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Football Rule Changes 2019/20

Association football introduced twelve new football rules for 2019. They include changes to handball [Law 12] along with a sterner punishment for an 'illegal' goal celebration. The official Laws of the Game 2019 PDF contains 228 pages. So, we though this summarisation of a dozen FIFA rule changes brought into play from the 1st of June would be easier to handle.

Football’s 12 New Laws

The early evening kick off on Friday the 9th of August is the time of note for the 2019-20 Premier League season.

In fact, the Football Association first introduced the Friday night kick off rule change a few years ago (back in 2017).

The list of football teams names A to Z shows which 3 teams dropped out of the Premier League this season.

You can also check which 3 teams earned their promotion from the Championship to play in the top flight of English football.

So, let’s dive right in:

This article focuses on all twelve of the new Football Association rules for the 2019/20 season. The list covers the most noticeable changes and enhancements to the beautiful game (in alphabetical order).

Drop Ball Rules Changes

  • If play is stopped inside the penalty area, the ball will be dropped for the goalkeeper.
  • If play is stopped outside the penalty area, the ball will be dropped for one player of the team that last touched the ball at the point of the last touch.
  • In all cases, all the other players (of both teams) must be at least 4 metres (4.5 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.

New dropped ball procedures mean:

The IFAB rule-makers wanted to remove a ‘manufactured’ restart from the game. It also removes the potential for an aggressive confrontation because players can no longer contest drop ball situations.

One of the new roles of officials in football means they will return the ball to the team that last played it. As a rule, doing so will restore what was ‘lost’ after the ref needs to stop play.

New football rules prevent teams from gaining an unfair advantage from dropped ball procedures. Other than the player receiving it, ALL other players from both teams must be a minimum of 4 yards away from the ball when the referee releases it.

The ‘unfairness’ of a team gaining an advantage (or scoring a goal after the ball hits a match official) has been removed from the game.

Note: Drop balls in the penalty area will be a simpler process because the ball goes straight back to the goalkeeper (uncontested).

Free Kicks (Law 13)

  • When there is a ‘wall’ of three or more defenders, the attackers are not allowed within 1 metre (1 yard) of the wall; an attacker less than 1 metre (1 yard) from the ‘wall’ when the kick is taken will be penalised with an indirect free kick.
  • When the defending team takes a free kick in their own penalty area, the ball is in play once the kick is taken; it does not have to leave the penalty area before it can be played.

In simple terms:

Attackers are often guilty of wasting time and causing problems when standing in (or very close to) a defensive ‘wall’. The IFAB feel there is no legitimate tactical justification for attackers to be in the wall during a free kick.

Allowing the ball to be in play once kicked (and not having to leave the penalty area) should produce a faster restart.

Until the ball is in play the opponents must remain at least 9.15 metres outside of the penalty area (also applies to the goal kick).

Note: The new football laws come from the codified FIFA football rules and regulations PDF 2019 download.

Goal Celebrations (Law 12)

A yellow card (YC) for an ‘illegal’ goal celebration (e.g. removing the shirt) remains – even if the goal is disallowed.

And the reason is:

Cautioning players for inappropriate goal celebrations will still apply even if the goal is not given. The aim is to remove the negative impact (e.g. image of the game, safety) that this type of behaviour displays.

Note: Another section explains soccer celebration rules in greater detail.

Goal Kick (Law 16)

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

An explanation for this one is:

This change should create a faster and a more constructive restart for the game. It’s been commonplace to see defenders intentionally play the ball before it leaves the penalty. And the ‘punishment’ would have been retaking the goal kick.

Even so, the opposing players must remain outside of the penalty area (9.15 metres away) until the ball is back in play.

Handball (Law 12)

There are no changes to deliberate handball rules in football and it 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.

What does it all mean?

The need for greater clarity on handball, especially ‘non- intentional’ ball handling, is evident. The main principles behind the re-wording go something like this:

  • A goal scored by a hand or an arm in football is not accepted (even if it was accidental).
  • Players will be penalised for handball if:
    • They gain possession or control of the ball after using their hand or arm.
    • They gain a major advantage after handling the ball (e.g. scoring or creating a goal-scoring opportunity).
  • Putting an arm between their body and the ground is a natural movement for support when falling.
  • As a rule, it is unnatural to have a hand or arm above the height of the shoulders. Players will be ‘taking a risk’ by doing so, even when making a sliding tackle.
  • The IFAB consider it impossible to avoid hand/arm contact with the ball if it comes off the player’s body or off another player close by (of either team).

  • Kick-Off (Law 8)

    The team that wins the toss can now choose to take the kick-off or which goal to attack (previously they only had the choice of which goal to attack).

    The rationale behind this one:

    Some of the previous changes (e.g. new FA rules for 2017/18) helped to make the game more dynamic. Players can score a goal direct from the kick-off. Thus, most captains who won the coin toss will elect to take the kick-off.

