NOTES AND MODIFICATIONS

Notes on the Laws

Official languages

The IFAB publishes the Laws of the Game in English, French, German and Spanish. If there is any divergence in the wording, the English text is authoritative.

Other languages

National FAs which translate the Laws of the Game can obtain the layout template for the 2021/22 edition of the Laws from The IFAB by contacting: [email protected].

National FAs which produce a translated version of the Laws of the Game using this format are invited to send a copy to The IFAB (stating clearly on the front cover that it is that national FA’s official translation) so it can be posted on The IFAB website for use by others.

Measurement

If there is any divergence between metric and imperial units, the metric units are authoritative.

Applying the Laws

The same Laws apply in every match in every confederation, country, town and village and, apart from the modifications permitted by The IFAB (see ‘General modifications’), the Laws must not be modified or changed, except with the permission of The IFAB.

Those who are educating match officials and other participants, should emphasise that:

  • referees should apply the Laws within the ‘spirit’ of the game to help produce fair and safe matches
  • everyone must respect the match officials and their decisions, remembering and respecting that referees are human and will make mistakes

Players have a major responsibility for the image of the game and the team captain should play an important role in helping to ensure that the Laws and referees’ decisions are respected.

Viewing changes

The latest changes can be displayed throughout the website by clicking on the icon that appears in the top right-hand corner of pages that have undergone changes.

  • The main Law changes are underlined in yellow.
  • Editorial changes are underlined in grey.
  • Removed content is displayed with strikethrough.

Key

YC = yellow card (caution); RC = red card (sending-off).

General Modifications

Historically, The IFAB has allowed national football associations (FAs) some flexibility to modify the ‘organisational’ Laws for specific categories of football. However, The IFAB strongly believes that national FAs should now be given more options to modify aspects of the way football is organised if it will benefit football in their own country.

How the game is played and refereed should be the same on every football field in the world from the FIFA World Cup™ final to the smallest village. However, the needs of a country’s domestic football should determine how long the game lasts, how many people can take part and how some unfair behaviour is punished.

Consequently, the 131st AGM of The IFAB held in London on 3rd March 2017 unanimously agreed that national FAs (and confederations and FIFA) now have the option to modify all or some of the following organisational areas of the Laws of the Game for football for which they are responsible.

Modifications for youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football:

  • size of the field of play
  • size, weight and material of the ball
  • width between the goalposts and height of the crossbar from the ground
  • duration of the two (equal) halves of the game (and two equal halves of extra time)
  • the use of return substitutes
  • the use of temporary dismissals (sin bins) for some/all cautions (YCs)

Modifications for any level except competitions involving the 1st team of clubs in the top division or ‘A’ international teams:

  • the number of substitutions each team is permitted to use up to a maximum of five, except in youth football where the maximum will be determined by the national association, confederation or FIFA

In addition, to allow national FAs further flexibility to benefit and develop their domestic football, The IFAB AGM approved the following changes relating to ‘categories’ of football:

  • women’s football is no longer a separate category and now has the same status as men’s football
  • the age limits for youth and veterans have been removed – national FAs, confederations and FIFA have the flexibility to decide the age restrictions for these categories
  • each national FA will determine which competitions at the lowest levels of football are designated as ‘grassroots’ football

Permission for other modifications

National FAs have the option to approve different modifications for different competitions – there is no requirement to apply them universally or to apply them all. However, no other modifications are allowed without the permission of The IFAB.

National FAs are asked to inform The IFAB of their use of these modifications, and at which levels, as this information, and especially the reason(s) why the modifications are being used, may identify development ideas/strategies which The IFAB can share to assist the development of football in other national FAs.

The IFAB would also be very interested to hear about other potential modifications to the Laws of the Game which could increase participation, make football more attractive and promote its worldwide development.

Guidelines for Temporary Dismissals

The 131st AGM of The IFAB held in London on 3rd March 2017 approved the use of temporary dismissals (sin bins) for all or some cautions/yellow cards (YCs) in youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football, subject to the approval of the competition’s national FA, confederation or FIFA, whichever is appropriate.

Reference to temporary dismissals is found in:

Law 5. The Referee > 5.3 Powers and duties Disciplinary action

The referee has the power to show yellow or red cards and, where competition rules permit, temporarily dismiss a player, from entering the field at the start of the match until after the match has ended, including during the half-time interval, extra time and kicks from the penalty mark.

A temporary dismissal is when a player commits a cautionable (YC) offence and is punished by an immediate ‘suspension’ from participating in the next part of that match. The philosophy is that an ‘instant punishment’ can have a significant and immediate positive influence on the behaviour of the offending player and, potentially, the player’s team.

