By: Bob Sumpter, NISOA, Florida
There are two offside-related tactics used by teams that affect the way the Referee Team using the Diagonal System of Control needs to handle offside events in a game.
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.
REFEREE TEAM IMPLCATIONS.
When an offside trap tactic is expected to be used in a game, the Referee Team must adapt their Diagonal 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 be used, to brief the Assistant Referees thoroughly in the pre-game Referee Team Briefing, and to adjust the depth and direction of the Referee diagonal used to move up and down field while keeping in frequent eye-contact with the Assistant Referees.
When the Diagonal 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 indication to the Referee, fall primarily on the Assistant Referee concerned. During a game where these team tactics are being used, both Assistant Referees will be challenged to cover the tactic correctly. The Referee should get into the habit of glancing quickly to the Assistant Referee each and every time the ball is played forward in an attack or counter-attack. By relying on a quick response and signal from the Assistant Referee, the Referee will more likely make the needed calls on offside.
During any game where one or both teams use the offside trap tactic, the Referee should be extremely alert to the possibility of an infringement any time a ball is passes forward by an attacking side. To better control this possibility, the Referee should get into the habit of glancing quickly to the Assistant Referee each and every time the ball is played forward in an attack or counter-attack. By relying on a quick response and signal; from the Assistant Referee, the Referee will more likely make the needed calls on offside.
One other concern of the Referee is whether or not unfamiliar Assistant Referees can be relied on to correctly recognize and indicate for an offside when the offside trap tactic is used in a game. (This concern, of course, would only apply if your game assignment involves unfamiliar Assistants. During normal season assignments you will probably be familiar with the capabilities of your colleagues who are assigned as Assistant Referees).
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.
ASSISTANT REFEREE IMPLICATIONS
Consider that the Diagonal System of Control emphasizes the duty of the Assistant Referee to keep up with the “second-to-last defenders” or the attacking lead forward(s) (as appropriate), and by doing so, to provide good coverage for every offside possibility.
When it is known, or can be anticipated, that a team can be expected to use an offside trap, the lead Assistant Referee who covers an attack must at all times stay up with either the forward line of attackers, or stay up with the “second to last” line of defenders. In many cases this will require extra physical effort to keep moving abreast of the line, making sure you have either line covered accurately. Covering more ground and constantly moving back and forth with the players requires a commitment to physical fitness and to constantly press the ability to move in longer runs than if teams did not use the tactic.
The main implication for the trail Assistant Referee is correct positioning and recovery during any counter-attack. Here, the play changes direction suddenly, and the trail Assistant Referee needs to make sure to recover a position abreast of the attacking and second to last defending players.
In most games, the trail Assistant Referee will come up behind play at the other end of the field as far as, or past (as necessary), the half way line and into the other half of the field in support of the other two Referees. However, in a game where the Referee Team expects one or both teams to use the offside trap, a major concern is for the trail Assistant Referee to be able to transit quickly from that position to that of a lead Assistant Referee going in the opposite direction.
The physical fitness demand 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 trail Assistant Referee should adjust his/her position during play at the other end of the field to make sure that he/she is prepared for a quick counter-attack and able to get quickly enough into a lead Assistant Referee position so that good coverage of a possible offside is maintained. So, instead of routinely coming up to the half way line, or further, in support of play at the other end, 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 need to stay back to adequately handle a quick counter attack.
This important factor needs to be discussed and understood clearly during the pre-game Referee Team briefing. Obviously each member of the Referee Team needs to know his/her own physical capabilities and limitations and adjust mechanics accordingly.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PREGAME REFEREE TEAM BRIEFING
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 to be prepared to adjust their Diagonal System of Control mechanics as needed to correctly cover and judge the “offside trap” tactics by teams.
In the Diagonal System of Control mechanics, the Assistant 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.
In the Diagonal System of Control mechanics Referee 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.