    Medical Breaks (Law 7)

    Difference between ‘cooling’ breaks (90 seconds to three minutes) and ‘drinks’ breaks (maximum one minute).

    The simple explanation is:

    It’s all about player safety. The rules for certain competitions may allow ‘cooling’ breaks in hot and humid weather conditions. Doing so should allow the body’s temperature to fall. Whereas, ‘drinks’ breaks have a maximum of one minute (used for rehydration purposes).

    Penalty Kick (Law 14)


    • The team’s penalty taker can have (quick) treatment/assessment and then take the kick.
    • The goalkeeper must not be touching the goalposts/crossbar/nets; they must not be moving.
    • The goalkeeper must have at least part of one foot on/in line with the goal line when the kick is taken; cannot stand behind the line.

    New penalty rules in football mean:

    A kicker needing assessment or treatment would usually need to leave the field afterward. That means they may be ruled out for taking penalty kicks.

    The referee must not signal for the penalty kick to be taken if the goalkeeper is touching the goalposts, the crossbar, or the net (or if they are moving).

    The new referee rules deter them from signalling for a player to take the penalty kick if (either):

    • The goalkeeper is touching the goalposts, crossbar, or net.
    • The goalposts, crossbar, or net are moving (e.g. the goalkeeper kicked or shook them).

    Rule changes introduced by IFAB also ban goalkeepers from standing in front of (or behind) the goal line during penalty kicks.

    The skill of kicking and netting football penalties allows the kicker to make a ‘stutter’ in the run up. Thus, it is not unreasonable to allow a goalkeeper to take one step in anticipation of the shot.

    Players’ Equipment (Law 4)

    Multi-coloured/patterned undershirts are allowed if they are the same as the sleeve of the main shirt.

    The idea behind that one is:

    Most football clothing manufacturers make patterned undershirts with sleeves matching the main shirt sleeve. Allowing players to wear them does not distract match officials’ from their decision-making.

    Note: Check out the ultimate soccer equipment list in another section with oodles of information on all the gear that players wear.

    Quick Free Kick and YC/RC (Law 12)

    If the referee is about to issue a YC/RC but the non-offending team takes the free kick quickly and creates a goal-scoring opportunity, the referee can delay the YC/RC until the next stoppage if the offending team was not distracted by the referee.

    And a simple explanation is:

    In the past, the match referee would stop an attack to deal with a cautionable (YC) or sending-off (RC) offence.

    From now on (since June 1st 2019), an attacking team can take a quick free kick which can often restore a ‘lost’ attack disadvantage. Thus, it is fairer to allow this ‘new’ attack technique to go ahead and to issue the YC/RC afterward.

    But, a referee should not allow the quick free kick to occur if he/she has already distracted the offending team (e.g. started issuing red card yellow card procedures).

    A DOGSO offence in football means a player is “denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity”. The player would receive a caution (YC) and not sent-off (RC) during a DOGSO offence. The reasoning behind it is that the attack was re-started (as when advantage is applied for a DOGSO offence).

    Substitutes (Law 3)

    A player who is being substituted must leave the field by the nearest point on the touchline/goal line (unless the referee indicates the player can leave quickly/immediately at the halfway line or a different point because of safety, injury etc.).

    The new rules for substitutions signify:

    Leaving the pitch at the halfway line has never been a Law requirement in football. The change will speed up the previously slow substitution process by allowing players to leave at the nearest point (e.g. for an injury).

    Even so, the referee may indicate otherwise, such as if:

    • The player can leave the field quicker at the halfway line.
    • There is a safety or security issue.
    • The player needs to leave the pitch on a stretcher.

    Note: A substituted player must go immediately to the technical area or to their team’s dressing room. This rule amendment avoids potential problems with other substitutes, spectators, or any of the match officials. Infringing the spirit of this Law (e.g. delaying the restart of play) will result in a sanction for unsporting behaviour.

    Team Officials (Laws 5 and 12)

    A team official guilty of misconduct will be shown a YC (caution) or RC (sending-off); if the offender cannot be identified, the senior coach who is in the technical area at the time will receive the YC/RC.

    Previous experiments have now become Law:

    Handing out YC/RC for misconduct displayed by team officials has been enshrined in the rules of football. Most of all, it is likely to help the young referees deal with a select few of the, shall we say, ‘difficult and challenging’ adult coaches.

    And what if the official is unable to identify the offender? In this case, the main coach or the senior team official in the technical area will receive the caution.

    What is IFAB?

    IFAB stands for the International Football Association Board. Founded in 1886, they describe themselves as the ‘guardian of the Laws of the Game’. It is the only organisation with complete authority to review and amend the rules and regulations of football (i.e. the 17 Laws).

    FIFA (representing 207 national associations) and four British associations (FA, SFA, FAW and the IFA) are all members of IFAB. But, when it comes to voting on new football rule changes, the four British associations get one (1) vote each and FIFA gets four (4) votes.

    All 12 IFAB Rules Changes for 2019/20 Season Explained