Can you be offside if the ball comes off a defender?

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One of the many intricacies of the offside rule attempts to clarify what happens when a ball comes off a defender and finds it’s way to a player that was in an offside position.

So, can you be offside if the ball comes off a defender? Yes. If the ball is deflected off a defender or the defender makes a deliberate save, it’s offside. Only when a defender deliberately plays the ball is it not considered offside.

In the rest of this article, we’ll take a look at what the official rules state, and I’ve found a couple of examples which should help to put it into context.

A player IS offside if the ball is deflected or deliberately saved

The official rules state that a player is offside if they “gain an advantage by being in that position”.

So, what exactly does “gaining an advantage” entail?

Well, the rules state a player is gaining an advantage if a ball is played:

i. that rebounds or is deflected to him off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent having been in an offside position

ii. that rebounds, is deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save by an opponent having been in an offside position—offside

The deflection part of this rule is fairly straight forward, but what counts as a deliberate save needs a little more clarification.

Again, let’s refer to the official rules:

A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area)

So if a defender slides to clear a ball which is precauriously close to the goal, then a player who was in an offside position scores a goal from this attempted clearance, it would be ruled as offside.

This also means that you can be offside from a goalkeepers save.

A player IS NOT offside if the defender deliberetely plays the ball

An exception to the rule is if the defender makes a deliberate play on the ball, other than a save.

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.

So if a defender plays a poor pass, and that pass is intercepted by an opposition player who was in an offside position, it would not be offside.

Controversial decisions

Of course, like any rule in football, there are always going to be controversial decisions involving offsides and defender deflections.

Check out the video below.

A player attempts a pass to an onside team-mate, a defender attempts to intercept, but in turn gives the ball to a player who was in an offside position when the initial pass was made.

Was it a deflection or deliberate play on the ball?

In my opinion it was a deliberate play on the ball and should not have been called offside. The defender doesn’t have the ball under control, but it’s more than just a deflection. And all the rule states is that the player must “deliberately play the ball”.

There is a similar scenario in this next video.

However, in this case, it appears that it is a deflection and not a deliberate play on the ball. The ball deflects off the defender’s head and I can’t see any way he could have avoided that from such a close range kick.

Hopefully this clears things up a bit and helps you to understand the offside rule a little better. And a couple of examples always helps to wrap your head around it. Or maybe it just gives you something else to argue about!

Thanks for reading!

10 thoughts on “Can you be offside if the ball comes off a defender?”

  1. Player 1 is in offside position. Player 1’s teammate passes him the ball which is deliberately handled by the defender and ends up in Player 1’s feet. What is the call?

  2. You’re wrong on the Atlanta video, did you not even read what you posted about it being offside if it comes from a deliberate “save”? He blocked the ball from going “close to the goal” with an interception, which ended up to the offside player. So it’s offside.

    • I guess it depends on what you consider “very close to the goal”. He was playing a pass rather than taking a shot and I wouldn’t consider it going very close to the goal. I do see where you’re coming from though and I’m not sure there is a correct answer when the rules are quite vague.

  3. ‘The ball deflects off the defender’s head and I can’t see any way he could have avoided that from such a close range kick’

    So in the first video, the defender shouldn’t have done her job and just avoided making the interception?

    • I’m not sure I understand. After the first defender clears the ball it falls to the numer 11 who then kicks it at close range to another defenders head (quite hard to see on a small screen). Since this was a deflection rather than a deliberate play on the ball, and the ball falls to a player in an offside postion, it’s offside.

  4. What if the defender clears the ball intentionally and it deflects off an attacker and the deflected ball finds its way to a different attacker who was offside when the defender originally cleared the ball?

    • Great question! The rules use the terms passed or touched. e.g. “interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate”. So as long as the ball touches the first attacker I think it would be offside.

  5. For the offside controversy in Atlanta, it is a definite offside. It is a deliberate save on the ball by intercepting the ball, it is not a deliberate play. A deliberate play is like passing the ball under control. From the replay, it does not seem like he is trying to pass to any of his teammates, so is a definite offside.

  6. A defender chests the ball back towards goal the goalkeeper saves an attacker in apparent
    offside position puts the ball in net is this a goal


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