A number of recently-introduced laws will come into force for the first time for clubs throughout the country when the new winter season kicks off in the next few weeks.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) announced more than 95 alterations to the laws of the game last June after 18 months of consultation. The changes have already been in effect for the Stirling Sports Premiership, National Women’s League and National Youth League but will now be in place for all regional and local leagues from the 2017 season.
The key amendments for all players, coaches and spectators to take note of are as follows:
The ball no longer has to go forward at kick-off. The previous law stated the ball had to go into the opposition half at the restart but has been changed to allow it to move in any direction, as long as it clearly moves. This change has paved the way for one-man kick-offs, as first seen at Euro 2016.
Pre-match red cards
Referees will be able to give a player a red card before the match kicks off. This allows officials to punish red-card offences (eg. violent conduct) in the warm-up or as the two teams line up in the tunnel. The new law states a player may be sent off any time between the pre-match inspection and when the referee leaves the field at the end of the game.
An end to the ‘triple-punishment’ law
The previous ‘triple-punishment’ law meant a player who denied a goal-scoring opportunity in the box was automatically red-carded and handed a suspension, as well as giving away a penalty. The law has now been changed so players committing accidental fouls that deny goalscoring opportunities in the penalty area will not be automatically sent off, with a yellow card sufficient punishment.
As the amendment states: “When a denial of a goalscoring opportunity offence is committed by a defender in the penalty area, the penalty kick effectively restores the goalscoring opportunity so the punishment for the player should be less strong (e.g. a yellow card) than when the offence is committed outside the penalty area. However, when the offence is handball or clearly not a genuine attempt to play or challenge for the ball, the player will be sent off.”
If a player is fouled and hurt by an opponent who subsequently receives a yellow or red card for the challenge, the injured player may be quickly treated on the pitch without the need to leave the field of play. It was widely seen as unfair that a player injured by a serious foul was forced off the pitch for treatment, temporarily placing the fouled team at a numerical disadvantage.
A player who briefly leaves the field (eg. to change boots) may have his new boots checked by an assistant referee or fourth official before returning to play. Previously, the player required the referee’s permission to return.
Among several minor changes to the laws regarding penalties, the most significant is the amendment to yellow card a penalty taker who illegally feints once his run-up is complete. This means slowing to a stop immediately before shooting is not allowed, with a yellow card and an indirect free-kick to the opposition the result. The law does stress feinting during a run-up is still permitted.
Infringements by substitutes/team officials
If play is stopped due to interference from a team official or substitute, rather than the award of an indirect free-kick or drop ball, the referee will now award a free-kick or penalty kick to the opposition.
Colour of undergarments/tape
Undershorts/tights must be the same colour as the main colour of the shorts or the lowest part of the shorts. This takes into account shorts with a different coloured hem. Undershirts must still be the same colour as the main colour of the shirt sleeve. Any tape or other material on or covering socks must be the same colour as the sock.
The law now states the halfway line is neutral, meaning a player must have part of the body (excluding arms or hands) in the opponent’s half to be flagged offside. A free-kick resulting from an offside will now always take place where the offence is committed (even if the player is in his own half – you cannot be in an offside position in your own half but you can go back into your own half to commit an offside offence).
In an effort to stop referees brandishing yellow cards for every handball, “preventing an opponent gaining possession” has been removed from the list of bookable offences. Handball is now a yellow card offence when “it stops/interferes with a promising attack”.
The phrase “clearly moves” has been added to the law on restarts, meaning attempts to trick the opposition by lightly tapping the ball at a corner (or free-kick) and then dribbling will come to an end. This amendment is part of a renewed emphasis on what constitutes sporting behaviour “within the spirit of the game”.
The complete Laws of the Game can be viewed by clicking here