Laws of the Game (1898)

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

The Laws of the Game[edit]

1. The game should be played by eleven players on each side. The dimensions of the field of play shall be:— Maximum length, 130 yards; minimum length, 100 yards; maximum breadth, 100 yards, minimum breadth, 50 yards. The field of play shall be marked by boundary lines. The lines at each end are goal lines, and the lines at the sides are the touch lines. The touch lines shall be drawn at right angles with the goal lines. A flag with a staff not less than 5 feet high shall be placed at each corner. Lines defining 12 yards from the goal lines and a half-way line shall be marked out, also semicircles defining 6 yards from each goal post. The centre of the field of play 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 equidistant from the corner flag-staffs, 8 yards apart, with a bar across them, 8 feet from the ground. The maximum width of the goal posts and the maximum depth of the crossbar shall be 5 inches. The circumference of the ball shall be not less than 27 inches, nor more than 28 inches. In International matches, the dimensions of the field shall be:— Maximum length, 120 yards; minimum length, 110 yards; maximum breadth, 80 yards, minimum breadth, 70 yards; and at the commencement of the game the weight of the ball shall be from 13 to 15 ounces.

2. The duration of the game shall be 90 minutes, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon. 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 field of play in the direction of the opponents' goal line; the opponents 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. The interval at half-time shall not exceed 5 minutes, except by consent of the referee. After a goal is scored the losing side shall kick off, and 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 scored when the ball has passed between the goal posts under the bar, not being thrown, knocked on, nor carried by any player of the attacking side. If from any cause during the progress of the game the bar is 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, crossbar, or a corner flag-staff, into the field of play. The ball is in play if it touches the referee or a linesman when in the field of play. The ball crossing the goal lines or touch lines, 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 touch 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. A goal shall not be scored from a throw in, and the thrower shall not again 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 in.)

6. When a player plays the ball, or throws it in from touch, any player of the same side who at such moment of playing or throwing in is nearer to his opponents' goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever interfere with an opponent, until the ball has been played, unless there are at such moment of playing or throwing in at least three of his opponents nearer their own goal line. A player is not 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 a player of the opposite side, it shall be kicked off by any one of the players behind whose goal line it went, within 6 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 1 yard of the nearest corner flag-staff. In either case an opponent shall not be allowed within 6 yards of the ball until it is kicked off.

8. A player shall not intentionally handle the ball under any pretence whatever, except in the case of the goal-keeper, who, within his own half of the field of play, shall be allowed to use his hands in defence of his goal, but not by carrying the ball. The goal-keeper may be changed during the game, but notice of such change must first be given to the referee.

9. In no case shall a goal be scored from any free kick (except as provided in Law 14), 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 law.

10. Neither tripping, kicking, nor jumping at a player shall be allowed. A player shall not use his hands to hold or push an opponent or play in any manner likely to cause injury. A player shall not be charged from behind, unless he is facing his own goal, and is also intentionally impeding an opponent. The goal-keeper shall not be charged except when he is holding the ball or obstructing an opponent.

11. A player shall not wear any nails except such as have their heads driven in flush with the leather, or metal plates, or projections, or gutta-percha, on 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 half an inch in width, and shall extend from side to side of the boot. (The alteration of bars on boots is not to come into force until commencement of season 1899-1900.) 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 law shall be prohibited from taking further part in the match. The referee shall, if required, examine the players' boots before the commencement of a match.

12. A Referee shall be appointed, whose duties shall be to enforce the laws and decide all disputed points, and his decision on points of fact connected with the game shall be final. He shall also keep a record of the game and act as timekeeper. In the event of any ungentlemanly behaviour on the part of any of the players, the offender or offenders shall be cautioned, and if the offence is repeated, or in case of violent conduct without any previous caution, the Referee shall have power to rule the offending player or players off the field of play and shall transmit the name or names of such player or players to his or their (National) Association, who shall deal with the matter. The Referee shall have power to allow for time wasted, to suspend the game when he thinks fit and to terminate the game whenever, by reason of darkness, interference of spectators, or other cause, he may deem necessary; but in all cases in which a game is so terminated he shall report the same to the Association under whose jurisdiction the game was played, who shall have full power to deal with the matter. The Referee shall have power to award a free kick in any case in which he thinks the conduct of a player dangerous or likely to prove dangerous, but not sufficiently so as to justify him in putting in force the greater powers vested in him. The power of the Referee extends to offences committed when the play has been temporarily suspended or the ball is out of play.

