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offside at a centre pass

Need some help on a dispute on a decision I made during a match I was umpiring recently.A player was tying her shoe laces in my half of the court. A goal had been scored in the half I was umpiring. Centre stepped in the centre circle whilst this player was still attending to her shoe lace. So in affect she had not got herself on side and then gone off side she just did not get on side.I blew the whistle to start play as the centre was ready. As the player who was in my half and was off side, I blew for offside.Can I have clarification on this please, was I correct, or should the other umpire have called this offside even though the player was in my half?Secondly, a reputable umpire told me a couple of months ago, that the umpire blowing the whistle to start the game at a centre pass, controls both sides for off side? I.e. All players that go offside at the centre pass, to the left and right of the centre circle. I was not suite about this so need clarification on that too.Thanks in anticipation.

Hi Maria. There a couple of issues to consider here.  (1) Umpire blows whistle for Centre pass only after checking that all players are in position behind the line & if players are slow to get in position or tie shoe laces in Centre third, either a reminder to get behind the line is appropriate or for a repeated offence a warning or penalty for delaying play would be appropriate.  (2) Umpires control the transverse line in their own area therefore "breaking" is called by the umpire controlling the area where the infringement occurred rather than who is controlling the centre pass. One umpire cannot effectively watch players on two transverse lines at once.

Technically a player can't be penalised for breaking/offside if they weren't onside to being with and it is the up to the umpire to ensure that positioning of players prior starting/restarting play anywhere on the court is prompt & within the rules. By blowing the whistle for Centre pass, the umpire is indicating that players are in position & play can start but if an error is made e.g. whistle is blown when players are still trying to get behind the line or a player is busy returning a ball to another court then umpire could either blow whistle, stop play and restart the centre pass or allow play to continue if no player/team is at a disadvantage.

In your case it may have been appropriate for you to ask the player tying her shoes to move behind the transverse line and out of harms way to allow play to commence.  If you thought it was a deliberate action by an experienced player then a warning or penalty may have been in order. You do not have to hold up the game for shoe lace issues but just ensure the area is safe for play to continue.

Hi Maria, Your decision to penalise was correct. However the call is delaying play (because she wasn't behind transverse line). The player can't be called for off-side or breaking as they're allowed in that area and weren't behind the line to start with. The controlling umpire only calls in their own half (except for a throw-in); and only control infringements to do with the centre pass (e.g. Stepping, Held ball, replay ball & not in Circle). The start whistle is made regardless of whether players are behind the line. Once the Centre is in the circle play starts. Players not behind the line can be called for delaying play. The Centre waiting for them to get behind the line is also delaying play. You can play advantage if the non-offending team is not disadvantaged or advance to transverse as necessary. However some discretion is used when dealing with younger players e.g. tell them to hurry  up & get behind the line.

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