Offside is one of the laws in association football, codified in Law 11 of the Laws of the Game. The law states that a player is in an offside position if any of their body parts, except the hands and arms, are in the opponents' half of the pitch, and closer to the opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent (the last opponent is usually, but not necessarily, the goalkeeper).
Being in an offside position is not an offence in itself, but a player so positioned when the ball is played by a teammate can be judged guilty of an offside offence if they receive the ball or will otherwise become "involved in active play", will "interfere with an opponent", or will "gain an advantage" by being in that position. Offside is often considered one of the most difficult to understand aspects of the sport.
Offside is judged at the moment the ball is last touched by the most recent teammate to touch the ball. Being in an offside position is not an offence in itself. A player who was in an offside position at the moment the ball was last touched or played by a teammate must then become involved in active play, in the opinion of the referee, in order for an offence to occur. When the offside offence occurs, the referee stops play, and awards an indirect free kick to the defending team from the place where the offending player became involved in active play.
The offside offence is neither a foul nor misconduct as it does not belong to Law 12. Like fouls, however, any play (such as the scoring of a goal) that occurs after an offence has taken place, but before the referee is able to stop the play, is nullified. The only time an offence related to offside is cautionable is if a defender deliberately leaves the field in order to deceive their opponents regarding a player's offside position, or if a forward, having left the field, returns and gains an advantage. In neither of these cases is the player penalised for being offside; instead they are cautioned for acts of unsporting behaviour.
An attacker who is able to receive the ball behind the opposition defenders is often in a good position to score. The offside rule limits attackers' ability to do this, requiring that they be onside when the ball is played forward. Though restricted, well-timed passes and fast running allow an attacker to move into such a situation after the ball is kicked forward without committing the offence. Officiating decisions regarding offside, which can often be a matter of only centimetres or inches, can be critical in games, as they may determine whether a promising attack can continue, or even if a goal is allowed to stand.
One of the main duties of the assistant referees is to assist the referee in adjudicating offside—their position on the sidelines giving a more useful view sideways across the pitch. Assistant referees communicate that an offside offence has occurred by raising a signal flag.: 191 However, as with all officiating decisions in the game, adjudicating offside is ultimately up to the referee, who can overrule the advice of their assistants if they see fit.
The application of the offside rule may be considered in three steps: offside position, offside offence, and offside sanction.
A player is in an "offside position" if they are in the opposing team's half of the field and also "nearer to the opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent." The 2005 edition of the Laws of the Game included a new IFAB decision that stated, "In the definition of offside position, 'nearer to his opponents' goal line' means that any part of their head, body or feet is nearer to their opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition". By 2017, the wording had changed to say that, in judging offside position, "The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered." In other words, a player is in an offside position if two conditions are met:
The goalkeeper counts as an opponent in the second condition, but it is not necessary that the last opponent be the goalkeeper.
A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is touched or played by a teammate is only penalised for committing an offside offence if, in the opinion of the referee, they become involved in active play by:
In addition to the above criteria, in the 2017–18 edition of the Laws of the Game, the IFAB made a further clarification that, "In situations where a player moving from, or standing in, an offside position is in the way of an opponent and interferes with the movement of the opponent towards the ball this is an offside offence if it impacts on the ability of the opponent to play or challenge for the ball."
There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a corner kick, or a throw-in. It is also not an offence if the ball was last deliberately played by an opponent (except for a deliberate save). In this context, according to the IFAB, "A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area)."
An offside offence may occur if a player receives the ball directly from either a direct free kick, indirect free kick or dropped-ball.
Since offside is judged at the time the ball is touched or played by a teammate, not when the player receives the ball, it is possible for a player to receive the ball significantly past the second-to-last opponent, or even the last opponent, without committing an offence.
