The Traps of Offside and the Double Dual System of Control

By: Bob Sumpter, NISOA, Florida


There are two offside-related tactics used by teams that affect the performance of a Referee Team using the Double Dual System of Control.

The first tactic is by the defending team who uses the “offside trap” to create offside offenses for the opposition when the opponents pass the ball on attack. The defending team does so by pulling up its “second to last” defending player(s) just before the moment the ball is played by the opposing attacking team, in order to place the opposing attacking forward(s) offside at the play of the ball. Many teams use this tactic regularly to defeat attacks against their goal. The tactic is allowed but requires close attention by the Referee Team to make sure the decisions made are fair accurate.

The second tactic is when the attacking team has their attacking players (i.e., forwards) move up as close to level as possible (while staying onside) with the defending team’s “second to last” defenders. So, when an attacking teammate passes the ball forward, the lead attacking players try to time and make a break forward so that, at the moment the ball is passed by a teammate of the attackers, the lead attacker(s) are either level and onside with the “second to last defenders”, or slightly back and onside. Again, this tactic is legitimate and is often successfully used by attacking teams.

Making a correct decision when either tactic is used is a challenge for the Referee Team.


When an offside trap tactic is expected to be used in a game, the Referee Team must adapt their Double Dual System of Control mechanics as needed to pay close attention to both attack and counter-attack play by the teams.

The Referee responsibilities as they relate to the offside trap are:  to anticipate that these tactics will likely be used by one or both teams, and to brief the Assistant Referees thoroughly in the pre-game Referee Team Briefing. Since all three Referees equally share in control, a decision by any one of the three is valid.

When the Double Dual System of Control is being used by the Referee Team, the responsibilities of anticipating the move, and of being in the best possible position to make a correct call, fall primarily on the Side Referee concerned. During a game where these team tactics are being used, both Side Referees will be challenged to cover the tactic correctly.  Once alerted about the possibility of the offside trap being used by either or both teams, each side Referee should stay constantly watchful and remain in the best position to make a call should it be needed.  In practical terms, the trailing Side Referee is more likely to need to be guarded about fast counterattacks and being in position to make a needed call. Of course, the lead Side Referee should always be up with the play to make accurate calls on attacking play.

In order to determine that, the Referee should be prepared, in any game where unfamiliar Assistants are involved, to make an extra-long run or two on the diagonal at each end of the field in order to view an Assistant’s reaction to a possible offside. To do this, the Referee should run far enough up during an attack to be approximately opposite the Assistant on a possible offside situation. This way, if a mechanics or positioning adjustment is necessary during play, one can be made.

The physical fitness demand on the Side Referees is obvious. Distance needs to be covered as rapidly as possible, and the job can only be done by a fit Referee.

This suggests that in a game where the offside trap tactic is expected to be used the Side Referees should adjust their positions during play to be prepared for a quick attacks and counterattacks. Constantly consider how fast the players at your end are able to move (based on how you observed their movement in the game so far), and how much distance you may need to “steal” in order to adequately properly handle attacks and counterattacks.


Regardless of the system of mechanics used, every game should be well-thought-out and discussed by the Referee Team before the game begins. One idea most Referees emphasize today is to “do your homework” before arriving at the game site.  That means getting information about the team tactics usually used by the two teams involved in the assigned game. In most regular-season games you are familiar with the teams involved, mostly because you have refereed them in other games either during that season or in seasons past.

When you receive a game assignment, review what you know about the teams involved, particularly their usual game tactics.  Teams who use the offside trap often do so regularly in their games. Knowing this can be to your advantage in managing a game. Of course, if you are not familiar with the teams involved, one way to find out about their usual team tactics is to ask around among your Referee colleagues about the tactics to be expected. Then use this information during the pre-game Referee Team Briefing.


The Referee Team needs top be prepared to adjust their Double Dual System of Control mechanics as needed to correctly cover and judge the “offside trap” tactics by teams.

In the Double Dual System of Control mechanics, the Side Referees have prime responsibility to anticipate the move, and to be in the best position to observe, decide, and indicate an offside offense to the Referee.

When the Referee Team will be using the Double Dual System of Control mechanics, the Center Referee should accept the prime responsibility is to “do your homework!” in preparation for the game. That includes to determine if either or both teams are known to use the “offside trap” and if so, to include a discussion of implications in the pre-game Referee Team Briefing.

The Side Referees should accept the fact that their fitness level will be a key to maintaining he best positions to accurately judge both attacks and counterattacks. Both should be prepared to make whatever movement and positioning adjustments to get the job done.