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Summary of Changes to the 2016 Laws of the Game: the Official Soccer Rules

Posted by Jason Sholl on April 19, 2016

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) have published the latest changes to the 2016/2017 Laws of the Game, the official rules for soccer around the world. The ultimate aim of revising the LOTG is " increase the universality of the Laws by making them easily understood so football throughout the world benefits from consistent interpretation and application."

Overall, more than 10,000 words have been removed from the Law and Interpretations sections. The major areas of change include:

  • A more simple structure: Law and Interpretation have been combined - all information for each Law is now in the same place and not in 2 different parts of the Law book 
  • Updated titles: some of the Laws have been renamed to reflect the modern game; e.g. Law 6 -­‐ The Assistant Referees has become The Other Match Officials
  • Language and phraseology: the vocabulary has been reduced, unnecessary words and repetitions have been removed, contradictions have been resolved
  • Updated content: many changes were needed for the Laws to be able to deal with modern football; e.g. use of synthetic/artificial surfaces, drinks breaks for health reasons in hot weather

Download the 2016-2017 Laws of the Game

Summary of Law Changes

Law 1: The Field of Play
  • Logos/emblems of FAs, competitions etc... are allowed on corner flags (but no advertising)

  • No changes

LAW 3: THE Players
  • 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
  • Law 5 now allows the referee to send a player off before the kick-off (from the pre-match inspection of the field of play onwards) and in terms of the player being replaced, a player sent off:
    • before the team list has been submitted -­ can not appear on team list in any capacity
    • after team list submitted but before kick-off — can be replaced by named substitute (who can not be replaced; team may still make full number of substitutions as is the current Law)
    • after the kick-off - can not be replaced
  • Direct FK (or penalty) if a substitute/team official/sent off player interferes with play
  • If something/someone (other than a player) touches a ball going into the goal, the referee can award the goal if the ball goes in the goal and the touch had no impact on the defenders (unless in opponents’ goal)
  • If a goal is scored with an extra person on the field and referee has restarted play, the goal stands and the match continues

  • Any tape or other material on/covering socks must be same color as the sock (photos below show what will no longer be permitted)


  • A player losing footwear or shinguard accidentally can play on until next stoppage
  • Electronic communication with substitutes is forbidden
  • Player can return during play after changing/correcting equipment, once equipment has been checked (by referee, 4th official, AR or AAR) and referee signals
  • Undershorts must be color of shorts or hem; team must all wear same color

    Player on left may wear black or light green undershorts/tights but the whole team must wear same color:


LAW 5: The referee
  • Clear statement about referee’s opinion and discretion
  • Reference to the ‘spirit of the game’
  • Referee can not change a decision once play has restarted or the referee has left the field of play at the end of the half
  • If several offences occur at the same time the most serious is punished. Order of seriousness:
    • Disciplinary sanction (RC more serious than YC etc…)
    • Direct FK more serious than Indirect FK
    • Physical offense (foul) more serious than non-­‐physical (handball)
    • Tactical impact
  • Referee can ‘send off’ a player from pre­‐match pitch inspection, onwards (see Law 3)
  • Referee can only use RC + YC after entering the field of play at the start of the match
  • Player injured by RC/YC foul can be quickly assessed/treated and stay on field (detailed advice in Practical Guidelines section)
  • Reference to equipment referees can and cannot use
  • Diagrams of referee signals included

LAW 6: THE Other Match Officials
  • More details about the usual duties of the assistants, AARs and 4th official
  • If AARs have been appointed, at a penalty kick the AR takes a position in line with the penalty mark (ball) as this is the offside line
  • Diagrams of assistant referee and AAR signals included

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 were mentioned)
  • Ball must clearly move to be in play for all kicked restarts
  • Referee can not 'manufacture' outcome of a dropped ball
  • Ball can be kicked in any direction at kick­‐off:

    Referees must make sure that players are in their own half as now there is no need for one to be in the opposing half


LAW 9: The Ball in and out of Play
  • If a ball rebounds off any match official, it is in play unless it wholly passes over the boundary line (this includes AARs)