Determining whether a player is "involved in active play" can be complex. The quote, "If he's not interfering with play, what's he doing on the pitch?" has been attributed to Bill Nicholson and Danny Blanchflower. In an effort to avoid such criticisms, which were based on the fact that phrases such as "interfering with play", "interfering with an opponent", and "gaining an advantage" were not clearly defined, FIFA issued new guidelines for interpreting the offside law in 2003; and these were incorporated into Law 11 in July 2005. The new wording sought to define the three cases more precisely, but a number of football associations and confederations continued to request more information about what movements a player in an offside position could make without interfering with an opponent. In response to these requests, IFAB circular 3 was issued in 2015 to provide additional guidance on the criteria for interfering with an opponent. This additional guidance is now included in the main body of the law, and forms the last three conditions under the heading "Interfering with an opponent" as shown above. The circular also contained additional guidance on the meaning of a save, in the context of a ball that has "been deliberately saved by any opponent."
The sanction for an offside offence is an indirect free kick for the opponent at the place where the offence occurred, even if it is in the player's own half of the field of play.
In enforcing this rule, the referee depends greatly on an assistant referee, who generally keeps in line with the second-to-last opponent, the ball, or the halfway line, whichever is closer to the goal line of their relevant end.: 176 An assistant referee signals for an offside offence by first raising their flag to a vertical position and then, if the referee stops play, by partly lowering their flag to an angle that signifies the location of the offence:: 192
The assistant referees' task with regard to offside can be difficult, as they need to keep up with attacks and counter-attacks, consider which players are in an offside position when the ball is played, and then determine whether and when the offside-positioned players become involved in active play. The risk of false judgement is further increased by the foreshortening effect, which occurs when the distance between the attacking player and the assistant referee is significantly different from the distance to the defending player, and the assistant referee is not directly in line with the defender. The difficulty of offside officiating is often underestimated by spectators. Trying to judge if a player is level with an opponent at the moment the ball is kicked is not easy: if an attacker and a defender are running in opposite directions, they can be two metres apart in less than a second.
Some researchers believe that offside officiating errors are "optically inevitable". It has been argued that human beings and technological media are incapable of accurately detecting an offside position quickly enough to make a timely decision. Sometimes it simply is not possible to keep all the relevant players in the visual field at once. There have been some proposals for automated enforcement of the offside rule.
The motivations for offside rules varied at different times, and were not always clearly stated when the rules were changed.
According to the anonymous author of a November 1863 newspaper article in the Sporting Gazette, "[f]or a player to place himself nearer his opponent's goal than the ball, and to wait for it to be kicked to him, is not anywhere recognised but as being decidedly unfair". Curry and Dunning suggest that offside play was considered "highly ungentlemanly" at some schools; this attitude may have been reflected in the use of terminology such as "sneaking" at Eton and "loiter[ing]" at Cambridge.
In general, offside rules intend to prevent players from "goal-hanging"–staying near the opponent's goal and waiting for the ball to be passed to them directly. This was considered to be unsportsmanlike and made the game boring. In contrast, the offside rules force players not to get ahead of the ball, and thus favour dribbling the ball and short passes over few long passes.
A law similar to offside was used in the game of hurling to goals played in Cornwall in the early 17th century:
[H]ee who hath the ball [...] must deale no Fore-ball, viz. he may not throw it to any of his mates, standing neerer the goale, then himselfe.
Offside laws are found in the largely uncodified and informal football games played at English public schools in the early 19th century. An 1832 article discussing the Eton wall game complained of "[t]he interminable multiplicity of rules about sneaking, picking up, throwing, rolling, in straight, with a vast number more", using the term "sneaking" to refer to Eton's offside law. The novel Tom Brown's School Days, published in 1857 but based on the author's experiences at Rugby School from 1834 to 1842, discussed that school's offside law:
My sons! [...] you have gone past the ball, and must struggle now right through the scrummage, and get round and back again to your own side, before you can be of any further use
The first published set of laws of any code of football (Rugby School, 1845), stated that "[a] player is off his side if the ball has touched one of his own side behind him, until the other side touch it." Such a player was prevented from kicking the ball, touching the ball down, or interfering with an opponent.
