When the Club Football season starts this weekend, you might notice a change during kickoff. The International Football Association Board – [IFAB], the organization that governs the rules of ‘The Beautiful Game’ have made some changes to the Laws of the Game. These rule changes came into effect on the 1st of June, 2016, and apply to Association Club Football and all football competitions organized by FIFA.
You can download the entire Laws of the Game in PDF format here. The PDF document includes some of the 2016-2017 changes that I will highlight below.
- Teams no longer have to make a forward pass to get the match under way. The updated rule states: The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves. This change means an attacking player does not have to stand in the opponents’ half (which is not permitted) to receive the ball. The ball must clearly move to stop the practice of a player just touching the ball and then pretending the kick was not taken.
- A match may not start/continue if a team has fewer than seven players.
- Substitutes may take a restart but must first step onto the field.
This change means that a substitute who steps onto the field of play can then take any restart, including a corner kick or throw-in; some wrongly interpreted the ‘old’ wording as requiring play to be restarted before a substitute can take a restart.
- Clarifies situation when a player is sent off before/after kick-off.
A player cannot be named on the team list if he is sent off before submission of the team sheets. If the player is sent off after submission of the team sheets, but before kickoff, he can be replaced by a named substitute. If the player is sent off after the start of the match, he cannot be replaced.
- Direct Free Kick (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 the referee has restarted play the goal stands and the match continues.
- Decisions can not be changed if the play is restarted or if the referee has left the field (Half Time+Full Time).
- If several offenses occur at the same time, the most serious offense is punished.
This change means it does not matter if it is one or several players or if the offending players are from one team. The most serious offense should be penalized.
- A referee can send a player off from the time of the pre-match pitch inspection onward.
This change means that a team can be down a player before the start of the match. If there is a fight in the tunnel or during warm-ups, the referee should prevent the offending players from taking part in the match.
- The referee can only use Red Card + Yellow Card after entering the field at the start of the match.
- Players injured by Red Card/Yellow Card fouls can be quickly assessed/ treated and stay on
This change means that if a player is injured by a bookable offense and is quickly treated on the field, the player is no longer required to exit the field of play before resuming action. It was viewed as unfair that an injured player had to leave the field, giving the offending team a numerical advantage.
Determining the Outcome of a Match
- Kicks from the penalty mark:
The referee will toss a coin to choose the goal (unless weather, safety, etc.).
This change means that after the goal has been selected to take penalty kicks by a coin toss, it can only be changed for reasons relating to pitch conditions or player safety.
- Player temporarily off the field (e.g. injured) at final whistle can take part.
This change means that if a player temporarily leaves the field of play at the final whistle because of injury or to make adjustments to his equipment. He is still allowed to take part in the penalty kicks.
- Both teams must have the same number of players before and during the kicks
- A clear statement of when a kick is over.
- Penalty Kicks not delayed if a player leaves the field; if not back in time penalty kick is forfeited.
This change means that if a player leaves the field for whatever reason and does not return in a timely fashion, his penalty kick will be forfeited. This change is necessary to stop any potential misconduct such as receiving instructions or possible match fixing.
- Halfway line ‘neutral’ for offside; the player must be in opponents’ half.
- Players’ arms not considered when judging offside position (including
- Offside Free Kick is always taken where the offense occurs (even in own half).
- Defender off the field only ‘active’ until defending team clears ball or
- As above for attacker returning; before that re-entry point is the offside position.
Fouls and Misconduct
- Foul with contact is a Direct Free Kick.
- Advantage for a Red Card – Indirect Free Kick if offender then gets involved in play.
This change means there will be no advantage played for serious offenses or violent conduct unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal. However, if the offending player becomes involved the play must be stopped, the player sent off, and an Indirect Free Kick awarded.
- Change of wording for handball so that not every handball is a Yellow Card.
For starters, a player will no longer be given a Yellow Card for preventing the opponent from gaining possession with his hands. A Yellow Card will be given when a player uses his hands to prevent a promising attack. A player will also receive a Yellow Card if he unsuccessfully tries to prevent a goal scoring opportunity with his hands.
- Some ‘Denial of Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity’ – [DOGSO] offenses in the penalty area are punished with a Yellow Card.
This change means that not all DOGSO offenses will result in a Red Card. If a player is denied a clear goalscoring opportunity in the penalty area, the offending player will be given a Yellow Card and the offended team awarded a penalty.
- Attempted violent conduct is a Red Card, even if no contact.
- Striking on head/face when not challenging an opponent is a Red Card (unless
- Offense against substitutes, team officials, match officials etc. is now a Direct Free Kick.
- Foul off the field penalized with a direct Free Kick on boundary line (penalty in own penalty area).