Law 18 - Common Sense (originally appeared 8-02)

Don't you hate it when you sit down for a nice family dinner (if you don't remember those then watch some Leave it to Beaver reruns), and you find yourself constantly interrupted with telemarketers? Now imagine yourself on the soccer pitch with those same telemarketers calling you. This is the effect that too zealous a whistle can have on the game. Luckily, FIFA recognizes that common sense must prevail. For this reason the Laws of the Game are particularly sparse; only 29 pages in length."Common Sense" is the so-called Law 18, which goes along with the printed Laws 1-17. In older versions of the Laws of the Game, this showed up as "in the opinion of the referee". This has been replaced in recent years with the caution against stopping play for "trifling" offenses, which "produce bad feeling and loss of temper;and spoil the pleasure ."What is considered trifling? It depends on the skill level and tone of the specific game.Common sense calls for: 1) keeping everyone safe; 2) keeping the game fair; and 3) keeping it within the accepted bounds of soccer. Compare a goal kick that is a little outside the 6-yard line versus holding an attacking player as she tries to get off a shot. One is trifling, the other is not. What is missing for the lawyers in the crowd is clear definition. Judgment will vary between individuals, which is why there is only one whistle on the pitch. When you think a call was missed, asked yourself was it different from the preceding action (has the referee been consistent) and did it materially impact the game. Let Law 18 be the rule and not the exception.

Law 17 - The Corner Kick

A corner kick is a method of restarting play. A goal may be scored directly from a corner kick, but only against the opposing team. A corner kick is awarded when: the whole of the ball, having last touched a player of the defending team, passes over the goal line, either on the ground or in the air, and a goal is not scored in accordance with Law 10.Procedure The ball is placed inside the corner arc at the nearest corner flagpost, the corner flagpost is not moved, opponents remain at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball until it is in play, the ball is kicked by a player of the attacking team, the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves, the kicker does not play the ball a second time until it has touched another player.Infringements/SanctionsCorner kick taken by a player other than the goalkeeper

  • If, after the ball is in play, the kicker touches the ball a second time (except with his hands), before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred
  • If, after the ball is in play, the kicker deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player: a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred a penalty kick is awarded if the infringement occurred inside the kicker's penalty area
Corner kick taken by the goalkeeper
  • If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper touches the ball a second time (except with his hands) before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred
  • If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player: a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred outside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred inside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
For any other infringement:
  • the kick is retaken

Law 16 - The Goal Kick

A goal kick is a method of restarting play.A goal may be scored directly from a goal kick, but only against the opposing team.A goal kick is awarded when: the whole of the ball, having last touched a player of the attacking team, passes over the goal line, either on the ground or in the air, and a goal is not scored in accordance with Law 10.Procedure

  • The ball is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
  • Opponents remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play
  • The kicker does not play the ball a second time until it has touched another player
  • The ball is in play when it is kicked directly beyond the penalty area
Infringements/SanctionsIf the ball is not kicked directly into play beyond the penalty area: the kick is retakenGoal kick taken by a player other than the goalkeeper
  • If, after the ball is in play, the kicker touches the ball a second time (except with his hands) before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred * (see preface)
  • If, after the ball is in play, the kicker deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player: a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred a penalty kick is awarded if the infringement occurred inside the kicker's penalty area
Goal kick taken by the goalkeeper
  • If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper touches the ball a second time (except with his hands) before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred
  • If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player: a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred outside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where he infringement occurred. An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred inside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
For any other infringement:
  • the kick is retaken

Law 15 - The Throw-In

 A throw-in is a method of restarting play, A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in. A throw-in is awarded when the whole of the ball passes over the touch line, either on the ground or in the air, from the point where it crossed the touch line, to the opponents of the player who last touched the ball.ProcedureAt the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower:

