Soccer’s offside rule explained


Soccer’s offside rule explained

A rule that is almost intuitive to lifelong fans, but for a lot of non-football fans on r/sports it can be difficult to understand. Countless times there'll be a gif of a goal on here and about 50 comments saying 'OMG is that offsides???'. Hopefully I can help them out with this little guide.

Firstly, offside is singular. Saying 'offsides' is wrong.

How is the rule defined?

The Football Association gives the definition of law 11 of the game, more commonly known as the offside rule. They define the offside rule here as:


A player is in an offside position if:

  • Any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and

  • Any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.


In case this doesn't make sense here is a shitty MS paint image showing a scenario. In this image I have put a yellow line to represent the imaginary offside line, as you can see the offside line runs parallel to the goal line and passes through the closest part of the second to last opponent to the goal. An attacker is offside if they have any part of their head, torso, legs, or feet (but not arms and hands) past the offside line. As you can see in the picture above, blue number 9 is offside while blue number 7 is kept onside because the red number 4 is standing closer to the goal than number 7.

When is it enforced?

The rule is enforced when the ball is played from one player to a team mate. The receiver of the pass must not be in an offside position at the instant that the ball is played. This means that while you must be in an onside position when the ball is passed, you can receive the ball in an offside position (ie. you have run past the second to last defender while the ball is travelling to you). If an offside attacker interferes with play without touching the ball (Attempts to play the ball or blocks defenders for example) this is also an offside offence.

The linesman/ assistant referee has a flag which they can raise when a player has committed an offside offence among other offences. The flag does not stop play as the referee has to acknowledge the flag and blow their whistle to stop play. The player who committed the offence does not get a punishment of any kind and the defending team gets an indirect free kick (A goal cannot be scored from an indirect free kick without another player touching the ball).


  • You cannot be offside in your own half (the offside line defaults to the halfway line if the second to last opponent is in the attacking half).

  • You cannot be offside directly from corners, throw-ins, or goal kicks.

  • If the ball is closer to the goal line than the second to last defender, the ball becomes the reference point for the offside line.

  • If a defending player leaves the field of play without the referee's permission, they are considered to be on the goal line until the ball is cleared out of the defending team's half or play is stopped.

  • If an offside player receives a the ball from a deflection off a defending player or a save from a goalkeeper this is an offside offence. However if the ball is deliberately played by a defending player and is intercepted by an offside player, this is not an offside offence.

Submitted November 22, 2017 at 01:33PM by GRI23

Soccer’s offside rule explained * r/sports

A rule that is almost intuitive to lifelong fans, but for a lot of non-football fans on r/sports it can be difficult to understand. Countless…

Written by ddn1515

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