13. 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 kick, goal kick, or throw in, and to assist the Referee in carrying out the game in accordance with the laws. Any undue interference by a linesman shall be reported by the Referee to the National Association having jurisdiction over him, who shall deal with the matter.

14. If any player shall intentionally trip, charge from behind, push or hold an opponent or intentionally handle the ball, within 12 yards from his own goal line, the Referee shall award the opponents 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 opponents' goal-keeper (who shall not advance more than 6 yards from the goal line) shall stand at least 6 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 a 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.

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

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 where play was suspended. 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 awarded to the opposite side from the place where the infringement occurred.

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 the player pleases, when it is lying on the ground, none of the kickers[2] being allowed within 6 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.

Carrying by the goal-keeper is taking more than two steps while holding the ball or bouncing it on the hand.

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

Handling is understood to be playing the ball with the hand or arm, and tripping is intentionally throwing or attempting to throw an opponent by the use of the legs or by stooping in front of or behind him. Unless in the opinion of the referee handling or tripping is intentional, no punishment shall be imposed: thus, within the 12 yards line, a Referee must enforce Law 14 and has no power to mitigate the penalty.

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

Touch is that part of the ground on either side of the field of play.

Notes[edit]

  1. Changes from 1897: (All changed proposed by the Football Association unless otherwise noted).
    • Law 1: replace "ground" with "field of play"
    • Law 3: replace "but" with "and"
    • Law 4: replace "the bar should become displaced" with "the bar is displaced"
    • Law 4: replace "the goal or touch-lines" with "the goal lines or touch lines"
    • Law 5: after the second sentence, insert "A goal shall not be scored from a throw in"
    • Law 5: replace "throws the ball" with "throws the ball in"
    • Law 6: replace "any one of the same side" with "any player of the same side"
    • Law 6: replace "prevent any opponent from so doing" with "interfere with an opponent"
    • Law 7: replace "nearest corner flag-post" with "nearest corner flag-staff"
    • Law 8: replace "A player shall neither carry, knock on, nor wilfully handle the ball" with "A player shall not intentionally handle the ball"
    • Law 8: delete "either by knocking on or throwing"
    • Law 9: replace "any goal" with "a goal"
    • Law 10: replace "A player shall not charge an opponent from behind, unless such opponent is not only facing his own goal, but is, in the opinion of the Referee, wilfully impeding his opponent while in that position" with "A player shall not be charged from behind, unless he is facing his own goal, and is also intentionally impeding an opponent"
    • Law 11: replace "Bars shall be transverse and flat, not less than one and a half inches in length, and half an inch in width" with "Bars shall be transverse and flat, not less than half an inch in width, and shall extend from side to side of the boot. (The alteration of bars on boots is not to come into force until commencement of season 1899-1900)"
    • Law 11: replace "The Referee may be required to examine the players' boots" with "The referee shall, if required, examine the players' boots"
    • Law 12: replace "the play" with "the game"
    • Law 12: replace "to order" with "to rule"
    • Law 12: delete "in such manner as they may deem necessary"
    • Law 12: after "The referee shall have power" insert "to allow for time wasted"
    • Law 12: before "to terminate the game" delete "also"
    • Law 12: before "power to deal with the matter" insert "full"
    • Law 12: after "justify him" insert "in"
    • Law 12: replace "invested" with "vested"
    • Law 13: after "assist" insert "the Referee"
    • Law 13: replace "to which the linesman belongs" with "having jurisdiction over him"
    • Law 13: delete "as they may deem necessary"
    • Law 14: replace "wilfully" with "intentionally"
    • Law 16: delete "at the spot"
    • Law 16: delete "and"
    • Law 17: replace "spot" with "place"
    • Law 17: replace "took place" with "occurred"
    • Definition of Carrying: after "Carrying" insert "by the goal-keeper"
    • Definition of Handling: replace "wilfully" with "understood to be"
    • Definition of Tripping: combine with Definition of Handling into one Definition, joined by "and"
    • Definition of Tripping: before "throwing" insert "intentionally"
    • Definition of Handling/Tripping: replace "a trip" with "handling or tripping"
    • Definition of Handling/Tripping: replace "law 13" with "Law 14"
    For more information, see the minute book for this meeting. (Wikisource contributor note)
  2. source gives "kickers"; other versions of the laws indicate that this is a typographical error for "kickers' opponents" (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.