  • faces the field of play
  • has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line
  • uses both hands
  • delivers the ball from behind and over his head
The thrower may not touch the ball again until it has touched another player. The ball is in play immediately it enters the field of playInfringements/SanctionsThrow-in taken by a player other than the goalkeeper:
  • If, after the ball is in play, the thrower touches the ball a second time (except with his hands) before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred * (see preface)
  • f, after the ball is in play, the thrower deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player: a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred * (see preface) a penalty kick is awarded if the infringement occurred inside the thrower's penalty area
Throw-in taken by the goalkeeper
  • If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper touches the ball a second time (except with his hands), before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
  • If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player: a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred outside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred inside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
If an opponent unfairly distracts or impedes the thrower:
  • he is cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card.
For any other infringement of this Law:
  • the throw-in is taken by a player of the opposing team

Law 11 - Offsides (originally appeared 7-03)

You make the call:Attacking player is standing next to the left of the goal with only the keeper close to the goal line. Teammate carries ball down the right side and from further out takes a successful shot on goal. What's the call? Does your call change if instead of shooting, the player on the right passes to the player to the left of the goal, who then puts it in the net?Background:Offside is the most widely misunderstood law in soccer. And its not just the fans. The law book uses only 200 words to describe the foul, but then requires 13 pages of diagrams to clarify the message.Most of us understand that an attacking player is in an "Offside Position" if he goes past the 2nd to last defender (one defender usually being the keeper) to wait for the ball.What is confusing is that there is nothing wrong with being in that offside position! It only becomes an "Offside Foul" when: 1) the player gains an advantage or 2) interferes with play or an opponent. If play is to the right side and the offside-position player is to the left, there is no whistle. The call is only made if the offside player tries to accept a pass or alternatively blocks a defender or keeper from the ball. Does the presence of the player standing in an offside position distract the defense? Maybe so, but the law book is very explicit that the referee must let things continue until the player actively impacts play. The other element to watch is that offside position is only judged at the moment an attacking teammate last touched the ball, not what happens after the touch.So What's the Call:In the first case of a player putting the ball in the net from the right side while a player is in an offside position on the left, the correct call is "Goal". If the player on the right passes to the one on the left, then blow the whistle and give the defending team a direct kick coming out.

Law 8 - Start and Restart of Play

Preliminaries A coin is tossed and the team that wins the toss decides which goal it will attack in the first half of the match. The other team takes the kick-off to start the match. The team that wins the toss takes the kick-off to start the second half of the match. In the second half of the match, the teams change ends and attack the opposite goals.Kick-Off A kick-off is a way of starting or restarting play in the following conditions, at the start of the match, after a goal has been scored, at the start of the second half of the match, at the start of each period of extra time, where applicable. A goal may be scored directly from the kick-off.Kick-Off Procedure All players must be in their own half of the field, the opponents of the team taking the kick-off are to be least 10 yds from the ball until it is in play. The ball must be stationary on the center mark until the Referee gives a signal. The ball is in play after it is kicked and moved forward. The kicker is not permitted to touch the ball again until it has touched another player. After a team scores a goal, the kick-off is taken by the other team. Kick-Off Infringements If the kicker touches the ball again before it has touched another player, an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team. For any other infringement of the kick-off, the kick is retaken.Dropped BallA dropped ball is a way of restarting the match after a temporary stoppage that becomes necessary, while the ball is in play, for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Rules.Dropped Ball Procedure The referee drops the ball at the place where it was located when play was stopped. Play restarts when the ball touches the ground.Dropped Ball Infringement The ball is dropped again if it is touched by a player before it makes contact with the ground, or if the ball leaves the field of play after it makes contact with the ground, without a player touching it.Special Circumstances A free kick awarded to the defending team inside its own goal area may be taken from any point within the goal area. An indirect free kick awarded to the attacking team in its opponents' goal area is taken from the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred. A dropped ball to restart the match after play has been temporarily stopped inside the goal area takes place on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped.

Law 7 - Duration of the Match

Periods of PlayThe match lasts two equal periods of 45 minutes (Youth games are adjusted according to age), unless otherwise mutually agreed between the referee and the two participating teams. Any agreements to change the periods of play must be made before the start of play and must comply with the competition rules. Half-Time IntervalPlayers are entitled to an interval at half-time. The half-time interval must not exceed 15 minutes (in youth games 5-10 minutes is the normal break). The duration of half-time may only be altered by the referee. Allowance for Time Losthe Referee may impose an allowance in either period for time lost to reasonably assure that both halves are equal with respect to actual playing time. Time may be added on for slow substitution(s), time used for the assessment of injury to players and the removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment, any time wasting, or any other cause. The allowance for time lost is at the discretion of the referee.Penalty KickIf a penalty kick has to be taken or retaken, the duration of either half is extended until the kick is completed.Extra Time (Overtime)Competition rules may provide for two further equal periods to be played. The conditions of Law 8 will apply.

