Laws of the Game (association football)Laws of the Game (association football)

Laws of the Game (association football)

Laws of the Game (association football)
Laws of the Game (association football)

The Laws of the Game are the written laws that govern association football. The laws specify the number of players a team must have, the length of the game, the size of the field and ball, the type and severity of infractions that referees may penalise, the offside rule, and a variety of other rules that govern the sport. The referee’s job during a game is to interpret and enforce the Laws of the Game.

Various attempts were made in the mid-nineteenth century to codify regulations for various styles of football. The current Laws date back to 1863, when the newly created Football Association legally adopted a set of rules. The Laws have been revised over time, and they have been upheld by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) since 1886.

The Laws are the sole rules of association football that FIFA allows its members to employ. The Laws now allow certain small optional alterations that can be imposed by national football associations, including some for play at the lowest levels, but otherwise practically all organised football globally is played under the same ruleset. During the 1990s, Major League Soccer in the United States used a distinct set of rules.

The Rules of the Game

Law 1: The Field of Play

Law 2: The Ball

Law 3: The Players

Law 4: The Players’ Equipment

Law 5: The Referee

Law 6: The Other Matches Officials

Law 7: Match Duration

Law 8: The Start and Restart of Play Covers the kick-off and dropped-ball; other means of restarting play are governed by other regulations.

Law 9: The Ball in and Out of Play

Law 10: Determining the Outcome of a Match

Law 11: Offside

Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct

Law 13: Free Kicks

Law 14: The Penalty Kick

Law 15: The Throw-in

Law 16: The Goal Kick

Law 17: The Corner Kick

FIFA’s football laws

The current Laws come from 1863, when the newly created Football Association legally adopted a ruleset. The Laws have been revised over time, and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has been in charge of them since 1886. FIFA allows its members to utilise the Laws as the only association football rules.

1863 rules

In 1863, several football teams followed the example of Rugby School by permitting the ball to be carried in the hands, with players authorised to « hack » (kick in the shins) opponents who were carrying the ball. Other clubs prohibited both practises. During the FA meetings to write the initial version of the laws, there was an angry rift between the « hacking » and « non-hacking » clubs. The « hacking » clubs predominated at an FA meeting on November 17, 1863. The initial draught of the Football Association’s laws, drafted by FA secretary Ebenezer Cobb Morley, mirrored this inclination, featuring several aspects that are now considered more akin to rugby than association football.

A second meeting was set to finish the laws. The « hackers » were once again in a tiny majority at this key gathering on November 24. During the conference, however, Morley drew the participants’ attention to a recently published set of football laws from Cambridge University that prohibited carrying and hacking. The discussion of the Cambridge guidelines, as well as recommendations for possible dialogue with Cambridge on the subject, led to push the ultimate « settlement » of the laws to a later meeting on December 1st. Because a handful of MPs who advocated rugby-style football did not attend this further meeting, hacking and carrying were forbidden.

The most notable « hacking » club, Blackheath, accused FA President Arthur Pember, Morley, and his associates of inappropriately handling the 24 November meeting in order to prevent the « pro-hacking » laws from being enacted. Pember categorically refuted any « accusation of ungentlemanly conduct. » Later historians’ judgements have been mixed: Young accuses Campbell of « arrogance, » while Harvey supports Campbell’s charges, accusing non-hackers of staging a « coup » against pro-hacking clubs. As a result of the conflict, Blackheath and the other « hacking » clubs would depart the FA.

The FA agreed, as recorded in Bell’s Life in London on December 8, 1863, that John Lillywhite would print the Laws. Barnes and Richmond drew 0-0 in the first game under the new rules. The laws were not universally accepted by English football clubs. Many people still used the Sheffield Rules. Furthermore, in preference for a more physical game with a higher emphasis on ball handling, numerous players refused to join the FA in its early years, later forming the Rugby Football Union in 1871.

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