Many other school and university laws from this period were similar to Rugby School's in that they were "strict"—i.e. any player ahead of the ball was in an off-side position. (This is similar to the current offside law in rugby, under which any player between the ball and the opponent's goal who takes part in play, is liable to be penalised.) Such laws included Shrewsbury School (1855), Uppingham School (1857), Trinity College, Hartford (1858), Winchester College (1863), and the Cambridge Rules of 1863.
Some school and university rules provided an exception to this general pattern. In the 1847 laws of the Eton Field Game, a player could not be considered "sneaking" if there were four or more opponents between him and the opponents' goal line. A similar "rule of four" was found in the 1856 Cambridge Rules and the rules of Charterhouse School (1863).
Most surviving rules of independent football clubs from before 1860 lack any offside law. This is true of the brief handwritten set of laws for the Foot-Ball Club of Edinburgh (1833), the published laws of Surrey Football Club (1849), the first set of laws of Sheffield Football Club (1858) and those of Melbourne Football Club (1859). In the Sheffield game, players known as "kick-throughs" were positioned permanently near the opponents' goal.
In the early 1860s, this began to change. In 1861, Forest FC adopted a set of laws based on the 1856 Cambridge Rules, with its "rule of four". The 1862 laws of Barnes FC featured a strict offside law. Sheffield FC adopted a weak offside law at the beginning of the 1863–64 season.
J. C. Thring was an advocate for the strictest possible offside law. A resident master at Uppingham School from 1859 to 1864, Thring criticised most existing offside laws for being too lax. The Rugby laws, for example, were at fault because they permitted an offside player to rejoin play immediately after an opponent touched the ball, while Eton's rule of four allowed "an immense amount of sneaking" when the number of players was unlimited.
Thring expressed his views through correspondence in the sporting newspapers such as The Field, and through the publication in 1862 of The Simplest Game, a proposed set of laws of football. In The Simplest Game, Thring included a strict offside law which required a player in an offside position ("out of play", in Thring's terminology) to "return behind the ball as soon as possible".
The influence of Thring's views is evidenced by the adoption of his proposed offside law from The Simplest Game in the first draft of the FA laws (see below).
On 17 November 1863, the newly formed Football Association adopted a resolution mirroring Thring's law from the Simplest Game:"
A player is "out of play" immediately he is in front of the ball and must return behind the ball as soon as possible. If the ball is kicked by his own side past a player he may not touch or kick it, or advance until one of the other side has first kicked it or one of his own side on a level with or in front of him has been able to kick it.
This text was reflected in the first draft of laws drawn up by FA secretary Ebenezer Morley.
On 24 November, Morley presented his draft laws to the FA for final approval. That meeting was, however, disrupted by a dispute over the subject of "hacking" (allowing players to carry the ball, provided they could be kicked in the shins by opponents when doing so, in the manner of Rugby School). The opponents of hacking brought the delegates' attention to the Cambridge Rules of 1863 (which banned carrying and hacking): Discussion of the Cambridge rules, and suggestions for possible communication with Cambridge on the subject, served to delay the final "settlement" of the laws to a further meeting, on 1 December. A number of representatives who supported rugby-style football did not attend this additional meeting, resulting in hacking and carrying being banned.
Although the offside law was not itself a significant issue in the dispute between the pro- and anti-hacking clubs, it was completely rewritten. The original law, taken from Thring's Simplest Game, was replaced by a modified version of the equivalent law from the Cambridge Rules:
When a player has kicked the ball any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent's goal line is out of play and may not touch the ball himself nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal line.
The law adopted by the FA was "strict"—i.e., it penalised any player in front of the ball. There was one exception for the "kick from behind the goal line" (the 1863 laws' equivalent of a goal kick). This exception was necessary because every player on the attacking side would have otherwise been "out of play" from such a kick.
