Changes to the Laws of The Game Explained

International Football Association Board Update Rules

Football Clubs in Huntingdonshire and referees at all levels are making themselves aware of the latest amendments to the laws of the game after the International Football Association Board (IFAB) confirmed several alterations for 2019/20.

Each year revisions are made to the laws so they’re more appropriate to the game. Changes for this season include updates to the laws on substitutions, team official misconduct, handballs, kick-offs, defensive walls and penalty and goal kicks.

Further information on the laws of the game can be found on the IFAB website at

The Changes explained...

“A player who is being substituted must leave the field at the nearest point on the boundary line, unless otherwise directed by the referee.”

You no longer have to leave the field of play on the halfway line when making a substitution - you can now leave anywhere (i.e. behind the goal), unless the referee instructs otherwise. However, the new player coming on must still come on from the halfway line, as in previous seasons.

“Team officials guilty of misconduct can be shown a Yellow or a Red Card; if an offender cannot be identified, the senior coach in the technical area receives the Yellow/Red Card.”

Anyone can now receive a yellow or red card. Team officials can be warned, cautioned or sent off for a variety of offences.


“The team that wins the toss may choose to take kick off.”

At the start of the game, if you win the coin toss, you can choose to take kick-off or which goal to attack in the first half.

“Dropped ball for the goal keeper (if play is stopped in the penalty area) or for one player of the team that last touched the ball at the location of the last touch; all other players (both teams) must be 4m (4.5 yards) away.”

If there is a drop ball in the penalty area, the ball is dropped for the goalkeeper to collect or it is dropped for a player from the team that touched the ball last. This is non-contested and all other players (from both teams) must be four metres away from the drop ball.

“Dropped ball if the ball touches the referee (or other match officials) and goes into the goal, possession changes or an attacking move starts.”

If the ball touches the referee, or any other match official, and has a direct impact on the game as a result of the ball hitting them - such as it goes into the goal or the possession changes - then a dropped ball is awarded.

Changes have been made to what is judged as ‘Handling the Ball’.

The key thing to take away from this change is that, if the body is made unnaturally bigger (even if not on purpose) the player can be penalised with a handball. This is similar if the player’s hands or arms are above or beyond shoulder level (i.e. above their head or out in front of them). The body must be in a natural position, as per last season. The easiest way to avoid a handball is to keep your arms down at all times unless it is to aid with balance or running - provided it is a natural body position.

“When there is a defensive ‘wall’ of at least 3 players, all attacking team players must be at least 1m from the ‘wall’; IDFK if they encroach.”

If you have a defensive wall during a game for a free kick and there are three or more players in that wall, all of the attacking players cannot be in that wall and must be at least one metre away from the wall. If an attacker encroaches, or is closer than one metre, then an indirect free kick will be awarded to the defending team.

“For defending team free kicks in their penalty area, the ball is in play once it is kicked and clearly moves; it does not have to leave the penalty area.”

As soon as the ball is kicked at a free kick in the penalty area, the ball is in play and doesn’t need to leave the penalty area. The opposition must be ten yards (9.15 metres) from the ball until the ball is played before touching the ball - the same as anywhere else on the field of play.

“Goal keepers must have at least part of one foot on, or in line with, the goal line when a penalty kick is taken; cannot stand behind the line.”

The goalkeeper must stay on their line at a penalty kick. If they come off their goal line before the ball is kicked, then the kick may be retaken and the goalkeeper cautioned (as per previous law last season).

 “At goal kicks, the ball is in play once it is kicked and clearly moves; it does not have to leave the penalty area.”

As soon as the ball is kicked at a goal kick, you can come into the penalty area to collect the ball - no matter if you are an attacker or a defender. Defenders can remain in the penalty area and receive the ball in the area as soon as the ball has been kicked and clearly moves.