Ask an editor: The offside rule explained

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Find out how the offside rule works if the goalkeeper is stranded up the pitch in Goal.com's - Ask an editor feature.

I have a question about the offside rule. If in any instance, the keeper is not the last man, i.e. keeper runs forward and has at least one defender behind him, how do offsides work then? A player from the opposite team who is behind the keeper and ahead of the last man of his opposition, is he offside? Thanks.
Izzy, Australia



Izzy,

Good question. We don't see the goalkeeper rush out ahead of his defenders much, so this one doesn't come into play that often. 

FIFA laws are pretty straight-forward on the issue, however. Here's what the official rulebook says: 

“A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.” 

There is no distinguishing between goalkeeper and defender there. Generally, when we relay the rule to others, we take it for granted that the net-minder will be one of the two opposition players between an attacker and the goal, so we only mention the other defender. 

So, if the goalkeeper is caught up the pitch, any attacker needs to make sure he's level with the second-to-last defender when the ball leaves the foot of his teammate. (Assuming of course that he's ahead of the ball. If he's behind the ball, it's fair.) 

Another interesting note about the offside rule is that you cannot be offside in your own half. I remember, years ago, back when he was still good, Michael Owen making a break from inside his own half. The opposition backline had pushed up into Liverpool's half, so when the ball was released, Owen  was in behind all of them. However, he had bent his run to stay in Liverpool's half and latched onto the long ball clear on goal. (No body could catch him back then. How times have changed.) 

Unfortunately, the referee and assistant mangled that call, whistling the play back for an incorrect offside decision. 

 

Do you have a question about the beautiful game that has been bugging you? Unclear on one of the fuzzy and remote bylaws of the sport? Leave a comment below to ask it. The Goal.com editors will select one and answer it in the next edition of Ask an editor. 

 

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