At the first revision of the FA laws, in February 1866, an important qualifier was added to soften the "strict" offside law:
When a player has kicked the ball, any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponents' goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until the ball has been played, unless there are at least three of his opponents between him and their own goal; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal line.
At the FA's meeting, the alteration "gave rise to a lengthy discussion, many thinking with Mr Morley that it would be better to do away with the off side [law] altogether, especially as the Sheffield clubs had none. It being found, however, that the rule could not be expunged without notice, the alteration was passed."
Contemporaneous reports do not indicate the reason for the change. Charles Alcock, writing in 1890, suggested that it was made in order to induce two public schools, Westminster and Charterhouse, to join the Association. Those two schools did indeed become members of the FA after the next annual FA meeting (February 1867), in response to a letter-writing campaign by newly installed FA secretary Robert Graham.
Over the next seven years, there were several attempts to change the three-player rule, but none was successful:
Offside was the subject of the biggest dispute between the Sheffield Football Association (which produced its own "Sheffield Rules") and the Football Association. However, the two codes were eventually unified without any change in this area; the Sheffield Clubs accepted the FA's three-player offside rule in 1877, after the FA compromised by allowing the throw-in to be taken in any direction.
The original laws allowed players to be in an offside position even when in their own half. This happened rarely, but was possible when one team pressed high up the field, for example in a Sunderland v Wolverhampton Wanderers match in December 1901. When an attacking team adopted the so-called "one back" game, in which only the goalkeeper and one outfield player remained in defensive positions, it was even possible for players to be caught offside in their own penalty area.
In May 1905, Clyde FC suggested that players should not be offside in their own half, but this suggestion was rejected by the Scottish Football Association. It was objected that the change would lead to "forwards hanging about close to the half-way line, as opportunists". After the Scotland v England international of April 1906 ended with the Scottish wingers being repeatedly caught offside by England's use of a "one back" game, Clyde again proposed the same rule-change to the Scottish FA meeting: this time it was accepted.
The Scottish proposal gained support in England. At the 1906 meeting of the International Football Association Board, the Scottish FA announced that it would introduce the proposed change at the next annual meeting, in 1907. In March 1907, the council of the [English] Football Association approved this change, and it was passed by IFAB in June 1907.
The Scottish FA urged the change from a three-player to a two-player offside rule as early as 1893. Such a change was first proposed at a meeting of IFAB in 1894, where it was rejected. It was proposed again by the SFA in 1902, upon the urging of Celtic FC, and again rejected. A further proposal from the SFA also failed in 1913, after the Football Association objected. The SFA advanced the same proposal in 1914, when it was again rejected after opposition from both the Football Association and the Football Association of Wales.
Meetings of the International Board were suspended after 1914 because of the First World War. After they resumed in 1920, the SFA once again proposed the two-player rule in 1922, 1923, and 1924. In 1922 and 1923, the Scottish Association withdrew its proposal after English FA opposed it. In 1924, the Scottish proposal was once again opposed by the English FA, and defeated; it was, however, indicated that a version of the proposal would be adopted the next year.
On 30 March 1925, the FA arranged a trial match at Highbury where two proposed changes to the offside rules were tested. During the first half, a player could not be offside unless within forty yards of the opponents' goal-line. In the second half, the two-player rule was used.
The two-player proposal was considered by the FA at its annual meeting on 8 June. Proponents cited the new rule's potential to reduce stoppages, avoid refereeing errors, and improve the spectacle, while opponents complained that it would give "undue advantage to attackers"; referees were overwhelmingly opposed to the change. The two-player rule was nevertheless approved by the FA by a large majority. At IFAB's meeting later that month, the two-player rule finally became part of the Laws of the Game.
The two-player rule was one of the more significant rule changes in the history of the game during the 20th century. It led to an immediate change in the style of play, with the game becoming more stretched, "short passing giv[ing] way to longer balls", and the development of the W-M formation. It also led to an increase in goalscoring: 4,700 goals were scored in 1,848 Football League games in 1924–25. This number rose to 6,373 goals (from the same number of games) in 1925–26.
