Laws of the Game (1896)

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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 four flags, with staffs not less than 5 feet high, and goal and touch lines; and lines defining 6 yards from the goal posts and 12 yards from the goal lines shall also be marked out. The centre of the ground shall be indicated by a suitable mark, and a circle with a 10 yards radius shall be made round it. The goals shall be upright posts, fixed on the goal lines, eight yards apart, equidistant from the corner flag staff, with a bar across them, 8 ft. from the ground. The maximum width of the goal posts and the maximum depth of the cross bar shall be 5 in. The circumference of the Association ball shall be not less than 27 in., nor more than 28 in.; 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 10 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. If from any cause during the progress of the game the bar should become displaced, the referee shall have power to award a goal if in his opinion the ball would have passed under the bar if it had not been displaced. The ball is in play if it rebounds from a goal-post, cross-bar, or a corner flag staff, into the field of 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 played it out shall throw it in from the point on the boundary line where it left the field of play. The player throwing the ball must stand on the touch line facing the field of play, and shall throw the ball in 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. (Note: — This law is complied with if the player has any part of both feet on the line when he throws the ball.)

6. When a player plays the ball, or throws it in from touch, any one of the same side who at such moment of playing or throwing is nearer to the opponents' goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, or in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played, unless there are at such moment of playing 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 goal-post nearest the point where the ball left the field of play: 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 goalkeeper, 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 carrying the ball. The goalkeeper may be changed during the game, but not more than one player shall act as goalkeeper 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 (except as provided in Law 13), nor shall the ball be again played by the kicker until it has been played by another player. The kick-off, corner-kick, and goal-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 play in any manner likely to cause injury. No player may charge an opponent from behind, unless such opponent be not only facing his own goal, but is, in the opinion of the referee, wilfully impeding his adversary while in that position. The goalkeeper shall not be charged except he be in the act of playing the ball, or is obstructing an opponent. (Note:— In the act of playing the ball means actual contact with the ball.)

11. No player shall wear any nails, excepting such as have their heads driven in flush with the leather, or metal plates or projections, 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 half an 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. A referee shall be appointed, whose duties shall be to enforce the rules and decide all disputed points; and his decision on points of fact connected with the play going on shall be final. He shall also keep a record of the game, and act as timekeeper; and, in the event of any ungentlemanly behaviour on the part of any of the contestants, the offender or offenders shall 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 shall 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 was played, who shall have full power to deal with the matter. Two linesmen shall be appointed, whose duty (subject to the decision of the referee) shall be to decide when the ball is out of play, and which side is entitled to the corner-flag kick, goal kick, or throw in. Any undue interference by a linesman shall be reported by the referee to the National Association to which the linesman belongs, who shall deal with the matter in such manner as they may deem necessary. The referee shall have power to award a free kick, 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.

13. If any player shall intentionally trip, charge from behind, push, or hold an opponent, or wilfully handle the ball, within 12 yards from his own goal-line, the referee shall award the opposing side a penalty kick, to be taken from any point 12 yards from the goal-line, under the following conditions:— All players, with the exception of the player taking the penalty kick and the opposing goalkeeper (who shall not advance more than six yards from the goal-line) shall stand at least six yards behind the ball. The ball must be kicked forward. The ball shall be in play when the kick is taken, and a goal may be scored from the penalty kick; but the ball shall not be again played by the kicker until it has been played by another player. If necessary, time of play shall be extended to admit of the penalty kick being taken.

14. In the event of a supposed infringement of the rules, the ball shall be in play until a decision has been given.

15. 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.

16. 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 restarted 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.

17. In the event of any infringement of Laws 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, or 16, 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 the centre of the field of play.

A Free Kick is a kick at the ball in any direction that 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; i.e., it must make a complete circuit or travel the distance of its circumference.

A Place Kick or a Free Kick must not be taken until the referee has given a signal for the same.

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; unless in the opinion of the referee a trip is intentional, no punishment shall be imposed. Thus, within the twelve yards line, a referee must enforce law 13, and has no power to mitigate the penalty.

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 extending 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 while holding the ball.

Notes[edit]

  1. Changes from 1895:
    • Law 1: replace "The length and breadth shall be marked off with flags and touch-lines" with "The length and breadth shall be marked off with four flags, with staffs not less than 5 feet high, and goal and touch lines" (proposed by the Football Association).
    • Law 1: replace "The goals shall be upright posts, 8 yards apart" with "The goals shall be upright posts, fixed on the goal lines, eight yards apart, equidistant from the corner flag staff" (proposed by the Football Association).
    • Law 4: replace "The ball hitting the goal or boundary posts or goal-bar and, rebounding into play, is considered in play" with "If from any cause during the progress of the game the bar should become displaced, the referee shall have power to award a goal if in his opinion the ball would have passed under the bar if it had not been displaced. The ball is in play if it rebounds from a goal-post, cross-bar, or a corner flag staff, into the field of play" (proposed by the Football Association and the Welsh Football Association).
    • Law 5: replace "ground" with "field of play" (proposed by the Football Association).
    • Law 5: append "(Note: -- This law is complied with if the player has any part of both feet on the line when he throws the ball)" .
    • Law 9: replace "corner-flag kick" with "corner-kick" (proposed by the Football Association).
    • Law 11: replace "iron plates" with "metal plates or projections" (proposed by the Football Association).
    • Law 11: replace "should" with "shall" (proposed by the Football Association).
    • Law 12: omit "without any appeal".
    • Law 13: replace "trip, or hold, or push an opposing player" with "trip, charge from behind, push, or hold an opponent" (proposed by the Football Association).
    • Law 13: omit "on appeal".
    • Law 13: immediately before "The ball shall be in play when the kick is taken" insert "The ball must be kicked forward" (proposed by the Scottish Football Association).
    • Definition of Place Kick: replace "in any position in which the kicker may choose to place it" with "in the centre of the field of play" (proposed by the Football Association).
    For more information, see the minute book for this meeting. (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.