Do arms count as offside?

Disclaimer: some of the links on this page are affiliate links. We will make a small commission on purchases made through them at no cost to you.

With the introduction of VAR, football viewers get a closer look than ever at offside calls made by officials. Sometimes these calls are incredibly close and it appears that a players arm is making him offside.

So, do arms count as offside? No, the arms of both attacking and defending players (including goalkeepers) are not considered when determining if a player is offside.

In the rest of this article we’ll take a look at what the official rules state, what exacly counts as the arm in football and why it sometimes appears a players arm is taken into account.

What does the official rule state?

The official rule states:

  • The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered.—offside

So it’s clear that the arms don’t count, but it still leaves an important question…

Where does the arm end?

In the new handball rule introduced in 2020, the boundary between the arm and shoulder is the bottom of the armpit.

Whilst there is no mention of the boundary specifically when it comes to offsides (it simply says hands and arms are not considered), I assume they are using the same boundary. It certainly seems that’s the boundary they use when drawing the lines for VAR also.

As far as I can tell, before this new rule, there wasn’t a clear boundary. It simply stated that the shoulder didn’t count as handball but below the shoulder did.

Why does it sometimes appear that a players arm is counted in an offside decision?

It sometimes appears that a player is onside other than their arm, but the VAR decision is that they are offside. Usually this is due to the camera angles and extremely close calls.

Check out the video below.

At first glance it seems like Firmino is just onside with only his arm being in front of Mings’ knee. However, the lines drawn by VAR show he is just offside.

I think there are a few things that make it appear that Firmino is onside. The slight camera angle, Mings being infront of Firmino and the fact that Mings’ knee is lower to the ground than Firmino’s shoulder.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Comment