A theme at many training and development seminars has been ‘what does the game expect?’. Empathy with the games stakeholders will help officials deliver football matches within the framework of the Law, always mindful of what is a sensible footballing outcome. An outcome that people can understand and accept.

In the Liverpool v Tottenham match we saw what happens when the Laws of the Game do not align to what the game expects. Indeed, the outcome of that decision caused differences of opinion amongst the referee community. When this happens it is vital to ask why?

In recent weeks we have seen two almost identical situations with opposite outcomes.

Liverpool v Tottenham – considerations.

  • The deliberate playing action of the Liverpool defender Lovren was the reason given that the Tottenham attacker Kane was onside.
  • Did the location of Kane, impact upon Lovren.
  • There was also some discussion about what we mean by deliberate playing the ball.
  • The conclusion was that in Law, Kane is onside, and play could continue.

RB Leipzig v Napoli – considerations.

Last Thursday during a Europa League last 32 match between RB Leipzig and Napoli with the score delicately poised an almost identical situation occurred.

  • In this situation the attacker is further from the defender and there is a clear playing action. Almost identical to the Lovren and Kane situation.
  • The English officials on the night penalised the attacking team for an offside offence.
  • The Napoli attacker accepted the offside decision (stakeholder)

The Liverpool v Tottenham situation will have been discussed by the stakeholders in the English game. The footage will have been analysed by the officials at the fortnightly referee training camp. It is also highly likely that both FIFA and UEFA will have considered the reaction to the decision. There may even have been a directive at the recent UEFA camp in Malta to flag offside in this type of situation. UEFA like to keep things simple.

If there has been a shift to giving this type of scenario as offside, then perhaps game empathy has been applied. For two highly experienced refereeing teams from the same Country to come to different outcomes on an identical situation suggests that either game empathy has been applied or one of the decisions is simply incorrect. You are the Ref believes it is the former and continue to stand by our decision that both are offside offences.

Who knows we may even see a tweak to Law 11….


  1. This is something I said back when the Liverpool v Tottenham incident happened. We are going to see more incidents like the Lovren Kane one, and it’s not going to sit well if they are not given offside. The fact that we see an example of one that has been given (by English officials no less!) with no fuss at all shows the total lack of clarity on this rule. For me, literally everyone was clear on the fact that these types of incidents were offside until Dermot Gallagher and PGMOL decided they had to defend the officials at all costs in the aftermath of that Liverpool Spurs game.

    I really hope to see a rule tweak to make it clear that these types of incidents are offside but I just get the feeling that we’re all going to be left hanging on this one.

  2. I think both are offside and you should not let this two pass as (The diffinder try to play the ball ) because it’s clear that he couldn’t play the ball that’s why the ball went to the offside player , I suggest that to be more easer and clear for everyone if the defender try to play the ball with his head then it’s play on because he choice to jump and play the ball but if the he try to play the ball with his feet and he didn’t play it correct like what lovern did them it should be offside

  3. Respect the opinion of Jake Collins very highly, very good AR. But I do believe Anthony Taylor and his crew got it wrong where John Moss and his got it right. There are instances where we have to ask what the game expects but I don’t think offside is one of those. The offside law is pretty clear if you understand it properly. If people think that the law is wrong in its current form and it should be changed then you have to petition IFAB to change it. In the meantime we have to apply the laws as they are, not as we wish them to be!


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