In 1990, IFAB declared that an attacker level with the second-last defender is onside, whereas previously such a player had been considered offside. This change, proposed by the Scottish FA, was made in order to "encourage the attacking team" by "giving the attacking player an advantage over the defender".
In 2005, IFAB clarified that, when evaluating an attacking player's position for the purposes of the offside law, the part of the player's head, body or feet closest to the defending team's goal-line should be considered, with the hands and arms being excluded because "there is no advantage to be gained if only the arms are in advance of the opponent". In 2016, it was further clarified that this principle should apply to all players, both attackers and defenders, including the goalkeeper.
In 2009, it was stated that a defender who leaves the field of play without the referee's permission must be considered to be on the nearest boundary line for the purposes of deciding whether an attacker is in an offside position.
In 2016, it was clarified that a player on the halfway line itself cannot be in an offside position: part of the player's head, body or feet must be within the opponent's half of the field of play.
During the 1973–74 and 1974–75 seasons, an experimental version of the offside rule was operated in the Scottish League Cup and Drybrough Cup competitions. The concept was that offside should only apply in the last 18 yards (16 m) of play (inside or beside the penalty area). To signify this, the horizontal line of the penalty area was extended to the touchlines. FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous attended the 1973 Scottish League Cup Final, which was played using these rules. The manager of one of the teams involved, Celtic manager Jock Stein, complained that it was unfair to expect teams to play under one set of rules in one game and then a different set a few days before or later. The experiment was quietly dropped after the 1974–75 season, as no proposal for a further experiment or rule change was submitted for the Scottish Football Association board to consider.
In 1972, the North American Soccer League adopted a variation of the offside rule in which it added a line on the field 35 yards from each goal line; a player could only be offside within that area of the opponent's half. The rule was dropped in 1982 at the insistence of FIFA which threatened to withdraw recognition of the league if it did not apply all of the official rules of football.
Since the first FA laws of 1863, a player has not been penalised for being in an offside position at the moment a teammate takes a goal kick. (According to the "strict" offside law used in 1863, every player on the attacking side would automatically have been in an offside position from such a goalkick, since it had to be taken from the goal line.)
Under the original laws of 1863, it was not possible to be offside from a throw-in; however, since the ball was required to be thrown in at right-angles to the touch-line, it would have been unusual for a player to gain significant advantage from being ahead of the ball.
In 1877, the throw-in law was changed to allow the ball to be thrown in any direction. The next year (1878) a new law was introduced to allow a player to be offside from a throw-in.
This situation lasted until 1920, when the law was altered to prevent a player being offside from a throw-in. This rule-change was praised on the grounds that it would deter teams from "seeking safety or wasting time by sending [the ball] into touch", and thus reduce stoppages.
When first introduced in 1872, the corner kick was required to be taken from the corner-flag itself, which made it impossible for an attacking player to be in an offside position relative to the ball. In 1874, the corner-kick was allowed to be taken up to one yard from the corner-flag, thus opening up the possibility of a player being in an offside position. At the International Football Conference of December 1882, it was agreed that a player should not be offside from a corner-kick; this change was incorporated into the Laws of the Game in 1883.
The laws of football have always permitted an offside offence to be committed from a free kick. The free kick contrasts, in this respect, with other restarts of play such as the goal kick, corner kick, and throw-in.
A 1920 proposal by the FA to exempt the free-kick from the offside rule was unexpectedly rejected by IFAB. A further unsuccessful proposal to remove the possibility of being offside from a direct free-kick was rejected in 1929. Similar proposals to prevent offside offences from any free-kick were advanced in 1974 and 1986, each time without success. In 1987, the Football Association (FA) obtained the permission of IFAB to test such a rule in the 1987–88 GM Vauxhall Conference. At the next annual meeting, the FA reported to IFAB that the experiment had, as predicted, "assisted further the non-offending team and also generated more action near goal, resulting in greater excitement for players and spectators"; it nevertheless withdrew the proposal.
