The Laws of the Game Have Changed — Be Ready

Larry Huey, NTX SDI

There is always potential for confusion and conflict with the referee’s decisions when changes to the Laws of the Game occur. This is a general summary of the changes affecting play and not intended to substitute for a reading of the Laws. Referees are challenged to read the entire text of the 2016/17 Revised Laws of the Game. The revisions are posted on and on

Effective July 1, 2016 for NTX (unless noted otherwise by your competition authority) the following changes to the Laws include:

• A kick-off may now be taken in any direction, including backwards. All players must be in their own half of the field. There is no need to have one positioned in the opposing half to play the second touch backward. (All kicking restarts must be kicked and “clearly move.” Only the penalty kick MUST be played forward.)

• An injured player is not required to leave the field if the injury results from a reckless (yellow card) or excessive force (red card) foul, IF the treatment can be handled quickly.

• Goalkeepers who come off the line before a penalty kick is taken will be cautioned (YC) if the kick fails and the kick will be re-taken.

• If the kicker of a penalty kick violates the Law, (e.g., kicked backward, excessive feinting or feinting upon reaching the ball, or a kick by an unidentified teammate) the kick will not be re-taken. The restart will be an indirect free kick for the defending team.

• If opposing players leave the field as part of the normal course of play and a foul is committed by one while off the field, the re-start is a free kick on the touchline or goal line as appropriate. For example, a player off the field holds his opponent to prevent him from re-entering the field. Unless advantage is applied and realized, the referee would stop play and award a direct free kick on the boundary line. Depending on location, this could be a penalty kick.

• Offside restarts. Under current law, the restart was supposed to be where the offending player was first determined to be in an offside position. Now, the restart will be taken where the offending player became offside, i.e., involved in active play. Thinking through the possibilities, it is now possible that the restart could take place in the team’s own half when a player in an offside position returns to his own half to play the ball.

• A player who has been instructed to leave the field for an equipment issue can now return to the field during play AS LONG AS they have been checked by the AR, or fourth official, and the referee signals for their return. In other words, this situation is now treated like an injury return when the team is playing short.

• Any on-field interference by a substitute or a team official while the ball is in play will result in a direct free kick or penalty kick. (In the prior Law it was an indirect free kick for interference by a substitute and a dropped ball for interference by a team official.)

• Teams involved in kicks from the penalty mark will have the same number of kickers at the start and throughout the process. Reduce to Equate will apply if a player from one team is sent off during kicks as well.

• Finally, a more complex revision affects the referee’s actions as a result of a foul which denies a goal or obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO). First, nothing has changed if the foul meets the criteria for DOGSO and occurs outside the penalty area. Second, the type of foul now determines the referee’s response to DOGSO inside the penalty area. For example, a defender’s mis-timed tackle in a legitimate attempt to play the ball results in a tripping foul in the penalty area. The referee calls the foul, awards the penalty kick and cautions (YC) the player. A DOGSO foul in the penalty area involving holding, pushing, pulling, or where there was no attempt to play the ball, or where it involves serious foul play will still be punished by a send-off (RC).