Law 6 - Assistant Referees

This rule defines the responsibilities of the Assistant Referee (who used to be referred to as a Linesman).Duties Two assistant Referees are appointed whose duties, subject to the decision of the Referee, are to indicate:

  • When the whole of the ball has passed out of the field of play and which side is entitled to a corner kick, goal kick or throw-in
  • When a player may be penalized for being in an offside position
  • hen a substitution is requested
  • When misconduct or any other incident has occurred out of the view of the Referee. The assistant referees may also assist the referee to control the match in accordance with the Laws of the Game. 

Law 5 - The Referee

This rule defines the roles and responsibilities of the only person who has the right to officially interpret the rules during the playing of a soccer game (match). The Referee has complete control and responsibility for the match from the time they arrive at the playing site until they leave the site (not just during the match).Powers/Duties of the Refereehe Referee is supposed to enforce the Laws of the Game and to control the match in co-operation with the assistant referees. In addition, the referee acts as the only official timekeeper regardless of what you think (a referee may also add time to a game if they feel that one side is wasting time, or for an injury situation). The referee can stop, suspend or terminate a game because of an infringement of the rules, foul play, outside interference of any kind or if, in their opinion, a player is injured. Any player that is bleeding must leave the field of play until such bleeding is stopped. The referee may allow play to continue, even if a foul has been committed, if the team that had the foul committed against them retains possession (this is known as playing the advantage). The referee may allow play to continue following a serious foul, again for advantage purpose, and may caution or dismiss a player, as appropriate, when the ball next goes out of play. The referee may take action against team officials (coaches) who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner, or if the fans (parents) fail to act properly, and may at their discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds. Substitutions may only be made with the approval of the referee.Decisions of the RefereeThe decisions of the referee are final. The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee, provided that he has not restarted play.

Law 4 - The Players' Equipment

This law describes the required player equipment. This shall include a jersey (which must be a different color from the opponents shirt), shorts, socks, shinguards (which must be completely covered by the socks) and approved footwear. Thermal undershorts are permitted if they are the same color as the primary color of the shorts. All members of the team must wear the same color shirt, shorts and socks, except the goalie who must wear, at least, a short of a different color from their team, the opposing team and the referees.

Law 3 - The Number of Players

This law describes the minimum (7) and maximum (11) number of players permitted on a soccer team for full competitions. The number is adjusted for youth games. In addition the requirements for substitutions are defined. In general, substitutions may only be made during a stoppage in play (in youth games this may be done after a goal, on your own goal kick or at half time) and only with the permission of the referee. If a goalkeeper is changed at halftime, they must report to the referee.New Line

Law 2 - The Ball

This law describes the criteria for the ball used in the game. In general, the ball must be round, made of leather or other ;suitable" material (suitability is determined by FIFA). The size and the minimum and maximum air pressure required for the ball are also described. Once again the dimensions of the ball are modified for youth players.New Line

Law 1 - Field of Play

This law describes the minimum and maximum dimensions of the field of play (or pitch)-See diagram below. In general the field must be not less than 100 yards nor more than 130 yards in length, and not less than 50 yards nor more than 100 yards in length. This is of course modified for youth games. In addition, the law describes the goal area, the penalty area, corner flags, corner arcs and the size a security of the goals themselves.

Laws of the Game

The game of soccer is governed by an organization known as FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). This organization is responsible for maintaining, among other things, the rules of the game. The rules are broken down into 17 laws. Click on the FIFA logo for more information on the Laws of the Game.This page is a collection of articles written by Stu Gentry, a long time HSA coach and referee, summarizing the rules. These articles first appeared in the HSA newsletter in 2002