What are The 17 Rules of Football?

what are the 17 rules of football

Football is a sport that is popular all around the globe. A game that saw its growth in England is now being played in more than 200 countries. Just like every other sport, this super popular sport also has a set of rules that every player must maintain and respect. These set of rules are dubbed, “Laws of the Game”. 

The Football Association was established back in 1863 and that is when these rules started to see the light and became official. However, since then the law has changed quite a bit and there have been new rules and regulations that were added to the list. Today we are here to discuss these rules so you can have a better understanding of the game! 

The Laws of the Game

Ever since 1886 the International Football Association Board, also known as IFAB, has made sure these rules are strictly maintained. This ensures that the game is fair and enjoyable for everyone. Listed below are the 17 rules of the sport:

  1. The Playing Field

This is the rule that sets both the markings and the dimensions of the football field, also referred to as a football pitch or a soccer pitch. Usually the pitch is made up of either artificial grass or natural grass. There are however some recreational games that are held on dirt surfaces. The shape of the field has to be rectangular. The two long touch lines and the short goal lines must be marked distinctly. The halfway line divides the field into two halves and this is extended from the midpoint of each of the touch lines. The center point of the field is at the middle of the halfway line and this is encircled by a 10 yard radius circle. Opposition players are not allowed inside the circle during the kickoff of a team. Moreover, the touchline’s length needs to more than the goal line.

  1. The Ball

The football or the soccer ball needs to be made with leather or any other similar medium. It also needs to be of a spherical shape. This is a rule that only applies to official matches since there are many youth matches that use a smaller ball since it is easier for children to adapt to. 

  1. Player Numbers

A football match is played by 2 separate teams with 11 players in each team, this also includes the goalkeeper. The match is automatically forfeited if any team is unable to have at least seven players on the field at a time. There are only three substitutions that are allowed in matches sanctioned by FIFA themselves. For youths, the rules are easier. 

  1. The Equipment

It is mandatory for every player on the field to have their shorts, cleats, socks, jersey, and shin guard on. The shin guards need to be completely covered by the socks. A referee can send off any player till they solve their issue if the equipment of the player is deemed unsatisfactory.

  1. Referee

The referee is practically the acting authority present on the field, and it is important to keep in mind that the referee’s word is the same as the law. 

  1. Referee Assistants

Assistant referees are people who are responsible for helping out the referee with things such as signaling for offside, foul, etc.

  1. Match Duration

A football match is played for a total of 90 minutes with two 45-minute halves. According to the discretion of the referee, extra time is also added. The half-time period is what separates the two halves and this period cannot be longer than 15 minutes. 

  1. The Start and The Restart

A coin toss is usually used to decide the kickoff where the winning team gets to either choose the goal they want to attack or start the game with the ball. The center of the halfway line is where the kickoff is taken. Kickoff happens after each goal and also at the start of each of the halves. In order to restart the match when a team scores a goal, the opposite team gets the ball to kick-off. 

  1. Ball Going In and Out of Play

When the ball is fully and completely out of either the touchline or the goal line, it is out of play. If the game is stopped by the referee for a reason, the ball is out of play. It is in play if the ball is still within the lines after hitting the frame of the goal or the referee.

  1. Scoring Method

When a ball has completely crossed the goal line that is inside the goal frame then it counts as a goal. The team with the most goals wins the game and there is no need for any extra time. 

  1. Offside

When in the half of the opposition team, the attacking player cannot receive the ball if he is not behind the defender who is second to last. The attacking player needs to at least be at the same level as the defender that is second to last, last usually being the goalkeeper. Keep in mind that this rule only applies when the player is in play. 

  1. Misconducts and Fouls

A foul takes place when a player is responsible for violating game rules which disrupts the game flow. As a result, a free kick is awarded to the opposition team. 

When the referee deems that an action of a player is deserving of disciplinary action, that is known as misconduct. As a consequence, the player may be given a severe warning (yellow card), or expelled from the field (red card). A player that the referee has sent off is not able to be substituted again. 

  1. Free Kicks

There are two different types of free kicks:

  • Indirect Free Kick: These free kicks are given to the opposition for non-penal fouls or when the game is paused to caution a player. 
  • Direct Free Kick: These are free kicks that are awarded to the opposition following an actual foul. 
  1. Penalty Kick

When there is a foul that takes place inside of the penalty area of the opponent, a penalty kick is awarded to the attacking team.

  1. Throw In

When the ball goes out of play from the touchlines a throw-in is awarded. The opposition team gets the throw-in depending on the last player to have touched the ball before it went out of play.

  1. Goal Kick

Goal kicks happen when the ball goes out of play from the goal line after it was touched last by a player of the attacking team without it being a goal. A goal kick is taken by the goalkeeper. 

  1. Corner Kick

When the ball goes out of play from the goal line after touching a defender without it being a goal, a corner kick is awarded to the attacking team.


If you are a true fan of football or enjoy playing it, then you need to remember all of these rules. These 17 rules are the same for everyone and it can help you to understand what is happening in a game and how to play according to the rules. We hope this was helpful to you and you learned something new!