade 7 ref, and boy that game was physical. And it didn’t help that the ref’s body language really suggested that he didn’t want to be there. He called at least 75% of the fouls against the Red team, but in my opinion, the Black team was the one that should have been called for way more – or at least, more early in the game to set the tone. Instead, it very nearly became a blood bath, with two injuries near the end of the game that could have totally been avoided had the ref maintained control.

The final was 1-1, and Red was lucky to get a tie out of it. As for me, a mental note on what to avoid in a State Cup game in the future.

An Ostrich and a Final

This weekend was the San Tan Ostrich Festival Tournament that is no longer just being held in the East Valley. Originally, this tournament was held in Chandler, then it expanded to Chandler/Gilbert, then Chandler/Gilbert/Mesa. Now it is Chandler/Scottsdale/Phoenix, with the fields at Snedigar Sports Complex, Scottsdale Soccer Complex, and Reach 11.

The tournament organizers did us a favor and placed all the U10 and below at Snedigar, with the U11-U14 at Reach 11 (for the most part), and the U15 and above at SSC (with a few U13’s thrown in there due to lack of field space at Reach 11). I got to watch all three of my son’s games at SSC – unfortunately, they went 0-1-2 (one draw and two losses). In between and after the Saturday games, I refereed 5 games, and then spent all day Sunday at SSC doing another 5 games, click here for more info.

Saturday’s games were pretty benign – I had one issue where a player decided to send an elbow into the gut of another player and when I got the center ref’s attention, I was chastised for wasting time with non-important issues. Really? Elbowing players is not important?

Sunday, I finally got to ref two U19 games. One was a consolation, the other was a final. THAT was fun, even if the consolation was at 1pm and hot as blazes.

Monday was my last day refereeing at the Barney Indoor Sports Complex. It’s been four years, it was time. Naturally, it was the final week of playoffs, and the championship game once again pitted Bulwark against Real Madrid. RM had Bulwark by the throat for a bit, even being up 2 goals at one point. But one thing I’ve learned after watching this team win again and again and again is you don’t piss them off, and that’s what happened. Somewhere, somebody said something and the next thing I hear after another RM goal was scored was a Bulwark player saying, “They want to play that way? That’s just gonna piss us off”, and then they went and dominated the remainder of the game. Final was 9-6.

There was a “foul” in the first half that I didn’t see because I was screened (hence the quotes), and I’m sure if I saw it, I would have called it. But since I can’t call what I can’t see, c’est la vie. There was a boarding call in the last minute of the game after it was out of hand. There was a DOGSO-F, but indoor rules state that requires just a Blue card and a PK, instead of a red. There were three other PK’s, there was physicality, there was trash talking, it was a glorious game.

The second best game, however, was the game right before, with ENFC (which stands for Extremely Nutmegged Football Club) against Chelsea. With 3:45 left in the game, Chelsea is up 3-0, and they fatally decide to take their foot off the gas. ENFC scores four times in a span of two and a half minutes and wins 4-3. Chelsea did have a last gasp – with 10 seconds remaining, ENFC fouls a Chelsea player, I hurry up and get the ball in place, one pass, one touch and a shot into the bottom left corner, only to have the keeper save it right as time expired. It would have counted had it gone in.

And finally, I got to play in the final game of the night – Past R Prime vs. The Barn team. PRP was short a player, so I got to jump onto the field and play. It was fun to be out there as a player instead of a ref, and I got a good workout for it – made no mistakes as a defenseman, stepped up and took away balls that the other team was not expecting me to do so, and in the second half, played as GK – the ref gave the other team a goal that I saved on the line because he knew it was my last day and was trying to needle me a bit. (He also gave me a red card after the game was over for failing to leave in a timely manner.

I was sad to go, but also knew that I had put in a lot of work and set a standard for years to come for that league, and for that I am happy.