The 1997 total rewrite of the Laws of the Game, the first since Sir Stanley Rous’ in 1938, is the culmination of two years’ effort by a special three-man subcommittee of the International Football Association Board (IFAB). George Cumming, Development Director (Referees and Education) at the Scottish FA, and a member of the subcommittee, has played a major role in both the rewriting of the Laws and the development of their new, modern ‘look’. (George was one of the featured panelists at AYSO’s Advantage ’95.) Although the Laws have a new format, and the wording has been simplified and condensed, the 1997 version changes neither the subject nor the order of the Laws. But there are a number of important modifications. This summary includes the major revisions. In some instances portions of the Laws that have not changed are included for completeness. The new Laws are effective from 1 July onward.
The Coin Toss
The team winning the toss must select which goal it will attack in the first half of the match (or the first overtime period when extra periods are played). The team losing the toss must kick off.
A player is not allowed to use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player, including any kind of jewelry.
Referees must “ensure that any player bleeding from a wound leaves the field of play. The player may only return on receiving a signal from the referee, who must be satisfied that the bleeding has stopped.”
Restarts – Ball in Play
It is no longer a requirement that the ball move its circumference before being in play. For the six ‘kicking restarts’ the ball is in play as follows:
- Direct and Indirect Free kicks (DFKs & IFKs), except in the kicker’s own penalty area, and Corner Kicks: In play when the ball has been kicked and moves.
- Goal Kicks and Free Kicks in kicker’s own penalty area: In play when the ball leaves the penalty area (provided it hasn’t crossed the goal line first).
- Kick-Offs and Penalty Kicks: In play when the ball has been kicked and moves in a forward direction.
Restarts – ‘Second Touch’ by Player Putting Ball in Play
The following is a summary of how the game is restarted if the player taking a restart touches the ball a second time, after it is in play, but before another player touches it. (Note: the word “touches” has replaced the phrase “touches or plays”.) If ‘second touch’ is:
- a play other than a deliberate handball, IFK
- a deliberate hand ball by an outfield player (non-goalkeeper), DFK or PK, as appropriate
- a deliberate hand ball by a goalkeeper outside his or her penalty area, DFK
- a deliberate hand ball by a goalkeeper within his or her penalty area, IFK
Restarts – Scoring Directly
In addition to Direct Free Kicks, Penalty Kicks and Corner Kicks, goals may now be scored directly against the opposing team from Kick-Offs and from Goal Kicks.
Restarts – Corner Kicks
It is no longer required that the “whole of the ball” be within the corner arc.
Restarts – Penalty Kicks
While encroachment at the taking of a penalty kick is still an infringement, it no longer requires a caution.
- At the taking of a penalty kick, or kicks from the penalty mark, goalkeepers must still remain on the goal line (between the posts), facing the kicker, until the ball is kicked, but may now move laterally along the goal line before the ball is kicked.
- A goalkeeper may no longer touch the ball with his or her hands after receiving it directly from a throw-in by a teammate.
- Not yet in the Laws, a ‘binding instruction’ was given that referees must consider it time wasting and award an IFK when a goalkeeper “holds the ball for longer than 5-6 seconds”.
Direct Free Kick Fouls
- “Excessive” has replaced “disproportionate” (regarding the first six DFK fouls)
- “Trips or attempts to trip” is now a foul
- “Tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball” is the new wording for this foul.
Indirect Free Kick Fouls
There are three that apply to any player.
- Playing in a dangerous manner
- Impeding the progress of an opponent (once known as ‘obstruction’)
- Preventing the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his or her hands.
Indirect Free Kick Fouls
There are five that apply to a goalkeeper within his or her own penalty area.
- Taking more than four steps while controlling the ball with the hands, before releasing it from his or her possession
- Touching the ball with the hands after releasing it from possession and the ball has not touched another player
- Touching the ball with the hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him or her by a teammate
- Touching the ball with the hands after receiving it directly from a throw-in from a teammate
- Wasting time.
Misconduct – Cautions
There are now seven ‘yellow card’ offenses.
- Guilty of unsporting behavior (previously ‘ungentlemanly conduct’)
- Showing dissent by word or action
- Persistently infringing the Laws of the Game
- Delaying the restart of play
- Failing to respect the required distance for Corner Kicks and Free Kicks
- Entering or Reentering the field of play without the referee’s permission
- Deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission.
Misconduct – Sendings Off
There are now seven ‘red card’ offenses.
- Serious Foul Play
- Violent Conduct
- Spitting at an opponent (also a penal foul), or any other person
- Denying an opponent a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity by a deliberate hand ball (this does not apply to goalkeepers within their own penalty areas)
- Denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity to an opponent who is moving towards the player’s goal, by an offense punishable by a free kick (direct or indirect) or a penalty kick
- Using offensive, insulting or abusive language
- Receiving a second caution in the same match.
Those who attended the AYSO Section 1,2,10,11 or 12 AGMs, or the AYSO Spring Referee Workshop, or who received the March ‘Preview Handout’ on the Law Changes, will notice a few differences from the earlier information (which was based on the booklet presented to the IFAB on 1 March). Subsequent modifications and clarifications have been made. And one final note: The new Law Book contains neither the diagrams illustrating offside nor the signals by the referee and linesmen (assistants). These are expected to be included in a future publication dealing with the administration of the game.
Bill Mason, FIFA Law Interpreter for
American Youth Soccer Organization