The 17 Basic Rules of Football/Soccer

Football, some call it soccer, is the most popular sport in the world, played and watched in every country of the world. The game works around some very simple rules. They are just 17 in total.

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) has established these rules, known as the Laws of the Game, to ensure that football is played fairly and safely.

In this article, we will explore these basic rules and some other rules that are significant in the game of football. If you prefer understanding them from a video, check out the video below:

17 Rules of Football:

1. The Field of Play

A football ground is a rectangular surface with specific dimensions that must be adhered to. The length of the field should be between 90-120 meters, and the width should be between 45-90 meters.

The field should also have a halfway line, penalty areas, and goal areas.

The penalty area is a rectangular box marked on either side of the field in front of each goal post, and the goal area is a smaller rectangular box marked inside the penalty area.

2. The Ball

The ball used in football is round and made of leather or other suitable materials.

As you saw in the video, footballs come in various sizes, each designed for different purposes and playing conditions. Other than size, the following are the different types of footballs:

  1. Training balls: These balls are used during practice sessions. They are durable and can withstand extended use on various playing surfaces. They are commonly used by players at any level of the game and are more affordable than match balls. They are mostly size 3 balls.
  2. Match Footballs: Matchday footballs are designed for high performance during official games. They are made to meet specific size, weight, and texture regulations set by football authorities. The outer casing is typically made of leather or an approved synthetic material, and they are usually water-resistant. These balls are suitable for all levels of play and age groups.
  3. Professional/Premium Match Footballs: These balls are developed in collaboration with top professional clubs to enhance players’ natural abilities and skills. FIFA approves them for use in professional and international matches. They are designed for superior performance, accuracy, speed, and control. These balls have excellent air retention and water-resistance, and they are suitable for both natural and artificial turf surfaces. However, they are the most expensive type of footballs.
  4. Beach Footballs: As the name suggests, these balls are designed for playing on sandy beaches. They are often softer and lighter to facilitate better control and reduce the impact on players’ feet.
  5. Street Footballs: Street footballs are specifically made for playing on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. They are durable and can withstand the rough conditions of street play.
  6. Indoor Footballs: These balls are meant for use in indoor arenas or smaller courts. They have less bounce and rebound, making it easier to control the ball in limited spaces. The cover of indoor footballs is also strong to withstand the impact on the hard court flooring and walls.
  7. Turf Balls: Turf balls are designed for artificial surfaces that simulate grass. They are durable and reasonably priced, but they may behave differently when used on a natural grass pitch.
  8. Futsal Footballs: Futsal balls have a foam-filled bladder, making them heavier and reducing their bounce. They are specifically designed for use on the hard futsal playing surface and are smaller in size compared to regular footballs.
  9. Mini/Skills Footballs: These smaller-sized balls are perfect for practicing and improving ball control and technical skills.
  10. Promotional Balls: These balls are often created to promote a particular brand, organization, or event.

3. The Number of Players

According to the laws of the game, each team must have exactly 11 players on the field, including one designated as the goalkeeper.

The goalkeeper is the only player allowed to use their hands or arms within their penalty area, but only when attempting to save a shot on goal or when it comes off a header from their own teammate or a pass that is made with any part of the body other than the leg.

4. The Referee

The role of the referee in soccer is critical to maintaining fair play and ensuring that the game is played within the Laws of the Game.

The referee is responsible for enforcing the rules and controlling the game.

He is the final authority on all decisions, and their decisions are binding and non-negotiable.

The referee is also responsible for maintaining order on the field. They have the power to stop the game if necessary, such as in the case of a serious injury or extreme weather conditions.

The referee can also award free kicks or penalties for fouls committed by players, as well as issue yellow or red cards for misconduct.

A yellow card is given as a warning for minor offenses, and a red card is given for more serious offenses, such as violent conduct or intentionally endangering another player.

A player who receives a red card must leave the field immediately and cannot be replaced by a substitute.

The team must then continue to play with one fewer player for the remainder of the game.

The referee is also responsible for keeping time and signaling the end of each half and the game. They may add extra time at the end of each half to compensate for any stoppages in play, such as injuries or substitutions.

The referee’s decisions are final, and all players and team officials are required to respect them.

