Explaining the Offside Law: Law 11

Part of the Football For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

The offside law (Law 11) is the most argued-over law wherever in the world the game of football is played, even though it’s pretty simple. Here’s how it works.

A player is caught offside if he’s nearer to the opponents’ goal than both the ball and the second-last opponent when his team-mate plays the ball. In other words, a player can’t receive the ball from a team-mate unless there are at least two players either level with him or between him and the goal.

It is not an offence in itself to be offside. A player is only penalised for being offside if he is deemed to be involved in active play. So a player can only be called offside if he is:

  • In the opposition’s half.

  • Interfering with play (that is, he’s part of the attacking move).

  • Interfering with an opponent (that is, he’s preventing the opponent from defending against the attacking move).

  • Gaining any advantage by being in that position.

A player cannot be offside from a goal kick, throw in or corner.

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