Pioneered in the early 20th century by Notts County and later adopted by influential Argentine coach Osvaldo Zubeldía, the offside trap is a defensive tactic designed to force the attacking team into an offside position. Just before an attacking player is played a through ball, the last defender or defenders move up field, isolating the attacker into an offside position. The execution requires careful timing by the defence and is considered a risk, since running up field against the direction of attack may leave the goal exposed. Now that changes to the interpretations of "interfering with play, interfering with an opponent and gaining an advantage" mean a player is not guilty of an offside offence unless they become directly and clearly involved in active play, players not involved in active play cannot be "caught offside", making the tactic riskier. An attacker, upon realising they are in an offside position, may simply choose to avoid interfering with play until the ball is played by someone else.
Manager Arrigo Sacchi was also known for using a high defensive line, with distance between the defence and midfield lines never greater than 25 to 30 metres, and the offside trap with his teams. He introduced a more attacking–minded tactical philosophy with A.C. Milan, which was highly successful, namely an aggressive high-pressing system, which used a 4–4–2 formation, an attractive, fast, attacking, and possession-based playing style, and which also used innovative elements such as zonal marking and a high back–line line playing the offside trap, which largely deviated from previous systems in Italian football, despite still maintaining defensive solidity.
Liverpool F.C. under Jürgen Klopp, a noted follower of Sacchi, have been known for their highly effective offside trap. It involves playing a high defensive line with quick centre-backs like Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté who can move forward quickly to catch opponents offside. In the 2021–22 Premier League season, they caught almost double the amount of opponents offside than any other team.
A player is considered to be sneaking when only three, or less than three, of the opposite side are before him and may not kick the ball.– via
No player is allowed to loiter between the ball and the adversaries' goal.– via
[T]here was also an 'offside' rule
No player being off his side shall kick the ball in any case whatever [...] No player being off his side shall hack, charge, run in, touch the ball in goal, or interrupt a catch [...] A player being off his side shall not touch the ball on the ground, except in touch– via
No one might stand wilfully between the ball and his opponent's goal.– via
A player is off his side immediately he is in front of the ball, and must return behind the ball as soon as possible.– via
Each side must keep on their own side of the ball.– via
No player is allowed to be in advance of the ball, lying in wait for it.– via
When a player has kicked the ball, any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent's goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatsoever prevent any other player from doing so– via
A player is considered to be sneaking when only three, or less than three, of the opposite side are before him and may not kick the ball.– via
If the ball has passed a player, and has come from the direction of his own goal, he may not touch it till the other side have kicked it, unless there are more than three of the other side before him– via
Any player is off his side, or behind, when only three or less than three of the opposite side are between himself and the opposite goal.– via
Forest F. C. issued its printed rules in 1861 and adopted the Cambridge Rules in full with a few special additions. From the context, it is clear that "the Cambridge Rules" is intended to refer to the Cambridge Rules of 1856.
A player is out of play when he gets between the ball and his adversaries' goal but he is in play again—first, as soon as he places himself between his own goal and the ball—second, one of his own side has kicked the ball between him and his adversaries' goal—or third, one of his adversaries has kicked or touched the ball.– via
We have no printed rule at all like your No. 6 [the FA's draft offside law], but I have written in the book a rule which is always played by us.
[A] player might at his own risk stand in advance of the ball, and even stand immediately behind it, if kicked in front of him, being in play as soon as it may have touched or been touched in any way by the opposite side. This certainly was the acknowledged practice of Rugby men formerly at Cambridge – thus making forward and unfair play a display of daring, and a profitable one too, instead of a breach of law and sneaking. The [Rugby] off-side rule does not prevent it ...