Disputes or complaints about the referee’s decisions can result in disciplinary action, including fines or suspensions. Therefore, it is essential that players and team officials demonstrate good sportsmanship and respect for the referee throughout the game.

5. Assistant Referees

In addition to the referee, there are two assistant referees in soccer, also known as linesmen.

Their primary responsibility is to assist the referee in making decisions, particularly in situations where the referee’s view of the play may be obstructed or unclear.

One of the primary duties of the assistant referees is to help with offside decisions.

If an attacking player is in an offside position when the ball is played, the assistant referee raises their flag to signal to the referee and the players that the player is in an offside position.

The referee can then make a decision on whether to award a free kick to the defending team.

Assistant referees also indicate when the ball goes out of play by raising their flag.

If the ball has crossed the touchline, the assistant referee will raise their flag to signal that the ball is out of play.

The referee can then stop play and award a throw-in or a corner kick, depending on which team last touched the ball.

In addition to their primary responsibilities, assistant referees can also help the referee make decisions on fouls, misconduct, and other situations that may require additional input.

They communicate with the referee through a headset and provide information on what they have seen from their position on the touchline.

The assistant referees play an important role in ensuring that the game is played fairly and within the rules.

6. Duration of the Game

The game consists of two halves of 45 minutes each, with a 15-minute break in between. The referee has the power to add extra time at the end of each half to compensate for stoppages in play.

This additional time is known as stoppage time, injury time, or added time.

It is important to note that the clock does not stop during both the normal time and added time.

Instead, the referee will keep track of the time and will signal the end of the game when the added time has elapsed.

If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, it may continue into extra time or a penalty shootout, depending on the rules of the competition.

The duration of the game is a critical factor in soccer, and it is important for players to pace themselves throughout the game to ensure they have the energy and stamina to perform at their best throughout the entire match.

Coaches may also make strategic substitutions during the game to give their players rest or to bring in fresh legs to take advantage of tired opponents.

7. Start and Restart of Play

A kick-off from the middle of the ground starts the game and is used to restart the game after a goal has been scored. The team that wins the coin toss chooses which end to attack and takes the kick-off.

A kick-off is also taken at the start of the second half.

8. Ball In and Out of Play

In soccer, it is essential to determine whether the ball is in play or out of play.

The ball goes out of play when it fully crosses the touchline or goal line, either on the ground or in the air.

This can occur during regular play or from a set-piece, such as a throw-in, corner kick, or goal kick.

If the ball hits the crossbar or posts and remains in play, the game continues.

However, if the ball crosses the goal line between the posts and under the crossbar and it is determined to be a goal, the game will be restarted with a kick-off by the team that conceded the goal.

On the other hand, if the ball crosses the goal line outside of the posts or over the crossbar, it is considered to be out of play, and the game is restarted with a goal kick by the defending team.

When the ball goes out of play by crossing the touchline, the game restarts with a throw-in by the team that did not last touch the ball.

The throw-in takes place from where the ball crossed the touchline, and the player executing the throw-in must have both feet on the ground and throw the ball over their head with both hands.

If the ball goes out of play by crossing the goal line after being last touched by an attacking player, the game restarts with a goal kick by the defending team.

If the ball goes out of play by crossing the goal line after being last touched by a defending player, the game restarts with a corner kick by the attacking team.

9. Method of Scoring

The act of scoring in football is achieved when the ball has entirely crossed the goal line, positioned between the two goalposts and beneath the crossbar. A goal counts as one point, and the team with the most goals at the end of the game wins.

10. Offside

Offside is a crucial rule in soccer that is weird for new football fans but it is designed to prevent unfair play and ensure that attacking players do not gain an unfair advantage over defenders.

A player is deemed to be in an offside position if they are closer to their opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second-last opponent at the moment when the ball is passed to them.

It is important to note that simply being in an offside position is not enough to result in a foul.

A player is only penalized for being offside if they are involved in active play, which means they are interfering with play or interfering with an opponent’s ability to play the ball.

If a player is not involved in active play, they cannot be penalized for being in an offside position.

If a player is deemed to be offside when the ball is passed to them, the referee will award a free kick to the opposing team.

