Players, Equipment And Officials

Each team consists of a maximum of eleven players
(excluding substitutes), one of whom must be the
goalkeeper. Competition rules may state a minimum number
of players required to constitute a team; this is
usually seven. Goalkeepers are the only players allowed
to play the ball with their hands or arms, but they are
only allowed to do so within the penalty area in front
of their own goal. Though there are a variety of
positions in which the outfield (non-goalkeeper) players
are strategically placed by a manager or coach, these
positions are not defined or required by the Laws.

The basic equipment players are required to wear
includes a shirt, shorts, socks, footwear and adequate
shin guards. Players are forbidden to wear or use
anything that is dangerous to themselves or another
player (including jewelry or watches). The goalkeeper
must wear clothing that is easily distinguishable from
that worn by the other players and the match officials.

A number of players may be replaced by substitutes
during the course of the game. The maximum number of
substitutions permitted in most competitive
international and domestic league games is three, though
the number permitted may be varied in other leagues or
in friendly matches. Common reasons for a substitution
include injury, tiredness, ineffectiveness, a tactical
switch, or as a defensive ploy to use up a little time
at the end of a finely poised game. In standard adult
matches, a player who has been substituted may not take
further part in the match.

A game is officiated by a referee, who has “full
authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection
with the match to which he has been appointed” (Law 5),
and whose decisions are final. The referee is assisted
by two assistant referees. In many high-level games
there is also a fourth official (and in the world cup a
fifth official), who assist(s) the referee and may
replace another official should the need arise.

Playing Field

Standard Pitch Measurements

Due to the original formulation of the Laws in England
and the early supremacy of the four British football
associations within IFAB, the standard dimensions of a
football pitch were originally expressed in imperial
units. The Laws now express dimensions with approximate
metric equivalents (followed by traditional units in
brackets), though popular use tends to continue to use
traditional units.

The length of the rectangular field (pitch) specified
for international adult matches is in the range 100-110m
(110-120 yards) and the width is in the range 65-75m
(70-80 yards). Fields for non-international matches may
be 100-130 yards length and 50-100 yards in width. The
longer boundary lines are touchlines or sidelines, while
the shorter boundaries (on which the goals are placed)
are goal lines. On the goal line at each end of the
field a rectangular goal is centered. The inner edges of
the vertical goal posts must be 8 yards (7.32m) apart,
and the lower edge of the horizontal crossbar supported
by the goal posts must be 8 feet (2.44m) above the
ground. Nets are usually placed behind the goal, but are
not required by the Laws.

In front of each goal is an area of the field known as
the penalty area (colloquially “penalty box”, “18 yard
box” or simply “the box”). This area is marked by the
goal-line, two lines starting on the goal-line 18 yards
(16.5m) from the goalposts and extending 18 yards into
the pitch perpendicular to the goal-line, and a line
joining them. This area has a number of functions, the
most prominent being to mark where the goalkeeper may
handle the ball and where a penal foul by a defender
becomes punishable by a penalty kick.

The field has other field markings and defined areas;
these are described in the main article above.

Duration And Tie-Breaking Methods

A standard adult football match consists of two periods
of 45 minutes each, known as halves. There is usually a
15-minute “half-time”. The end of the match is known as

The referee is the official timekeeper for the match,
and may make an allowance for time lost through
substitutions, injured players requiring attention, or
other stoppages. This added time is commonly referred to
as stoppage time or injury time. The amount of time is
at the sole discretion of the referee, and the referee
alone signals when the match has been completed. In
matches where a fourth official is appointed, toward the
end of the half the referee will signal how many minutes
remain to be played, and the fourth official then
signals this to players and spectators by holding up a
board showing this number.

In league competitions games may end in a draw, but in
some knockout competitions if a game is tied at the end
of regulation time it may go into extra time, which
consists of two further 15-minute periods. If the score
is still tied after extra time, some competitions allow
the use of penalty shootouts (known officially in the
Laws of the Game as “kicks from the penalty mark”) to
determine which team will progress to the next stage of
the tournament. Goals scored during extra time periods
count toward the final score of the game, but kicks from
the penalty mark are only used to decide the team that
progresses to the next part of the tournament (with
goals scored in a penalty shootout not making up part of
the final score).

