Interested to know what rules govern the most popular sport in the world? This article precisely enlists the football rules and regulations for you.
Did you know?
► The history of football can be traced back to as early as the 1st century B.C.
► During this period, the ancient Romans and Greeks played ball games similar to the present day football, except that there was no concept of a goal!
This game evolved through the ages, and during the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century A.D.), became widely popular in Europe, especially England. However, there was one problem that people faced. With no universal set of rules to follow, and no one to enforce them, every match ended up with confusion and chaos. This continued into the mid-nineteenth century, till the Football Association (FA) was formed in 1860. On 8th December 1863, the FA drafted the ‘Laws of the Game’: the Bible of football rules and regulations.
The rules governing football can be broadly put into 17 main points, as given below.
The Rules and Regulations of Football
In addition to the rules given above, there exists a Fair Play Code that was drafted by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or the International Federation of Association Football (in English), which is known by its acronym, FIFA.
Field of Play
The rules state that a game of football can be played either on a natural surface or on an artificial surface, such as an Astroturf, on the condition that the artificial surface is green.
Markings on the Field
The field of play should be rectangular and the boundaries should be marked with lines. While the two longer sides are called the touch lines, the shorter sides are called the goal lines. A halfway line divides the rectangular field into two, and its center is marked by a circle of diameter of 9.15 m.
While the length of the touch line should be between 90 m to 120 m, the goal lines can be of any length, ranging from 45 m to 90 m. However, for international matches, the standard lengths of the touch lines and the goal lines are 100-110 m and 64-75 m, respectively.
The goal area is the area enclosed by two 5.5 m long lines drawn from the inside of each goalpost, joined by a line parallel to the goal line.
It is the area enclosed by two 16.5 m long lines drawn from inside of each goalpost, joined by a line parallel to the goal line. The point 11 m away from the midpoint of the goal line, is marked as the penalty point. From the center of the penalty point, an arc is drawn outside the penalty area, with a radius of 9.15 m.
Flag Posts at the Corner Arc
A quarter arc of 1 m radius, is drawn at each corner of the field, and these arcs are termed as the corner arcs. A flag post, of a minimum height of 1.5 m, must be placed at each corner.
At the center of each goal line, there should be a goal post consisting of 2 erect posts, at distance of 7.32 m, with a horizontal crossbar joining them. The distance between the crossbar and the ground should be 2.44 m, and the width of the crossbars and posts, should not exceed 5 inches.
The ball used in the game of football should be spherical, with a circumference ranging from 68 cm to 70 cm. The weight of the ball used should be within 410 g to 450 g, and it can be made of leather or any other material.
The Number of Players
A game of football is played between two teams and each team should consist of not more than 11 players, including a goalkeeper. However, each team is permitted to bring in utmost three players as substitutes. Before the match begins, it is essential that the referee be informed of the names of the probable substitutes. The substitute player can enter the field of play only when there is a break in the game, such as a throw-in or a free kick. Any of the current players can change places with the goalkeeper after the referee is informed about it.
The Players’ Equipment
The basic equipment compulsory for every player includes, a jersey, shorts, socks, shin guards, and shoes. Each team should wear colors different from that of the other team, the referees and the linesmen. Not only this, the goalkeeper is required to wear a color that is not the same as the jersey colors of his teammates, the opponent team, the referees or the linesmen.
The key task of the referee is to see to it that both the teams strictly abide by the rules and the spirit of the game. In case a player breaks the rules in any way, he is appropriately punished by the referee. It is the referee who is responsible for awarding free kicks and penalties. He has the power to stop, suspend or abandon a match. When a player commits a foul, the referee may choose to not pause the match if the team against which the foul has been committed, stands to get an advantage. Besides, it is the referee who decides whether the player committing a foul, deserves a red card or a yellow card. All major decisions about the match, including the result, rest with the referee.
The Assistant Referees
Two assistant referees, formerly known as linesmen, stand along the touch lines and take decisions regarding corner kicks, goal kicks and throw-ins. It is the assistant referee who gives the signal when any of the teams request for a substitute player.
Duration of the Match
The match is played for a total duration of 90 minutes, divided into two halves of 45 minutes each. The interval between the two halves of the match should not exceed 15 minutes. However, the referee may make allowance for the time lost due to reasons like player substitution, injury caused to players, the ball being out of play, etc. In the knockout stages of international matches, if there’s no winner even after the 90 minutes of play, then there is a provision of extra time. The duration of the extra time is 30 minutes.
If there is no winner even after the extra time, then there is the penalty shootout in which each team gets alternate chances to score goals. Five players are selected from each team, and these players are required to score goals from the penalty area, with the goal defended only by the opponent goalkeeper.
In case there is a tie between the two teams even after the penalty shootout, there is the sudden-death penalty in which the first team to score, wins.
Start and Restart of Play
According to the rules and regulations of soccer, the game starts with the toss of a coin, wherein the winning team gets to decide which goal they would attack during the first half of the match. During the second half, the teams switch sides and attack the opposite goals. The team that loses the toss, starts the match with the kick-off while the team that wins the toss, takes the kick-off in the second half of the match.
