Main football rules

17 Laws of football
17 Laws of football

The International Football Association Board administers the 17 Laws of the Game. These main football rules and regulations are carried out to make the sport fair and safe to play while preserving its competitiveness and especially not taking the fun out of the world’s favorite game.

Here are the 17 main football rules:

Law 1: The field of play

The field of play in football
The field of play in football

The field of play also known as the pitch must always be rectangular in shape and marked out with boundary lines. It should be divided into two halves by the halfway line, which joins the middle of both touchlines.

The longer lines are called touchlines and the shorter ones are the goal lines. The penalty area surrounds the goal. Lines are marked starting out from the goal line, 18 yards either side of each post, and extending 18 yards into the field of play. These lines are joined by a line parallel to the goal line.

The goal should be placed on the center of each goal line and a net must be attached behind the goal.

Law 2: The ball

The ball used to play football or soccer

The ball to be used must be spherical, made of leather or a similar suitable material. It must have a circumference no bigger than 28 inches and no smaller than 27 inches, weigh between 14 and 16 ounces, and maintain a pressure of between 8.5 and 15.6 psi.

If the ball becomes unplayable, the referee must stop the game and issue a replacement ball, only the referee can change the ball. Play is restarted either with a dropped ball, for which both teams can compete, or with a set piece or throw in if the ball was out of play.

Law 3: The number of players

11 football players including the goalkeeper

Two teams play in a match with each team consists of a maximum of 11 players, one of which is the goalkeeper. Teams must have at least seven players or they are not allowed to play at all.

If a team’s roster are less than the allowed minimum number of players due to illness or injury, or some other circumstances, the match will be postponed.

Teams can make three substitutions during a game. Players can be sent off for foul play, and injuries may outnumber the substitutes allowed. Before the team can make a substitution, the referee must give a signal in a break in play, the team cannot substitute when play is ongoing.

Law 4: The players’ equipment

A cartoon image of a football player in complete uniform
A cartoon image of a football player in complete uniform

When in football match, all players must wear the basic uniform, football cleats or turf shoes, shin guards must be covered by the socks, team’s jersey with sleeves as well as team’s shorts together with socks.

The two playing teams must wear colors that are easily be distinguished. Their colors should not match with the referee’s uniform to avoid confusion.

Goalkeepers should wear separate colors that will distinguish them from both their teammates and the opposition team as well as from the referees.

Football players are not allowed to wear, or use anything that can harm other players as well as themselves. No jewelries are allowed in the field. However, players are given the permission to wear earrings or wedding rings, providing they cover them with medical tape.

Law 5: The referee

The man in the middle is called the referee
The man in the middle is called the referee

Every football match is controlled by someone who has the power to enforce all the rules, he or she is called the referee. The referee’s decision is always final and in anyway, cannot be changed whether the call is deemed incorrect. Even the referee is wrong, he or she is always right.

A player can end up receiving a caution from the referee if he argue too much. The referee is equipped with a whistle, a stopwatch, yellow and red cards, and a book and pencil. The referee also usually acts as official timekeeper for the match.

Law 6: The assistant referees

An assistant football referee making a flag signal

Assistant referees, formerly known as linesmen or lines-women, run down the touchlines with flags in their hands, following the path of the ball. They provide assistance to the referee in manning in the middle. They can help the referee by ensuring the game is played in accordance with all of the Laws of the Game.

At least two assistant referees can play a key role in indicating when the ball has left the field of play: In doing so they show which team has won a corner, goal kick, or throw in, when a player is offside, when a player is to be substituted and when they have spotted a foul or infringement.

Law 7: The duration of the game

A football match is played in full 90 minutes

A football match is divided into of two 45-minute halves, with extra time added for each at the referee’s discretion. The halves are separated by a half-time period not to exceed 15 minutes. Referees may add additional minutes of time for each major incident or if injuries will occur.

A football match that may end tied after 90 minutes of play either goes to 30 minutes of extra time which is played in two 15 minute halves, or straight to a penalty shootout.

Law 8: The start and restart of play

A coin toss during the FA Cup football match

A football match will always begin with a coin toss by the captains of the opposing team, this will determine which team will start a play to start the match at the center circle.