The national FA, confederation or FIFA should approve (for publication in the competition rules) a temporary dismissal protocol within the following guidelines:

 Players only

  • Temporary dismissals apply to all players (including goalkeepers) but not for cautionable offences (YCs) committed by a substitute or substituted player

 Referee’s signal

  • The referee will indicate a temporary dismissal by showing a yellow card (YC) and then clearly pointing with both arms to the temporary dismissal area (usually the player’s technical area)

 The temporary dismissal period

  • The length of the temporary dismissal is the same for all offences
  • The length of the temporary dismissal should be between 10–15% of the total playing time (e.g. 10 minutes in a 90-minute match; 8 minutes in an 80-minute match)
  • The temporary dismissal period begins when play restarts after the player has left the field of play
  • The referee should include in the temporary dismissal period any time ‘lost’ for a stoppage for which ‘additional time’ will be allowed at the end of the half (e.g. substitution, injury etc...)
  • Competitions must decide who will help the referee time the dismissal period – it could be the responsibility of a delegate, 4th official or neutral assistant referee; conversely it could be a team official
  • Once the temporary dismissal period has been completed, the player can return from the touchline with the referee’s permission, which can be given while the ball is in play
  • The referee has the final decision as to when the player can return
  • A temporarily dismissed player cannot be substituted until the end of the temporary dismissal period (but not if the team has used all its permitted substitutes)
  • If a temporary dismissal period has not been completed at the end of the first half (or the end of the second half when extra time is to be played) the remaining part of the temporary dismissal period is served from the start of the second half (start of extra time)
  • A player who is still serving a temporary dismissal at the end of the match is permitted to take part in kicks from the penalty mark (penalties)

Temporary dismissal area

  • A temporarily dismissed player should remain within the technical area (where one exists) or with the team’s coach/technical staff, unless ‘warming up’ (under the same conditions as a substitute)

Offences during a temporary dismissal

  • A temporarily dismissed player who commits a cautionable (YC) or sending-off (RC) offence during their temporary dismissal period will take no further part in the match and may not be replaced or substituted

Further disciplinary action

  • Competitions/national FAs will decide if temporary dismissals must be reported to the appropriate authorities and whether any further disciplinary action may be taken e.g. suspension for accumulating a number of temporary dismissals, as with cautions (YCs)

Temporary dismissal systems

  • A competition may use one of the following temporary dismissal systems:
    • System A – for all cautions (YCs)
    • System B – for some but not all cautions (YCs)

System A – temporary dismissal for all cautions (YCs)

  • All cautions (YCs) are punished with a temporary dismissal
  • A player who receives a second caution (YC) in the same match:
    • will receive a second temporary dismissal and then takes no further part in the match
    • may be replaced by a substitute at the end of the second temporary dismissal period if the player’s team has not used its maximum number of substitutes (this is because the team has already been ‘punished’ by playing without that player for 2 x temporary dismissal periods)

 System B – temporary dismissal for some but not all cautions (YCs)*

  • A pre-defined list of cautionable (YC) offences will be punished by a temporary dismissal
  • All other cautionable offences are punished with a caution (YC)
  • A player who has been temporarily dismissed and then receives a caution (YC) continues playing
  • A player who has received a caution (YC) and then receives a temporary dismissal can continue playing after the end of the temporary dismissal period
  • A player who receives a second temporary dismissal in the same match will serve the temporary dismissal and then takes no further part in the match. The player may be replaced by a substitute at the end of the second temporary dismissal period if the player’s team has not used its maximum number of substitutes but a player who has also received a non-temporary dismissal caution (YC) may not be replaced or substituted
  • A player who receives a second caution (YC) in the same match will be sent off and takes no further part in the match and may not be replaced/substituted

*Some competitions may find it valuable to use temporary dismissals only for cautions (YCs) for offences relating to ‘inappropriate’ behaviour, e.g.

  • Simulation
  • Deliberately delaying the opposing team’s restart of the match
  • Dissent or verbal comments or gestures
  • Stopping or interfering with a promising attack by holding, pulling, pushing or handball
  • Kicker illegally feinting at a penalty kick

Guidelines for Return Substitutes

Following approval at the 131st AGM of The IFAB held in London on 3rd March 2017 the Laws of the Game now permit the use of return substitutes in youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football, subject to the approval of the competition’s national FA, confederation or FIFA, whichever is appropriate.

Reference to return substitutions is found in:

Law 3. The Players > 3.2 Number of substitutions – Return substitutions

  • The use of return substitutions is only permitted in youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football, subject to the agreement of the national football association, confederation or FIFA.

A ‘return substitute’ is a player who has already played in the match and has been substituted (a substituted player) and later in the match returns to play by replacing another player.

Apart from the dispensation for a substituted player to return to play in the match, all other provisions of Law 3 and the Laws of the Game apply to return substitutes. In particular, the substitution procedure outlined in Law 3 must be followed.