After a pause during the course of the match, it may be restarted in one of the following ways.
When one team scores a goal, the match is restarted with a kick-off by the opponent team. A kick-off is also used to start the match in the second half and each period of extra time.
When the match is stopped by the referee for reasons such as injury caused to a player, a defect in the ball, etc, the match is restarted with the referee dropping the ball at the same site where it was, when the game play was stopped. However, in case the ball was within the goal area when the game play was stopped, the referee drops the ball at a point on the goal area line (which is parallel to the goal line) that is nearest to the point where the ball was, before the pause in the game play.
Ball In and Out of Play
The ball is out of play when either it crosses the touch line or the goal line, on either side and when the referee stops the game play. At all other times, the ball is in play.
The Method of Scoring
A goal is scored when the ball passes across the goal line, between the goalposts, and under the crossbar. The winning team is the team that scores more goals. In case no goals are scored during the match or both the teams end up scoring the same number of goals, the result is a draw.
According to the Laws of the Game, a player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponent’s goal line than both the ball and his second last opponent. However, if a player is in his own half of the field or is level with the second last opponent or he is level with the last two opponents, he is not in an offside position.
A player in an offside position is penalized only if the referee feels that he is gaining an advantage by being in that position, or is interfering with an opponent.
Fouls and Misconduct
The players are punished for their fouls and misconduct, by the referee who judges the severity of the offense and accordingly uses one of the following.
Direct Free Kick:
The referee calls for a direct free kick when a player kicks, trips, pushes, tackles, holds, or spits at an opponent. Also, if a player handles the ball deliberately or jumps, strikes or charges an opponent, the referee awards a free kick to his opponent’s team. A direct free kick is taken from the point where the offense was committed.
The referee awards a penalty kick against a team, if any of the offenses that call for a direct free kick, are committed within the player’s own penalty area. For a penalty kick, the ball should be placed on the penalty mark.
Indirect Free Kick:
It is awarded when the goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands for more than six seconds or touches the ball with his hands directly after it has been thrown in by a teammate. Also, if a player plays in a way that hinders the progress of one or more of his opponents, then the referee may award an indirect free kick. Similar to a direct free kick, an indirect free kick is also taken from the point where the offense was committed.
A yellow card is a caution to the players which is issued when a player goes against the rules and commits offenses like expressing dissent through words or actions, entering or leaving the field without the referee’s permission, etc.
The referee shows a red card to a player to show that he is being sent off. A red card is issued for violent conduct, deliberately handling the ball to prevent the opponent team from scoring, use of offensive language or gestures and when a player commits a misconduct after he has already been shown the yellow card twice.
There are two types of free kicks, direct free kicks and indirect free kicks.
Direct Free Kick:
A direct free kick is awarded in case of a handball or a tackle with excessive force, and it is called so because it can be struck directly towards the opponent’s goal. A team can score a goal with a direct free kick.
Indirect Free Kick:
When a player commits a foul, such as offside, that does not call for a penalty, the opponent team is awarded an indirect free kick i.e. a free kick that cannot be directed towards the goal. It is not possible to score a goal by an indirect free kick, unless at least one more player touches the ball.
During a free kick, all players of the defending team must be at least 9.15m away from the ball and the free kick is struck from the point where the breach of conduct was committed.
The Penalty Kick
The referee awards a penalty kick against a team if a player commits any of the misconduct such as handling the ball with his hand, inside the penalty area, which would otherwise result in a direct free kick.
When a player takes a penalty kick, the ball must be placed on the penalty mark and the defending goalkeeper must stay on his goal line. All other players must stand outside the penalty box, at least 9.15 m away from the ball. When the referee gives the signal for the penalty kick by blowing his whistle, the player should kick the ball forward. A penalty kick can result in a goal.
A method of restarting game play, the referee awards a throw-in to the opponent team of the player who last touches the ball before it goes out of the field.
During a throw-in, the player is required to face the field of play, stand exactly where the ball left the field of play, hold the ball with both hands, and deliver the ball from over his head. The players from the opponent team must stand at a minimum distance of 2 m from the point of throw-in. The player who performs the throw-in should not touch the ball until it has been touched by another player.
The Goal Kick
The goal kick is a means of restarting the play after the ball passes over the goal line, last touched by a player of the attacking team.
A goal kick is taken by a player of the defending team, who can kick the ball from any point within the goal area, but cannot play the ball until it has been touched by another player. When a goal kick is taken, all the players of the opponent team, must stand outside the penalty area.
The Corner Kick
The game is restarted with a corner kick, after the ball goes outside the goal line, last touched by a player of the defending team.
Equivalent to a direct free kick taken from the corner of the field, the corner kick requires that the opponent team players stand at a minimum distance of 9.15m from the corner. Before taking the corner kick, the player must place the ball inside the corner arc of the corner nearest to where the ball crossed the goal line. The rules for the corner kick are similar to that for the direct free kick. It is important that the corner flag post is not removed before or during the corner kick is taken.
Now that you know what are the football rules and regulations, all you need to do is see how these rules apply to the matches at your local club, or the live international matches on television. The more you observe, the more you learn and with time, you’ll get a hang of it!