Law 10: Determining the Outcome of a Match
  • Kicks from the penalty mark:
    • Referee will toss a coin to choose the goal (unless there are weather, field of play, safety considerations etc…)
    • Coin will be tossed a 2nd time to determine who takes the first kick
    • Goalkeeper can be replaced at any time
    • Player temporarily off the field (e.g. injured) at the final whistle can take part
    • Both teams must have same number of players before and during the kicks
    • Referee does not need to know the names/numbers or the order of kickers
    • A kick is over/completed when it goes over a boundary line or stops moving (including held by GK) (See Law 14)
    • Kicks are not delayed if a player leaves the field; if the player is not back in time their kick is forfeited (missed)

Law 11: Offside
  • Halfway line 'neutral' for offside; player must be in opponents' half
  • Arms of all players (including goalkeepers) are not considered when judging offside position
  • Offside position, not offense, judged at the moment the ball is played
  • Offside FK is always taken where the offside offense occurs (even in own half)
  • Interfering with an opponent after a save or rebound is an offense
  • A defender off the field is only 'active' until play stops or the defending team clears the ball away from their penalty area towards the halfway line
  • Same for attacker returning; before that the player’s point of return to the field of play is the offside position
  • If a goal is scored, an attacking player in the goal can be penalised for an offside offence

Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct
  • If a foul involves contact it is always a direct FK
  • If the referee plays advantage for a RC offence and the offending player then gets involved in play it is an IDFK
  • Change of wording for handball so that not every handball is a YC -- YC for handball now linked to stopping/interfering with a promising attack (like other fouls)
  • Attempted violent conduct is a RC, even if no contact
  • Striking on head/face when not challenging an opponent is a RC unless the contact is minimal/negligible
  • Offense on the field against substitutes, team officials, match officials etc... is now a direct FK
  • Foul off the field as part of normal play will be penalised with a direct FK on the boundary line at the point nearest to the offence (penalty kick if in offender’s own penalty area)
  • Some DOGSO offences in the penalty area are now punished with a YC.
  • RC remains for: handball, holding, pulling, pushing, not attempting or no possibility to play the ball
  • New Wording:
    • "Where a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-­‐scoring opportunity by a deliberate handball offence the player is sent off wherever the offence occurs.

      Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-­‐scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned unless:

      • The offence is holding, pulling or pushing or
      • The offending player does not attempt to play the ball or there is no possibility for the player making the challenge to play the ball or
      • The offence is one which is punishable by a red card wherever it occurs on the field of play (e.g. serious foul play, violent conduct etc..)

      In all the above circumstances the player is sent off."

Law 13: Free Kicks
  • Clarification of the difference between 'stopping' a FK being taken and 'intercepting' the ball after FK has been taken
  • Ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves

Law 14: The Penalty Kick
  • Clear statement of when a PK is over/completed
  • Some offences are always an IDFK whether or not the PK results in a goal:
    • Indirect FK if wrong player deliberately takes the penalty (+ YC to player who took the kick)
    • Indirect FK if ball kicked backwards
    • If 'illegal' feinting occurs it is always an indirect FK (and YC to the kicker)
  • If the GK infringes and the PK is missed/re-‐taken the GK will now receive a YC

Law 15: The Throw-In
  • New wording makes it clear that the ball must be thrown with both hands
  • Clarification of action to be taken when a player moves within 2m (2 yds) of the throw-‐in and interferes

Law 16: The Goal Kick
  • The ball must be stationary! (current Law does not require this!)
  • If a goal kick is kicked into the kicker’s own goal it is a corner kick to opponents
  • An opponent who is in the penalty area when the goal kick is taken can not play the ball until touched by another player

Law 17: The Corner Kick
  • If a corner kick is kicked into the kicker’s own goal it is a corner kick to opponents

That's it for the summary of the 2016/2017 changes! Be sure to pickup your digital copy of the 2016/2017 Laws of the Game from us! All these changes go into effect on June 1, 2016.

Share with your referee buddies and let players know of these significant updates coming to the game!

Download the 2016-2017 Laws of the Game

Laws of the Game