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Laws of the Game, Football Rules and The IFAB

The Laws of the Game are familiar to players, coaches, referees and fans across the world. But how are they actually decided?

UEFA via Getty Images

Football’s constant evolution means that the Laws of the Game (rules) are reviewed and updated on an annual basis. A clear understanding of these developments is essential for match officials at all levels, as well as players, coaches, fans and the media.

Below, we introduce the International Football Association Board (The IFAB), the independent governing body responsible for setting, amending and clarifying the Laws of the Game, and how The IFAB works to ensure that they can be easily understood and applied.

IFAB: Football’s lawmakers

The IFAB was founded by the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) in 1886 when countries had different Laws and a uniform set of Laws was needed so international football could be played. FIFA, founded in 1904, joined The IFAB in 1913.

Potential changes to the Laws of the Game are discussed each season. A transparent and democratic decision-making process involves consultations with internal bodies such as The IFAB’s advisory panels, which bring together technical experts from across the world, including representatives from UEFA and the other football confederations. These panels involve players, coaches, referees, technical directors and administrators. In addition, The IFAB is in constant exchange with other football stakeholders to ensure any possible matter is deliberated appropriately.

Law changes are approved at The IFAB’s annual general meeting (AGM) which typically takes place in early March ahead of their adoption at the beginning of a new season on 1 July. For tournaments such as UEFA EURO, which start in June and conclude in July, Law changes are effective as from the opening match.

Learn more about The IFAB

Laws of the Game

As well as the actual Laws, The IFAB also produces guidelines for match officials to follow on the pitch, with advice on positioning and movement, body language and communication, as well as instruction on in-game decisions on scenarios like offsides, injuries and additional time.

The referee uses vanishing spray during the UEFA Women's EURO 2022  match between Germany and Spain
The referee uses vanishing spray during the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 match between Germany and Spain Getty Images

Football Rules: a simple guide

In 2023, the IFAB issued a new, more accessible simplified version of the official Laws of the Game.

Designed to make the Laws easier to understand, Football Rules uses straightforward language and a simpler structure than the official Laws of the Game book.

The new edition is the perfect accompaniment for young people, potential or newly qualified referees, adults who referee occasionally, players, coaches (including those working towards a coaching qualification), fans and the media.

Football Rules is available via an app, can be accessed online or downloaded as a PDF, via the link below.

Access Football Rules

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