The rules of football for equipment, the field of play, the behaviour of the participants and the determination of the results are based on 17 laws. The delegates of Le Conseil de l’Association Internationale de Football FIFA and the representatives of the four football associations in the United Kingdom have the power to change the laws.


Throughout the twentieth century there have been few significant changes to football laws. In fact, prior to the reforms in the 1990s, the most significant change to the rules was the revision of the offside rule in 1925. Previously, an attacking player (i.e. one who was in the opposition half of the pitch) was considered offside if there were fewer than three opposition players between him and goal when the ball was ’passed’ to him. The adjustment in the regulations that reduced the number of intervening players from three to two resulted in more goals. As a result, new defensive techniques and lineups emerged. Substitutions were first allowed in 1965, and since 1995 teams have been allowed to field three substitutes.

Recent rule changes have helped increase the pace of play, offensive incidents and successful play. Thanks to the reverse pass rule, goalkeepers are no longer allowed to handle the ball after it has been kicked to them by a teammate. Red cards are issued for ”professional fouls”, which are committed deliberately to prevent an opponent from scoring, and for tackling from behind (taking the ball away from a player by kicking or stopping with a boot). Players are cautioned if they attempt to win free kicks or penalties by ”diving” (simulating a foul). Goalkeepers are now required to clear the ball from their hands within six seconds and injured players are evacuated from the field on a stretcher. Finally, the offside rule has been changed so that forwards can be offside if they are level with the penultimate defender.

Cultural and tournament circumstances have a significant impact on how football rules are interpreted. In the UK, lifting the feet above waist level to play the ball is less likely to be considered risky than in southern Europe. Unlike recent World Cup matches, the British game can be tolerant of penalty kicks from behind. FIFA maintains that ”the referee’s decision is final”, and therefore does not hesitate to interrupt the flow of play to allow video review of minor decisions. On the other hand, in the most serious future revisions or rethinking of football regulations, more effective technology could be used to assist officials during the game. Disciplinary committees in football already use video footage after a match, especially to adjudicate aggressive play and evaluate the performance of referees.


The rectangular penalty area in front of the goal, which is 44 yards (40.2 metres) wide and extends 18 yards (16.5 metres) inside the pitch, is 44 yards (40.2 metres) wide and extends 18 yards (16.5 metres) inside the pitch. The gate consists of a frame with netting that measures 8 yards (7.3 meters) wide and 8 feet (2.4 meters) high. The playing surface (pitch) shall be 100-130 yards (90-120 meters) long and 50-100 yards (45-90 meters) wide for domestic matches and 110-120 yards (70-80 meters) long and wide for international competitions. On a smaller field, women, children and mature players can play shorter. The competition is overseen by an umpire who is also a timekeeper. At the same time, two assistants patrol the touchlines or sidelines, signaling for the ball to leave the field and for an offside.

Players’ shirts, shorts and socks identify the team they are playing for. Shoes and shin guards must be worn. Goalkeepers must be distinguishable from all other players and match officials, and the two teams must wear different uniforms.

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