The Laws of Football


Football is the world’s most popular sport, with an estimated 250 million players and over 1.3 billion spectators. It is a team sport in which players run, pass and kick a ball around a rectangular field. It is played on official football pitches but can also be played in gymnasiums, streets, school playgrounds and on beaches.

The game is governed by the rules of FIFA, which was founded in 1904 to regulate international football competitions. The seventeen laws – which cover every level of the game from youth and amateur to senior and international – are designed to prevent the game becoming too competitive or stale, while providing a framework for a wide variety of different styles. There are also a number of international decisions and directives that further regulate the game, such as the use of yellow cards in high-level competitions.

Laws of the Game

The main rule of football is that each player has an equal chance to score a goal. The ball is passed between the centre-backs and forwards of each team, who then try to advance it across the opposing team’s goal line to score a point. The defending team may try to prevent this by tackling the ball carrier or defending the field with their own players, who are called ‘linebackers’.

Teams typically have ten outfield players, each of whom has a specific position: defenders, midfielders and forwards. They must be able to play in that position, so that they can provide a secure base for their teammates when they are advancing the ball down the field. They must also be able to move freely when they are not in the position they have been assigned.

A match typically consists of two 45-minute periods, known as halves. A 15-minute break is usually allowed between halves.

Extra time is then played if the scores are still tied after normal time has expired. If this is the case, a penalty shootout takes place where five players from each team attempt to score. If the shootout is won, a winner is declared.

The referee is the chief judge of the game, and his authority to enforce the laws is absolute. He is assisted by one or more assistant referees. In some high-level games, there is also a fourth referee.

Fouls and Discipline

A foul occurs when a player commits an offence that is listed in the Laws of the Game, which is published by FIFA. Fouls include handling the ball, tripping an opponent, feigning being fouled (by diving or by kicking a ball from behind) and pushing an opponent. The offence can be penalized with a direct free kick or a penalty kick depending on where the offence occurred.

Tackling is another common offence, which involves taking the ball away from an opponent by kicking or stopping it with one’s feet. Tackles are often illegal, but they can be used to deter opponents from scoring by giving the defenders an advantage.