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EducationPlay of the Week

Play of the Week 29: Offside – Interfering with an Opponent

Play of the Week 29 returns to looking at Offside – Interfering with an Opponent, which was also covered in edition 10.

PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer focuses on a play from Seattle Sounders versus Chivas USA.

Rejer said: “We are returning to Offside – Interfering with an Opponent, as there appears to be confusion regarding law interpretation. I would like to clarify PRO’s guidelines by using the current FIFA Laws of the Game and explain why there is confusion.

“In the Seattle Sounders versus Chivas USA game, Obafemi Martins scored a goal with Lamar Neagle in an offside position. Neagle made a gesture towards the ball and this action probably distracted Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy. So again, let’s examine the law considerations for this particular play.

– Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate

– Interfering with an opponent means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of  vision or challenging an opponent for the ball.

“The match officials therefore have three considerations in this play;

1. Has Lamar Neagle played the ball? Answer: No
2. Is he clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision? Answer: No
3. Has he challenged an opponent for the ball? Answer: No

“Therefore it is simple; this is not offside, just as Mike Magee was not offside in a similar play in the Play of the Week 10 in the New York Red Bulls versus Chicago Fire game.

“In the previous Laws of the Game, up to and including 2012/13, the law stated that if the offside player made a gesture or movement that deceived or distracted an opponent then he should be declared offside.

“Using this criteria, Neagle and Magee would be deemed offside as they distracted an opponent, namely the keeper.

“However, the IFAB (International Football Association Board) removed the words ‘distract’ and ‘deceive’ from the laws as they felt it involved match officials reading players’ minds. They inserted ‘challenging an opponent for the ball’, which is tangible and easier for referees and ARs to interpret. This is further clear evidence that Neagle and Magee are onside given the current law book criteria.

“The reason there is some confusion is that a document has been produced by FIFA Instructors that reads:

Additional interpretation of ‘challenging an opponent for the ball’

A player in an offside position is deemed to be ‘challenging an opponent for the ball’ if he makes a clear action within playing distance which impacts the ability of the opponent to play the ball.

“’Challenging an opponent for the ball’ has no specific distance. Therefore, the referee must interpret the playing distance and its impact correctly.

“There lies the confusion as this is without question an interpretation that would have a dramatic impact on the criteria of ‘Interfering with an opponent’ and would possibly make Neagle and Magee offside. I have a number of issues with this:

1. The IFAB removed ‘distract’ and ‘deceive’ from the law as it involved reading players’ minds.  This ‘additional interpretation’ involves reading players’ minds as they have stated that challenging an opponent has no specific distance and ‘impacting the ability of the opponent to play the ball’ is not specific or tangible.

2. Who is in possession of this ‘additional interpretation’? The very fact that this document has only been sent to selected officials and not every official is causing confusion and inconsistency.

3. FIFA or FIFA Instructors do not have the authority to modify law and, make no mistake, this is a modification to the written law. Only the IFAB have this authority and until the IFAB have given their consent by publishing this interpretation/modification in the FIFA Laws of the Game, which FIFA publish on behalf of the IFAB, then we must interpret offside as it is published in the written law.

And that is exactly what PRO officials will do.

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