The rule-makers have decided upon a number of changes to the Laws of the Game – but what are they?
Football is set for some rule changes next season after the IFAB (International Football Association Board) approved a number of amendments and clarifications to the current Laws of the Game.
The changes will come into force on June 1, 2019, though competitions starting before that date have the option to delay their introduction until the next season.
It’s not the first time that the rules of beautiful game have been tweaked and it probably won’t be the last as administrators continue to figure out the best way forward in a world of changing technology.
With the changes set to come into effect across the game in the 2019-20 season, Goal takes a look at some of the main ones to look out for.
Free kicks: No attacking players in wall
From next season on we’re going to see an interesting change to the way free kicks are taken.
The IFAB has approved a rule change which prohibits attacking players – ie those from the team on attacking from the free kick – from being in the wall. Specifically, when there is a wall of three or more players attackers are not allowed within one metre of it.
Any attacking player found to be less than one metre from the wall when a free kick is taken will be penalised and the other team will be rewarded with an indirect free kick.
The idea behind the change is to avoid time-wasting and disturbances between players that may result in physical altercations.
The IFAB said: “There is no legitimate tactical justification for attackers to be in the ‘wall’ and their presence is against the ‘spirit of the game’ and often damages the image of the game.”
Substitutions: Players must leave pitch at nearest point
The rule-makers have struck a further blow against cynicism in the game by introducing a change to substitution protocol.
Players who are being taken off and replaced must now leave the pitch by the nearest point on the touchline, which means we will no longer be forced to endure preposterously slow walks to the half-way line.
So players will have to think twice about how they exit the pitch and, not only that, they must make their way straight to the technical area or dressing room otherwise they risk being sanctioned for unsporting behaviour.
Yellow & red cards for coaches
In order to clamp down on difficult behaviour from coaches who don’t see eye to eye with the referee or their opposite number, officials will be able to show them yellow or red cards, in the same way they do with players.
If, in the event of a touchline melee for example, the offending individual cannot be identified for punishment, the senior coach who is in the technical area will be the default recipient.
Penalty kicks: Goalkeepers must have at least one foot on line
The issue of penalty kicks has cropped up a few times in recent years and the trend has been towards reducing the freedom of the goalkeeper.
That hasn’t changed with the latest update to the rules, which dictate that the shot-stopper must not be moving or touching the goalposts.
The new rule changes also say that the goalkeeper must have at least part of one foot on or in line with the goal-line.
“Allowing the goalkeeper to have only one foot touching the goal line (or, if jumping, in line with the goal line) when the penalty kick is taken is a more practical approach as it is easier to identify if both feet are not on the line,” goes the IFAB’s explanation.
“As the kicker can ‘stutter’ in the run, it is reasonable that the goalkeeper can take one step in anticipation of the kick.”
As well as those points, the penalty taker will now be permitted to receive a quick treatment if necessary before taking the kick.
Handball: Accidental offences deemed free kicks
The IFAB has attempted to provide more clarity on the handball offence for occasions when the offence is deemed to be ‘non-deliberate’.
Essentially, the changes will mean that there will be no goal in cases where the ball accidentally strikes a player’s hand before crossing over the line.
Similarly, if a player has accidentally handled the ball and created an advantage or subsequently scores, they will be penalised with a free kick.
Despite the IFAB’s attempts, we reckon that this one will still cause plenty of debate and consternation.
Drop ball no longer competitive
The dropped ball is no more. Well, at least not as we know it.
If play is stopped inside the penalty area the ball will simply be dropped for the goalkeeper.
If it is stopped outside the penalty area the ball will be dropped for a player from the team that last touched the ball. In all cases, players will have to be at least four metres (four and a half yards) away.
Here’s the IFAB’s explanation: “The current dropped ball procedure often leads to a ‘manufactured’ restart which is ‘exploited’ unfairly (e.g. kicking the ball out for a throw-in deep in the opponents’ half) or an aggressive confrontation.
“Returning the ball to the team that last played it restores what was ‘lost’ when play was stopped, except in the penalty area where it is simpler to return the ball to the goalkeeper.
“To prevent that team gaining an unfair advantage, all players of both teams, except the player receiving the ball, must be at least 4m (4.5 yds) away.”
What is the IFAB?
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is the self-described “guardian of the Laws of the Game.”
Made up of the four British associations (the FA, SFA, FAW and IFA) and FIFA it is the only organisation that has the authority to review and change the rules governing the game of football. The four British associations have one vote each and FIFA – representing the remaining 207 national associations – has four votes.
In its mission the IFAB declares: “We listen to the football community, with the goal to improve and develop the game for players, match officials and fans while protecting and strengthening the spirit and simplicity of football.”
Formed in 1886, it initially consisted of only the four British associations until FIFA requested to be included on the panel in 1913, nine years after the world governing body was established. Meetings are held annually, with each member association taking turns to host.