Laws of the Game (1886)

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For works with similar titles, see Laws of the Game.

The Laws of the Game[edit]

1. The limits of the ground shall be:— maximum length, 200 yards; minimum length, 100 yards; maximum breadth, 100 yards, minimum breadth, 50 yards. The length and breadth shall be marked off with flags and touch-line; and the goals shall be upright posts, 8 yards apart, with a bar across them 8 feet from the ground. The average circumference of the Association ball shall be not less than 27 inches and not more than 28 inches.

2. The winners of the toss shall have the option of kick off, or choice of goals. The game shall be commenced by a place-kick from the centre of the ground in the direction of the opposite goal-line; the other side shall not approach within ten yards of the ball until it is kicked off, nor shall any player on either side pass the centre of the ground in the direction of his opponents' goal until the ball is kicked off.

3. Ends shall only be changed at half-time. After a goal is won the losing side shall kick off, but after the change of ends at half-time the ball shall be kicked-off by the opposite side from that which originally did so; and always as provided in Law 2.

4. A goal shall be won when the ball has passed between the goal-posts under the bar, not being thrown, knocked on, or carried by any one of the attacking side. The ball hitting the goal or boundary-posts, or goal-bar, and rebounding into play, is considered in play.

5. When the ball is in touch, a player of the opposite side to that which kicked it out shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground. The thrower, facing the field of play, shall hold the ball above his head and throw it with both hands in any direction, and it shall be in play when thrown in. The player throwing it shall not play it until it has been played by another player.

6. When a player kicks the ball, or throws it in from touch, any one of the same side who, at such moment of kicking or throwing, is nearer to the opponents' goal-line, is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played, unless there are at such moment of kicking or throwing at least three of his opponents nearer their own goal line; but no player is out of play in the case of a corner-kick, or when the ball is kicked from the goal-line, or when it has been last played by an opponent.

7. When the ball is kicked behind the goal-line by one of the opposite side, it shall be kicked off by any one of the players behind whose goal line it went within six yards of the nearest goal-post; but if kicked behind by any one of the side whose goal-line it is, a player of the opposite side shall kick it from within one yard of the nearest corner flag-post. In either case no other player shall be allowed within six yards of the ball until it is kicked off.

8. No player shall carry, knock on, or handle the ball under any pretence whatever, except in the case of the goal-keeper, who shall be allowed to use his hands in defence of his goal, either by knocking on or throwing, but not carrying the ball. The goal-keeper may be changed during the game, but not more than one player shall act as goal-keeper at the same time, and no second player shall step in and act during any period in which the regular goal-keeper may have vacated his position.

9. In no case shall a goal be scored from any free kick, nor shall the ball be again played by the kicker until it has been played by another player. The kick-off and corner-flag kick shall be free kicks within the meaning of this rule.

10. Neither tripping, hacking, nor jumping at a player shall be allowed, and no player shall use his hands to hold or push his adversary, or charge him from behind. A player with his back towards his opponents' goal cannot claim the protection of this rule, when charged from behind, provided, in the opinion of the umpires or referee he, in that position, is wilfully impeding his opponent.

11. No player shall wear any nails, except such as have their heads driven in flush with the leather, or iron plates, or gutta-percha on the soles or heels of his boots or on his shin-guards. Any player discovered infringing this rule shall be prohibited from taking further part in the game.

12. In the event of any infringement of rules 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, a free kick shall be forfeited to the opposite side, from the spot where the infringement took place.

13. In the event of an appeal for any supposed infringement of the rules, the ball shall be in play until a decision has been given.

14. Each of the competing clubs shall be entitled to appoint an umpire, whose duty it shall be to decide all disputed points when appealed to; and by mutual arrangement a referee may be chosen to decide in all cases of difference between the umpires.

15. The referee shall have power to stop the game in the event of spectators interfering with the game.

16. No alteration in the laws of the game shall be valid unless first passed by a majority of two-thirds of those present at the annual general meeting or a special general meeting of one of the national associations, and afterwards unanimously agreed to by the representatives of the four national associations at a conference which shall be convened by each of these associations in turn in the month of June in each year.

Definition of Terms[edit]

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

A Free Kick is a kick at the ball in any way the kicker pleases, when it is lying on the ground, none of the kicker's opponents being allowed within six yards of the ball; but in no case can a player be forced to stand behind his own goal-line.

Hacking is kicking an adversary intentionally.

Tripping is throwing an adversary by the use of the legs, or by stooping in front of him.

Knocking on is when a player strikes or propels the ball with his hands or arms.

Holding includes the obstruction of a player by the hand or any part of the arm extended from the body.

Handling is understood to be playing the ball with the hand or arm.

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

Carrying is taking more than two steps when holding the ball.

Notes[edit]

  1. Changes from 1883:
    • Law 16: add new law "No alteration in the laws of the game shall be valid unless first passed by a majority of two-thirds of those present at the annual general meeting or a special general meeting of one of the national associations, and afterwards unanimously agreed to by the representatives of the four national associations at a conference which shall be convened by each of these associations in turn in the month of June in each year" (proposed by F. A. Marindin of Royal Engineers, seconded by N. L. Jackson of Corinthians FC).
    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, 1924.


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.