Laws of the Game (1890)

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The Laws of the Game  (1890) 
by the International Football Association Board

Laws of association football, adopted at the Annual Meeting of the International Football Association Board, Anderton's Hotel, London, England, June 2nd 1890. Effective from the beginning of the 1890-1 season.[1]

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, and in International matches at the commencement of the game the weight of the ball shall be from 13 to 15 ounces.

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. The ball crossing the goal or touch-line, either on the ground or in the air, is out of 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 throw the ball over his head with both hands in any direction, and it shall be in play when thrown in. The thrower shall not play until the ball 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 off from goal, or when it has been last played by an opponent.

7. When the ball is played 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 played 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 opponent 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, within his own half of the ground, shall be allowed to use his hands in defence of his goal, either by knocking on or throwing, but not by 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, save the penalty-kick,[2] 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 the corner-flag and goal-kicks 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. No player may charge an opponent from behind, unless such opponent be facing his own goal, and, in the opinion of the Umpires or Referee, he, in that position, is wilfully impeding his adversary.

11. No player shall wear any nails, excepting 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. If bars or studs on the soles or heels of the boots are used, they shall not project more than half an inch, and shall have all their fastenings driven in flush with the leather. Bars shall be transverse and flat, not less than one and a half inches in length, and a half-inch in width. Studs shall be round in plan, not less than half an inch in diameter, and in no case conical or pointed. Any player discovered infringing this rule shall be prohibited from taking further part in the match.

12. Two Umpires shall be appointed, whose duty shall be to decide all disputed points when appealed to, and a Referee shall be appointed to decide in all cases of difference between the Umpires. It shall be the duty of the Referee to decide all cases in which the Umpires do not agree, or in which one Umpire does not give a decision; he shall also keep a record of the game and act as time-keeper, and in the event of any ungentlemanly behaviour on the part of any of the contestants, the offender or offenders shall, in the presence of the Umpires, be cautioned, and if the offence is repeated, or in the case of violent conduct without any previous caution, the Referee shall have power to rule the offending player or players out of play, and to transmit the name or names of such player or players to his or their (National) Association, in whom shall be solely vested the right of accepting an apology. The Referee shall have power to terminate the game whenever, by reason of darkness, interference by spectators, or other cause, he shall think fit, and he shall report the same to the Association under whose jurisdiction the match is played, who shall have full power to deal with the matter. Any undue interference by an Umpire shall be reported by the Referee to the National Association to which the Umpire belongs, who shall deal with the matter in such manner as they may deem necessary. A Referee shall have power to award a free kick without any appeal in any case where he thinks that the conduct of a player is dangerous, or likely to prove dangerous, but not sufficiently so as to justify him in putting in force the greater powers vested in him as above. To this rule is now added the Linesman's duties.

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. The Referee shall have power to stop the game for such a time as he may think fit, whenever he may deem it necessary to do so.

15. In the event of any temporary suspension of play from any cause, the ball not having gone into touch, or behind the goal-line, the game shall be re-started by the Referee throwing up the ball at the spot where play was suspended, and the players on either side shall not play the ball until it has touched the ground.

16. In the event of any infringement of rules 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, a free kick shall be forfeited to the opposite side, from the spot where the infringement took place.

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 direction the player pleases, when it is lying on the ground, none of the kicker's opponents being allowed within six yards of the ball, unless they be standing on their own goal-line. The ball must at least be rolled over before it shall be considered played.

Hacking is kicking an adversary intentionally.

Tripping is throwing or attempting to throw an adversary by the use of the legs, or by stooping in front of or behind 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.


  1. Changes from 1889:
    • Law 9: replace "The kick-off and corner-flag kick" with "The kick-off the corner-flag and goal-kicks".
    For more information, see the minute book for this meeting. (Wikisource contributor note)
  2. This reference to the penalty kick appears to be erroneous, since this version of the laws does not otherwise mention penalty kicks (which would be introduced in 1891, the following year) (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 95 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.