I do doubt whether the rule that "a player is 'in play' if only there happen to be three of the opposite side between him and their goal" would be stringent enough for general adoption. Where members are unlimited, and the spirit of the game not formed, such a rule would allow of an immense amount of sneaking. A player might constantly be far in advance of the play, wait there unfairly, and carry the ball on, when kicked up to him; only taking care (according to the letter of the law) that there be the goal-keeper, the back player, and one other between himself and goal. I think that this would be a serious defect.
A player is 'out of play' immediately he is in front of the ball, and must return behind the ball as soon as possible. If the ball is kicked by his own side past a player, he may not touch or kick it, or advance, until one of the other side has first kicked it, or one of his own side, having followed it up, has been able, when in front of him, to kick it.– via
Mr MORLEY, hon. secretary, said that he had endeavoured as faithfully as he could to draw up the laws according to the suggestions made, but he wished to call the attention of the meeting to other matters that had taken place. The Cambridge University Football Club, probably stimulated by the Football Association, had formed some laws in which gentlemen of note from six of the public schools had taken part. Those rules, so approved, were entitled to the greatest consideration and respect at the hands of the association, and they ought not to pass them over without giving them all the weight that the feeling of six of the public schools entitled them to.
The PRESIDENT called Mr Campbell's attention to the fact that, so far from ignoring the Cambridge rules, they had adopted their No. 6
At the same time, with a view apparently to secure the co-operation of Westminster and Charterhouse, the strict off-side rule which had been in force was modified to ensure uniformity in this essential principle of the game. The adoption of the rule which had prevailed at these two schools, which kept a player on side as long as there were three of the opposite side between him and the enemy's goal, removed, in fact, the one remaining bar to the establishment of one universal code, for Association players in the south at least.
The off side rule is the only material point of difference [between the FA laws and Sheffield Rules], and this is one that can never be played in Sheffield, being characterised by the meeting as ridiculous
[M]ost of the play was confined to the Sunderland quarters, and we had the spectacle of one of their forwards being given off-side in his own half
A player is not out of play when the ball is kicked off from goal, when a corner-kick is taken, when the ball has been last played by an opponent, or when he himself is within his own half of the field of play at the moment the ball is played or thrown in from touch by any player of the same side [emphasis added]– via
Even more gratifying to the Scottish delegates was the understanding, which it is said was arrived at, that next year their offside rule proposal would be adopted after some adjustment
When a player plays the ball, any player of the same side who at such moment of playing is nearer to his opponents' goal-line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever interfere with an opponent, or with the play, until the ball has been again played, unless there are at such moment of playing at least two [previously three] of his opponents nearer their own goal-line
A player is in an off-side position if he is nearer his opponents' goal-line than the ball, unless ... [h]e is not nearer to his opponents' goal-line than at least two of his opponents [previously: unless there are at least two of his opponents nearer their own goal-line than he is]
but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal line– via
In case the ball goes behind the goal line, if a player on the side to whom the goal belongs first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick from the goal line at the point opposite the place where the ball shall be touched– via
When a player has kicked the ball any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent's goal line is out of play– via
When the ball is in touch the first player who touches it shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground, in a direction at right angles with the boundary line– via
When the ball is in touch a player of the opposite side to that which kicked it out shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground in any direction the thrower may choose– via
When a player kicks the ball, or it is thrown in from touch, any one of the same side who at such moment of kicking or throwing is nearer to the opponents' goal-line, is out of play– via
When the ball is kicked behind the goal line, a player of the opposite side to that which kicked it out, shall kick it in from the nearest corner-flag– via
but if kicked behind by any one of the side whose goal line it is, a player of the opposite side shall kick it from within one yard of the nearest corner flag-post– via
When a player kicks the ball, or throws it in from touch, any one of the same side who, at such moment of kicking or throwing, is nearer to the opponents' goal-line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played, unless there are at such moment of kicking or throwing at least three of his opponents nearer their own goal line; but no player is out of play in the case of a corner-kick or when the ball is kicked from the goal line, or when it has been last played by an opponent.– via