Law Changes 2016-17

Summary of amendments:

LAW 1 – The Field of Play

  • Artificial and natural surfaces may not be combined on the field
  • Competitions may determine field size for their competitions (within Law)
  • All commercial advertising on the ground must be at least 1m (1yd) from boundary lines
  • Logos/emblems of FAs, competitions etc. allowed on corner flags (no advertising)


LAW 2 – The Ball



LAW 3 – The Players (new title)

  • A match may not start/continue if a team has fewer than 7 players
  • Substitutes may take a restart but must first step onto the field
  • Clarifies situation when a player is sent off before/after kick-off
  • Direct FK (or penalty) if a substitute/team official interferes with play
  • If something/someone (other than a player) touches a ball as it goes into the goal the referee can award the goal if the touch had no impact on the defenders
  • If a goal is scored with an extra person on the field and referee has restarted play the goal stands and match continues


LAW 4 – The Players’ Equipment

  • Any tape or other material on/covering socks must be same colour as the sock
  • Player losing footwear/shinguard accidentally can play on until next stoppage
  • Undershorts must be colour of shorts or hem; team must all wear same colour
  • Electronic communication with substitutes is forbidden
  • Player can return during play after changing/correcting equipment, once equipment has been checked (by referee, fourth official or AR) and referee signals


LAW 5 – The Referee

  • Decision can not be changed if play restarted or referee has left the field of play
  • If several offences occur at the same time the most serious is punished
  • Referee can send a player off from pre-match pitch inspection onwards
  • Referee can only use RC + YC after entering the field at start of the match
  • Player injured by RC/YC foul can be quickly assessed/treated and stay on field
  • The equipment a referee can or may be allowed to use
  • Diagrams of referee signals included (from Guidelines section)



  • More details about the duties of the assistants, AARs, fourth official
  • Diagrams of assistant referee signals included (from Guidelines section)


LAW 7 – The Duration of the Match

  • More reasons for additional time (e.g. medical drinks breaks)


LAW 8 – The Start and Restart of Play

  • All restarts included (previously only kick-off and dropped ball)
  • Ball must clearly move to be in play for all kicked restarts
  • Ball can be kicked in any direction at kick-off (previously had to go forward)
  • Referee can not ‘manufacture’ outcome of a dropped ball


LAW 9 – The Ball In and Out of Play

  • If a ball rebounds off a match official it is in play unless it wholly passed over a boundary line



Kicks from the penalty mark:

  • Referee will toss a coin to choose the goal (unless weather, safety etc…)
  • Player temporarily off the field (e.g. injured) at final whistle can take part
  • Both teams must have same number of players before and during the kicks
  • Clear statement of when a kick is over
  • Kicks not delayed if player leaves the field; if not back in time kick is forfeited


LAW 11 – Offside

  • Halfway line ‘neutral’ for offside; player must be in opponents’ half
  • Players’ arms not considered when judging offside position (including goalkeeper)
  • Offside FK always taken where offence occurs (even in own half)
  • Defender off the field only ‘active’ until defending team clear ball or play stops
  • As above for attacker returning; before that re-entry point is the offside position


LAW 12 – Fouls and Misconduct

  • Foul with contact is a direct FK
  • Advantage for a RC – indirect FK if offender then gets involved in play
  • Change of wording for handball so that not every handball is a YC
  • Some DOGSO offences in the penalty area are punished with a YC
  • Attempted violent conduct is a RC, even if no contact
  • Striking on head/face when not challenging an opponent is a RC (unless negligible)
  • Offence against substitutes, team officials, match officials etc. is now a direct FK
  • Foul off the field penalised with a direct FK on boundary line (penalty in own penalty area)


LAW 13 – Free kicks

  • Difference between ‘stopping’ a FK and ‘intercepting’ the ball after FK taken


LAW 14 – The Penalty Kick

  • Indirect FK + YC if wrong player deliberately takes the penalty
  • Indirect FK if ball kicked backwards
  • If ‘illegal’ feinting occurs it is always an indirect FK (and YC)
  • Goalkeeper YC if infringes and the PK is retaken



  • New wording makes it clear that ball must be thrown with both hands


LAW 16– The Goal Kick 

  • If GK kicked into own goal it is a corner kick to opponents
  • An opponent in the penalty area when the goal kick is taken can not play the ball first



  • If CK kicked into own goal it is a corner kick to opponents


Background to the current Law revision

The authority for the current revision of the Laws of the Game is found in the minutes of the 127th, 128th and 129th AGMs. The TSC started work in autumn 2014 and the minutes of the 129th AGM on 28th February 2015 record that: “(…) the aim of the revision is to make the Laws of the Game more accessible and more easily understood by everyone in football and increase consistency of understanding, interpretation and application.

The revision has focussed on making the Laws appropriate for the modern game at all levels. The major areas of change are:

  • More simple structure – Law and Law Interpretation have been combined so all the information for each Law is in the same place.


  • Updated titles – some Laws have been renamed to reflect their content and allow inclusion of text not previously assigned to a Law e.g. Law 6: ‘The Assistant Referees’ has become ‘The Other Match Officials’ to allow inclusion of Fourth Officials, Additional Assistant Referees etc.


  • English and phraseology – unnecessary words have been removed and a more consistent use of words and phrases makes the Laws more readable, helps translation and reduces confusion and misunderstandings. Contradictions and unnecessary repetitions have been removed. The Laws are now ‘gender neutral’, reflecting the importance of women in football today.


  • Updated content – some changes bring the Laws up to date with modern football e.g. the increased number of substitutes


Two important ‘new’ sections have been introduced:

  • Law changes explained – this section gives the ‘old’ text, the ‘new’ text and an explanation for each Law change
  • Glossary – this is a list of definitions of important words/phrases which are sometimes misunderstood and/or difficult to translate

The IFAB believes that this revision makes the Laws of the Game more accessible and more easily understood by everyone involved or interested in football. This should lead to increased consistency of understanding, interpretation and application so there are fewer disputes and controversies resulting from conflicting interpretations.


The IFAB acknowledges with grateful thanks the work on this revision by the Technical Subcommittee.