What Does Offside Mean In Football?

Football is one of the sports that people across the globe love. For many, football is more than just a sport; it is a religion that brings together people. While the game is meant to be a source of entertainment for the viewers, many viewers are highly into the rules and regulations of this game and follow every move with utmost dedication. One of the rules of this game that has been under regular controversy is the offside rule. There are also many misconceptions about this rule and what exactly the rule is about. In this article, we will explain the offside rule in football in detail for you to know more about the game and this rule. 

How To Define Offside In Football?

In football, offside is defined as when an attacking player is closer to the goal line than the ball or the last two players of the defending team. There are certain exceptions to this rule and some elements that will help you understand the same. To define offside in football, you need to know the offside position and offside offence, which we will compare for you in the next section. 

Offside Position Vs Offside Infringement

What is the offside position, and what is the offside infringement? Let us look at both these terms in the game to define the offside rule. A player is an offside in the football game if any part of his head, body, or feet is closer to the opponent's goal line than the ball or the second-to-last opponent. The player is not offside if he is level with the last two or the second-to-last opponent. There is no offside offence if a player is only present in the offside position. 

For the offside rule to be applied, the player in the offside position must be involved in active play or gain an advantage out of being in the offside position. This consists of playing or touching a ball passed or handled by another teammate, preventing an opponent from playing or challenging an opponent for the ball. 

Key Elements Of Offside

Let us discuss the key elements of the offside rule to understand it in more detail.

The Offender

The player in the offside position who is actively involved in the play by playing or touching the ball or interrupting the play by preventing an opponent from playing the ball is the offender in the offside rule. 

The Ball

The ball being played should be touched by the offender in the offside position. Another teammate must pass or handle the ball to apply this rule. 

The Second-To-Last Defender

The second-to-last defender is one of the opponent's players or the defending team with whom the offender should be in line to prevent an offside. The last two members can include the goalkeeper. 

Offside Rule Exceptions

The following are the exceptions to the offside rule:

  • There is no offside infringement if the player is in his half in the offside position. 
  • The offside rule does not apply in the case of a throw-in, corner kick, or goal kick. 

Offside Offense And Punishment

If an offside offence has occurred, the referee has to award an indirect free-kick where the offence has happened to the opponent team.  

The Role Of The Assistant Referee (Linesman)

In football, the assistant referee, the linesman, signs offsides. There are two assistant referees, one on each half of the pitch. The linesmen hold a flag over or before them to signal an offside offence. 

Offside Trap Strategy

The offside trap is an integral part of the defensive strategy. It is a defensive manoeuvre where all the defence players back up right before the attacking player passes the ball to the leading striker. This puts the attacker in the offside position.  

Common Misconceptions About Offside

Despite the clearly stated offside rule, certain misconceptions about this game are shared among the players and the fans. Let us take you through some of these misconceptions and debunk them.


  • The offside rule means being in the offside position. No, the offside rule is not about just being in the offside position. You can be in the offside position, and still, the rule would not apply if you are not directly involved in active play or gaining an advantage from that position. 
  • The ball must be played forward for it to be an offside offence. Regardless of the direction in which the ball is played, the offside rule can be applied. 
  • The last defender in the game can be anywhere on the field. The player closest to their goal line is the last defender. This can also be the goalkeeper. 
  • The offside rule is not clearly defined and is subjective. This misconception comes from the regular controversy around this rule and the difficulty of deciding the game, but it is invalid. The rule is clearly stated and has well-defined instructions for the same. 

Historical Evolution Of The Offside Rule

The offside rule in football originated in 1863, and ever since then, it has been embodied in the standard rules of football, formulated at the Freemasons Tavern. The original offside rule stated that a player would be considered offside unless there were three players of the opposing team (including the goalkeeper) in front of him. The rule has undergone various changes to ensure that football is not dull for those playing and watching. The first change in this rule came about in 1925 when the rule reduced the number of players from the opposite team from three to two, including the goalkeeper. In 1990, the rule changed again, and a player was not considered offside if he was level with the second-to-last player of the opposite team. 

Significance Of Understanding Offside

The offside rule is one of the most significant rules in football. It is important to understand offside so that you are well-informed while playing or watching a game and have your basics in place. The offside rule was created to ensure the game was fair throughout and to maintain the game's balance. This rule prevents any attacking player from constantly camping in front of the opponent's goal. 

Football New Offside Rule

Following the various controversies and misconceptions about the offside rule in football, a change was suggested in the offside rule, which was in line for testing. The change was proposed by Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager and now Chief of International Football Development, FIFA. According to this new football offside rule, "a player would be offside only when their entire body is ahead of the last defender's line." This change is sure to give an advantage to the attacking team in the game. 


Football is gaining much popularity among Indians, and it is now the second most-watched sport in the country. This sport has many different rules, and even for the top players, it is sometimes not so easy to know all the rules right. Knowing these rules and laws is better to avoid significant offences and fouls. In this article, we have shared the details of the Offside rule in football, which is not just one of the oldest rules in this game but also a highly controversial one. We hope this guide has been beneficial for you in understanding this rule and will help you avoid any significant offences in the next game that you play. 


Can you be offside from a backwards pass?

No, in the case of a backward pass, there is no offside offence. 

Can you be offside from a corner?

No, there is no offside offence in the case of a corner kick. 

Can you be offside from a throw-in?

No, there is no offside offence from a throw-in.

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