Competitions held over two legs (in which each team
plays at home once) may use the away goals rule to
attempt to determine which team progresses in the event
of an equal aggregate score line. If the result is still
equal following this calculation kicks from the penalty
mark are usually required, though some competitions may
require a tied game to be replayed.

In the late 1990s, the IFAB experimented with ways of
making matches more likely to end without requiring a
penalty shootout, which was often seen as an undesirable
way to end a match. These involved rules ending a game
in extra time early, either when the first goal in extra
time was scored (golden goal), or if one team held a
lead at the end of the first period of extra time
(silver goal). Golden goal was used at the World Cup in
1998 (France) and 2002 (Japan-South Korea). The first
World Cup game decided by a golden goal was France’s
victory over Paraguay in 1998. In Euro 1996, Germany was
the first nation to score a golden goal in a major
competition, beating Czech Republic in the final. Silver
goal was used in Euro 2004 (Portugal). Both these
experiments have been discontinued by IFAB.

Ball In And Out Of Play

Under the Laws, the two basic states of play during a
game are ball in play and ball out of play. From the
beginning of each playing period with a kick-off (a set
kick from the centre-spot by one team) until the end of
the playing period, the ball is in play at all times,
except when either the ball leaves the field of play, or
play is stopped by the referee. When the ball becomes
out of play, play is restarted by one of eight restart
methods, the method used depending on the reason for the
ball going out of play:

  • Kick-off: following a goal by the opposing team, or to
    begin each period of play.

  • Throw-in: when the ball has wholly crossed the
    touchline; awarded to opposing team to that which last
    touched the ball.

  • Goal kick: when the ball has wholly crossed the goal
    line without a goal having been scored and having last
    been touched by an attacker; awarded to defending

  • Corner kick: when the ball has wholly crossed the goal
    line without a goal having been scored and having last
    been touched by a defender; awarded to attacking team.

  • Indirect free kick: awarded to the opposing team
    following “non-penal” fouls, certain technical
    infringements, or when play is stopped to
    caution/send-off an opponent without a specific foul
    having occurred.

  • Direct free kick: awarded to fouled team following
    certain listed “penal” fouls.

  • Penalty kick: awarded to the fouled team following a
    “penal” foul occurring in their opponent’s penalty

  • Dropped-ball: occurs when the referee has stopped play
    for any other reason (e.g., a serious injury to a
    player, interference by an external party, or a ball
    becoming defective). This restart is uncommon in adult

Players are cautioned with a yellow card

Players are sent off with a red card


Fouls And Misconduct

A foul occurs when a player commits a specific offence
listed in the Laws of the Game when the ball is in play.
The offences that constitute a foul are listed in Law
12. Handling the ball, tripping an opponent, or pushing
an opponent, are examples of “penal fouls”, punishable
by a direct free kick or penalty kick depending on where
the offence occurred. Other fouls are punishable by an
indirect free kick.

The referee may punish a player or substitute’s
misconduct by a caution (yellow card) or sending-off
(red card). Misconduct may occur at any time, and while
the offences that constitute misconduct are listed, the
definitions are broad. In particular, the offence of
“unsporting behavior” may be used to deal with most
events that violate the spirit of the game, even if they
are not listed as specific offences.

Rather than stopping play, the referee may allow play to
continue when its continuation will benefit the team
against which an offence has been committed. This is
known as “playing an advantage”. The referee may “call
back” play and penalize the original offence if the
anticipated advantage does not ensue within a short
period of time, typically taken to be four to five
seconds. Even if an offence is not penalized because the
referee plays an advantage, the offender may still be
sanctioned for any associated misconduct at the next
stoppage of play.

The offside law effectively limits the ability of
attacking players to remain forward (i.e. closer to the
opponent’s goal-line) of both the ball and the
second-last defending

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