Laws of the Game (1863) (draft)

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For works with similar titles, see Laws of the Game.
The Laws of the Game  (1863) 
by the Football Association

The first proposed set of laws for association football, drawn up by the Football Association's secretary E. C. Morley on the basis of the resolutions agreed on the meetings of 10 and 17 November 1863, and introduced at the FA meeting of 24 November 1863. These laws, which are strikingly different from modern association football, allow both "hacking" the shins of opponents and rugby-style running with the ball. The laws were heavily modified, under the influence of the so-called "Cambridge" rules published on November 21st, before being adopted on December 8th.[1]


1. The maximum length of the ground shall be 200 yards, the maximum breadth shall be 100 yards, the length and breadth shall be marked off with flags, and the goal shall be defined by two upright posts, eight yards apart, without any tape or bar across them.

2. The game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side winning the toss, the other side shall not approach within 10 yards of the ball until it is kicked off. After a goal is won the losing side shall be entitled to kick off.

3. The two sides shall change goals after each goal is won.

4. A goal shall be won when the ball passes over the space between the goal posts (at whatever height), not being thrown, knocked on, or carried.

5. When the ball is in touch the first player who touches it shall kick or throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground, in a direction at right angles with the boundary line.

6. A player shall be out of play immediately he is in front of the ball, and must return behind the ball as soon as possible. If the ball is kicked past a player by his own side, he shall not touch or kick it or advance until one of the other side has first kicked it or one of his own side on a level with or in front of him has been able to kick it.

7. In case the ball goes behind the goal line, if a player on the side to whom the goal belongs first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick from the goal line at the point opposite the place where the ball shall be touched. If a player of the opposite side first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick from a point 15 yards outside the goal line, opposite the place where the ball is touched.

8. If a player makes a fair catch he shall be entitled to a free kick, provided he claims it by making a mark with his heel at once; and in order to take such kick he may go as far back as he pleases, and no player on the opposite side shall advance beyond his mark until he has kicked.

9. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound: but in the case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark, he shall not then run.

10. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip, or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him; but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.

11. Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed, and no player shall use his hands or elbows to hold or push his adversary, except in the case provided for by Law 10.

12. Any player shall be allowed to charge another, provided they are both in active play. A player shall be allowed to charge if even he is out of play.

13. A player shall be allowed to throw the ball or pass it to another if he make a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound.

14. No player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on the soles or heels of his boots.

Definition of Terms[edit]

A Place Kick is a kick at the ball while it is on the ground, in any position which the kicker may choose to place it.

A Free Kick is the privilege of kicking the ball, without obstruction, in such manner as the kicker may think fit.

A Fair Catch is when the ball is caught, after it has touched the person of an adversary or has been kicked, knocked on or thrown by an adversary, and before it has touched the ground or one of the side catching it; but if the ball is kicked from out of touch, or from behind goal line, a fair catch cannot be made.

Hacking is kicking an adversary on the front of the leg, below the knee.

Tripping is throwing an adversary by the use of the legs without the hands, and without hacking or charging.

Charging is attacking an adversary with the shoulder, chest, or body, without using the hands or legs.

Knocking On is when a player strikes or propels the ball with his hands, arms, or body, without kicking or throwing it.

Holding includes the obstruction of a player by the hand or any part of the arm below the elbow.

Touch is that part of the field, on either side of the ground, which is beyond the line of flags.


  1. For more information, see: (Wikisource contributor note)

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.

The author died in 1924, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.