The winner of the coin toss has the option of either kicking off or deciding which way to kick in the first half. In the second half the teams change ends and the opposing team starts the kick off.

Law 9: The ball IN and OUT of play

Ball in and out of play explained in the image above

The ball is out of play if the whole ball crosses either the goal line or the touchline, whether rolling along the ground or flying through the air.

The ball is in play when inside the field and the referee has not stopped play. If any part of the ball is touching or still inside the goal line or touchline, the ball is in play.

The ball remains in play if it rebounds off a post, crossbar, or corner flag or even if it hits the referee or the assistant referee.

Law 10: The method of scoring

A football player scores a goal

All sports is all about scoring, the same in football. Whoever scores more goals wins. A player scores a goal when the entire ball crosses over the goal line, between the goalposts, under the crossbar, and into the net, whether in the air or on the ground.

If the score is all tied or no goals has been scored, the match is a draw. The match may then be decided by the away goals rule (in a series of two games), extra time, and/or penalty kicks.

Law 11: Offside

A player caught offside

A player is caught offside if he is nearer to the opponents’ goal than both the ball and the second-last opponent when his team mate plays the ball forward. A player cannot receive a ball played forward from a teammate unless there are at least two defenders, one can be the goalkeeper, both level with him or between him and the goal.

When offside is called, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the defending team from the place the offside occurred.

Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct

A foul is committed during a football match

This rule includes the penalties that are imposed by a referee for players who are showing unruly behavior that may cause harm to another players during a football match.

A foul will be called if a player jumps, charges, trips, strikes of any kind like punching, kicking, head-butting, biting, elbowing, as well as pushes with the intention to harm another player. A foul is also called when a player attempts to strike, spits, holds, makes a tackle but hits with the player before the ball, deliberately handles the ball  (except for the goalkeepers), obstructs or prevents an opponent from releasing the ball. These will result to a player committing the foul being issued with red and yellow cards.

A direct free kick (or penalty, if foul is committed in the penalty box) or an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team.

Law 13: Free kicks

A player making a direct free kick

There are two types of free kicks, the ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’. A player can take a direct free kick and aim it straight into the opponent’s goal.

An indirect free kick is for a goal to be scored, the ball has to touch another player before it enters the goal. This can be done by either passing it to a teammate, allowing him to take a shot or by a deflection either off a teammate or an opponent.

Law 14: The penalty kick

The image illustrates the penalty kick

The referee awards a penalty kick when a direct free kick is awarded against a team in its own penalty area. The ball is placed on the penalty spot by the intended taker.

The goalkeeper from the opposing team must stay on his line until the ball is kicked. After the referee blows his whistle the penalty taker can take the penalty shot. The taker must kick the ball forward and cannot kick it again until another player has touched the ball.

If the ball bounces back off the post or crossbar, the penalty taker cannot play the ball again but his teammates are allowed to follow up and take a shot.

Law 15: The throw in

A football player taking a throw-in

A player is not allowed to score a goal directly from a throw-in. The referee awards a throw-in to the opposing team when the ball leaves the field of play and crossing the touchline.

The thrower must have at least part of both his feet touching the ground, either outside the field of play or the touchline. He must throw in the ball using both hands, throwing it from behind and over his head. He must deliver the ball at the point it left the field of play. A player cannot throw the ball onto the field and then play it himself. The ball has to be touched by another player before the thrower can play the ball again.

Law 16: The goal kick

A goalkeeper making a goal kick

A player can score a goal directly from a goal kick. A goal kick gets awarded when the offensive team plays the ball out of bounds over the defensive team’s goal line. The taker must send the ball out of the penalty area or be retaken. The taker may not touch the ball again until it has been touched by a second player.

After the ball is out of play, the defender or goalkeeper may place the ball anywhere within the 6 yard goal box to kick the ball back into play.

Law 17: The corner kick

A soccer player taking a corner kick

The referee awards a corner kick when the ball runs out of play over the goal line and the last to touch it was the opposing team.

The corner kick is played by the offensive team placing the ball in the corner arc nearest to where it crossed the goal line.

The ball gets placed within the corner area and kicked back into play by the offensive team. The kicker is not allowed to move the corner flag, and cannot play the ball once kicked until another player has touched the ball. Opposing players are not allowed to go near within 10 yards of the corner arc until the ball is kicked.