FIFA: Rules Of The Game For 2016/2017 Season.

As the 2016/2017 kicks off, the world football governing body has released a list of new laws to be observed. Most of these latest additions to the Rules of the Game will, no doubts, surprise most football fans.

Number of players:

A match is played by two teams, each with a maximum of eleven players; one must be the goalkeeper.

A match may not start or continue if either team has fewer than seven players. If a team has fewer than seven players because one or more players has deliberately left the field of play, the referee is not obliged to stop play and the advantage may be played, but the match must not resume after the ball has gone out of play if a team does not have the minimum number of seven players.

If the competition rules state that all players and substitutes must be named before kick-off and a team starts a match with fewer than eleven players, only the players and substitutes named in the starting line-up may take part in the match upon their arrival.

Number of substitutions: (Official competitions)

A maximum of three substitutes may be used in any match played in an official competition organised under the auspices of FIFA, confederations or national football associations. The competition rules must state how many substitutes may be named, from three to a maximum of twelve.

Other matches In national “A” team matches, a maximum of six substitutes may be used.

In all other matches, a greater number of substitutes may be used provided that:

• the teams reach agreement on a maximum number

• the referee is informed before the match. If the referee is not informed, or if no agreement is reached before the match, each team is allowed a maximum of six substitutes.

Return substitutions: The use of return substitutions is only permitted in the lowest levels (grassroots/recreational) of football, subject to the agreement of the national football association.

Substitution procedure:

The names of the substitutes must be given to the referee before the start of the match. Any substitute not named by this time may not take part in the match.

To replace a player with a substitute, the following must be observed:

• the referee must be informed before any substitution is made

• the player being substituted receives the referee’s permission to leave the field of play, unless already off the field

• the player being replaced is not obliged to leave at the halfway line and takes no further part in the match, except where return substitutions are permitted

• if a player who is to be replaced refuses to leave, play continues.

The substitute only enters: • during a stoppage in play • at the halfway line • after the player being replaced has left • after receiving a signal from the referee

The substitution is completed when a substitute enters the field of play; from that moment, the substitute becomes a player and the replaced player becomes a substituted player.

Changing the goalkeeper:

Any of the players may change places with the goalkeeper if:

• the referee is informed before the change is made

• the change is made during a stoppage in play

Extra persons on the field of play:

The coach and other officials named on the team list (with the exception of players or substitutes) are team officials. Anyone not named on the team list as a player, substitute or team official is an outside agent.

If a team official, substitute, substituted or sent off player or outside agent enters the field of play the referee must:

• only stop play if there is interference with play

• have the person removed when play stops

• take appropriate disciplinary action

If play is stopped and the interference was by:

• a team official, substitute, substituted or sent off player, play restarts with a direct free kick or penalty kick

• an outside agent, play restarts with a dropped ball

If a ball is going into the goal and the interference does not prevent a defending player playing the ball, the goal is awarded if the ball enters the goal (even if contact was made with the ball) unless the ball enters the opponents’ goal.

Goal scored with an extra person on the field of play:

If, after a goal is scored, the referee realises, before play restarts, an extra person was on the field of play when the goal was scored:

• the referee must disallow the goal if the extra person was:

• a player, substitute, substituted player, sent off player or team official of the team that scored the goal

• an outside agent who interfered with play unless a goal results as outlined above in ‘extra persons on the field of play’

Play is restarted with a goal kick, corner kick or dropped ball.

• the referee must allow the goal if the extra person was:

• a player, substitute, substituted player, sent off player or team official of the team that conceded the goal

• an outside agent who did not interfere with play

In all cases, the referee must have the extra person removed from the field of play.

If, after a goal is scored and play has restarted, the referee realises an extra person was on the field of play when the goal was scored, the goal can not be disallowed.

If the extra person is still on the field the referee must:

• stop play

• have the extra person removed

• restart with a dropped ball or free kick as appropriate

The referee must report the incident to the appropriate authorities.

Team captain:

The team captain has no special status or privileges but has a degree of responsibility for the behaviour of the team.


A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous. All items of jewellery (necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, leather bands, rubber bands, etc.) are forbidden and must be removed. Using tape to cover jewelry is not permitted.

The players must be inspected before the start of the match and substitutes before they enter the field of play.

If a player is wearing or using unauthorised/ dangerous equipment or jewellery the referee must order the player to:

• remove the item

• leave the field of play at the next stoppage if the player is unable or unwilling to comply

A player who refuses to comply or wears the item again must be cautioned.

Decisions of the referee:

Decisions will be made to the best of the referee`s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’ and will be based on the opinion of the referee who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game.

The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.

The referee may not change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signaled the end of the first or second half (including extra time) and left the field of play or terminated the match.

If a referee is incapacitated, play may continue under the supervision of the other match officials until the ball is next out of play.

Pre-match red cards:

It will now be possible to get a red card before the match starts

Referees will be able to give a player a red card before the match kicks off. This allows officials to punish red-card offences (e.g. violent conduct) in the warm-up or as the two teams line up in the tunnel.

The new law states a player may be sent off any time between the pre-match inspection and when the referee leaves the field at the end of the game.

An end to the ‘triple-punishment law’

Players may only receive a yellow card if they concede a penalty

The previous ‘triple-punishment’ law meant a player who denied a goal-scoring opportunity in the box was automatically red-carded and handed a suspension, as well as giving away a penalty.

The law has now been changed so players committing accidental fouls that deny goal-scoring opportunities in the penalty area will not be automatically sent off, with a yellow card sufficient punishment.

As the amendment states: “When a denial of a goalscoring opportunity offence is committed by a defender in the penalty area, the penalty kick effectively restores the goalscoring opportunity so the punishment for the player should be less strong (e.g. a yellow card) than when the offence is committed outside the penalty area. However, when the offence is handball or clearly not a genuine attempt to play or challenge for the ball, the player will be sent off.”

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