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Football Rules and Regulations

As we all know, football is one of the oldest and the most recognized sports in the world. Despite being popularly known as football, futbal, futbol or some other variation of the word ‘football’, the sport has also come to be known as ‘Soccer’ in some parts of the world.

We all may understand the fundamentals of this game, but do we thoroughly know the rules and intricacies that come along with the game? Probably not! So let’s have a deeper insight on what exactly are the rules and regulations of football.

Football Rules & Regulations

The Objective of the Game

The main aim of football is that a team has to score more goals than their opponents in the span of 90 minutes in order to win the game. Failure to do so may result in a ‘Draw’ or ‘Extra-Time’ depending on the type of competition the teams are playing in. The 90 minutes of the game is split into two halves which have a duration of 45 minutes. There is a 15-minute break at the end of the first half which is known as ‘Half-Time’.

Football Ground: Size & Markings

Football Rules and Regulations

The pitch sizes vary from ground-to-ground, but are roughly 90-120 meters in length and 45-90 meters in width. 

On each side of the pitch, there is a 6-yard box marked surrounding the mouth of the goal. It is followed by an 18-yard box surrounding the 6-yard box. The 18-yard box is also known as the ‘D’/’D-Line’, and lastly, a center circle. The penalty spot is placed 12-yards away from the goal.

Each half of the pitch should be the mirror image of the other in terms of the dimensions.

Player & Equipments

Each team consists of 18 players, this is known as the ‘18-man Squad’ and includes all the players that will be involved in the upcoming match. Of these 18 players, 11 are chosen as the ‘starting eleven’ and are on the field. The rest are seated on the bench.

These 11 players that make up the starting line-up usually includes: one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards. The number of defenders, midfielders and forwards are subject to change depending on the formation used by the coach for each game.

Football Rules and Regulations

The players are found to be wearing shin pads, football boots (sometimes referred to as Studs or Cleats), and the predetermined team kit (which includes jersey and shorts). The goalkeeper, on the other hand, has to wear a kit that doesn’t match any of the team kits on the pitch, i.e. goalkeepers always get to wear unique kits. Additionally, they wear padded gloves as they are the only players on the pitch who are allowed to handle the ball.

Lastly, the captain of a team is required to wear the captain’s armband throughout the match. The captain’s armband gets handed over to the Vice-Captain if the Captain has to leave the field of play.


Scoring in football is extremely straightforward. To score a goal, a team is required to put the ball inside the opponent’s goal. In order to be considered a goal, the ball must cross the goal-line completely.

The goal can be scored by any part of the body apart from the arm or the hands. The goal consists of a frame measuring 8 meters wide and 8 feet high.

The Ball

The ball that is used in the game should have a diameter of 61 cm, and should weigh around 410-450g.

The ball can only be changed by the referee, and if it bursts then the play is stopped and is restarted from where it’s stopped with a drop ball.


As mentioned above, each team is required to name up to 18 players in their matchday squad from which 11 are picked to play on the field with the remaining 7 named as substitutes.

A manager/coach can substitute players at any time during the game but the number of substitutions that each team can make are limited to a maximum of  3 players.

In some cases, if all 3 substitutions have been made by a team, and if one of their on-field players has to leave the field due to injury then the team has to complete the game without any replacement for that player, i.e. with 10 men.

The Referees

Every match has a team of four referees that officiate the game. One referee actively participates on the field of play along with the help of two assistant referees who are also known as the linesmen. The fourth referee is known as the ‘Fourth Official’ and is present on the dugout with the staff and coaches of both the competing teams in order to listen to the complaints and objections raised by the coaches of both teams and to maintain order off the field of play.

The two major roles of the referee are: (1) To act as the time keeper and (2) To ensure that the game is played by the rules. The referee makes the decisions about whether or not a foul has been committed and if the game needs to be stopped. The referee is also the one who decides the severity of the foul in the context of the play and whether or not the player responsible for committing the foul deserves to be carded or not.

The referee can consult the assistant referee (linesman) at anytime during the match.

It is also the assistant referee’s job to look for offsides in the match, corner kicks, throw-ins for either team and to also assist the referee in making the decisions.

Extra Time

In a few competitions, if the scores are level at the end of the final whistle (i.e. end of 90 minutes), then the game goes into extra time. These competitions are usually ‘Cup Competitions’ like the FA Cup, UEFA Champions League, EFL Cup, etc. 

The Extra-Time is 30 minutes long, and is split into two halves of 15 minutes each with a break of two minutes at the end of the first half of extra time. If the teams are still level at the end of extra time then the winner is decided by penalty shootouts.

Penalty Shootout

One of the football rules is a penalty shootout. It takes place at the end of ‘Extra-Time’ if both teams are unable to separate themselves. Each team has to choose 5 players for the penalty shootouts. 

The player from each team goes for the shootout one after the other. The penalty shootout ends when one team has scored more goals than the other team.

Football Fouls and Cards

A foul is usually committed in the game by a player if he/she trips, kicks, charges to the other player recklessly, pushes the opponent to the ground, strikes/headbutts/punches/knees/elbows/chokes or bites another player, makes a tackle but connects with the player before the ball, obstructs an opponent or prevents them from releasing the ball, and deliberately handles the ball (except for the goalkeepers).

These fouls are then followed by a yellow card or a red card depending on the severity of the foul as well as the context of the game in which the foul took place. Yellow card the warning and the Red card is the dismissal of the player from the game, i.e. that player will not be able to take part in the game anymore.

Furthermore, if the same player is shown the yellow card twice in the same game then he/she receives a red card and has to be out of the remaining game.

Throw In, Goal Kick, and Corner Kicks

If the ball goes out of play from the sidelines off of a player in your team, then a throw-in is awarded to your opponent’s team and vice versa.

If the ball goes out of play from your baseline (i.e. goes behind your goalpost) by an opposition player who is attacking your goal, then a goal kick is awarded to your team and vice versa.

Lastly, if the ball goes out of play from your baselines (i.e. goes behind your goalpost) by a player from your own team (who is defending the goal) then the opponent’s team is awarded a corner kick and vice versa.

Offside Rule in Football (Soccer)

To put it simply, the offside rule states that a player is considered offside if he or she receives the ball while being “beyond” the second-last opponent (usually a defender). Here, usually, since the goalkeeper is called the last defender, the rule has mentioned the term “second last opponent”.

The official text of Law 11 of the 2014/2015 Laws of the Game states that: “A player is in an offside position if he/she is nearer to his/her opponents’ than both the ball and the second-last opponent”

If we missed anything or have any doubts regarding the football rules and regulations feel free to mention it in the comment section we’ll be happy to solve your doubts.


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Ava Brown
Ava Brown is a dedicated sports writer who skillfully captures the excitement and passion of the athletic world. Her insightful articles for Sportycious provide readers with a unique perspective on various sports disciplines. When she isn't crafting captivating content, Ava enjoys cheering on her favourite teams and actively participating in sports herself.

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