Rule changes for next season

A number of rule changes have been agreed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB):

Free kicks: No attacking players in the wall

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.

Substitutions: Players must leave the 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.


The goalkeeper must not be moving or touching the goalposts and 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.


Deliberate handball remains an offence

The following ‘handball’ situations, even if accidental, will be a free kick:

  • The ball goes into the goal after touching an attacking player’s hand/arm
  • A player gains control/possession of the ball after it has touches their hand/arm and then scores, or creates a goal-scoring opportunity
  • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which has made their body unnaturally bigger
  • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm when it is above their shoulder (unless the player has deliberately played the ball which then touches their hand/arm)

The following will not usually be a free kick, unless they are one of the above situations:

  • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from their own head/body/foot or the head/body/foot of another player who is close/near
  • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which is close to their body and has not made their body unnaturally bigger
  • If a player is falling and the ball touches their hand/arm when it is between their body and the ground to support the body (but not extended to make the body bigger)
  • If the goalkeeper attempts to ‘clear’ (release into play) a throw-in or deliberate kick from a team-mate but the ‘clearance’ fails, the goalkeeper can then handle the ball

Drop ball no longer competitive

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.

If the ball touches the referee (or another match official) and goes into the goal, team possession changes or a promising attack starts, a dropped ball is awarded.

Goal kick doesn't have to leave penalty area

The ball is in play once the kick is taken; it can be played before leaving the penalty area

Yellow & red cards for coaching staff
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.