The free kick is taken from the place where the offside infringement occurred, and the opposing team will then have the opportunity to restart play.

The opposing team will also be awarded a free kick if the player who was offside is deemed to have committed any other offense when attempting to play the ball.

Offside can be a complicated rule to understand and implement, but it is an essential aspect of the game that ensures fair play and competitive balance.

Referees and assistant referees are responsible for enforcing the offside rule, and players and coaches must be aware of the rule to ensure that they are not penalized for infringing on it.

11. Fouls and Misconduct

Fouls and misconducts are punished by free-kicks, penalties, or disciplinary action by the referee. The referee can caution a player with a yellow card or send them off the field with a red card, depending on the severity of the offense.

12. Free Kicks

Fouls and misconducts are punished by free-kicks, penalties, or disciplinary action by the referee. The referee can caution a player with a yellow card or send them off the field with a red card, depending on the severity of the offense.

13. Penalty Kicks

A penalty kick is awarded for a foul that occurs inside the penalty area. The kick is taken from a marked spot on the penalty spot, and only the goalkeeper is allowed to defend the goal.

14. Throw-ins

A throw-in is awarded when the ball goes out of bounds on the touchline. The player taking the throw-in must have both feet on the ground and throw the ball with both hands from behind and over their head.

15. Goal Kick

A goal kick is awarded to the defending team when the ball goes over the goal line, and the attacking team’s player was the last to touch it.

16. Corner Kick

A corner kick is awarded to the attacking team when the ball goes over the goal line, and the defending team’s player was the last to touch it.

17. Advantage

The referee may choose to apply the advantage rule, allowing play to continue even if a foul has occurred, as long as the fouled team is not at a disadvantage.

Some other Football Rules:

The ones listed above are the 17 basic rules of football that form the backbone of the game and ensure that the play is carried out fairly, safely, and within the established parameters.

It is essential for players, coaches, and referees to understand and follow these rules to ensure that the game is enjoyed by all.

Below are some of the other rules that are also part of the game. Some of them are strictly a compulsion while other are not. Though all of them are strictly practiced in professional football:

1. Substitutions

Each team is allowed to make a maximum of five substitutions during a game. Additional substitutions are permitted in extra time. Or in case of a concussion case if a player gets a head injury.

The concussion rule is not unique to football. It is applied in many other sports. Especially after the death of Aussie cricketer Philip Hughes:

2. Equipment

The players’ equipment is also specified in the laws of the game. Each player is required to wear a shirt, shorts, socks, and suitable footwear.

The shirt must have sleeves and be of the same color as the rest of the team’s shirts, with the exception of the goalkeeper, who must wear a shirt that is distinguishable from the other players and the referees.

The shorts and socks must also be of the same color as the team’s shirts, and the socks must cover the shin guards, which are mandatory for all players.

Suitable footwear is also required for safety reasons. The footwear must be appropriate for the surface and not have any dangerous elements such as metal studs or blades.

Additionally, all players are required to wear a number on their shirt for identification purposes, which must be between 1 and 99. Any player not wearing the proper equipment, or who is not properly identified, may not be allowed to play by the referees.

3. Handball

A handball occurs when a player deliberately handles the ball, except for the goalkeeper within their penalty area.

4. Yellow and Red Cards

Yellow cards are shown for cautionable offenses, and red cards are shown for serious offenses or after two yellow cards.

5. Extra Time

In knockout competitions, extra time may be played if the scores are level after regular time.

6. Penalty Shootout

If the scores remain level after extra time, a penalty shootout is used to determine the winner.

7. Goalkeeper Rules

The goalkeeper has specific rules, including restrictions on handling the ball outside of their penalty area and on holding the ball for more than six seconds.

8. Throw-ins, Free Kicks, and Corner Kicks

Opposing players must be at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) away from the ball when a throw-in, free kick, or corner kick is taken.

9. The Fourth Official

The fourth official assists the referee with administrative duties and indicates how much additional time will be played at the end of each half.

10. The VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

The VAR system is used to help the referee make decisions on certain situations by reviewing video footage.

11. The Referee’s Whistle

The referee’s whistle is used to signal the start and end of the game, as well as to signal fouls, restarts, and other stoppages in play.

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