2016/17 IFAB Laws of the Game Now Available

The 2016-17 IFAB Laws of the Game are now available for download.  If you want to skip the summary and go straight to the download, you can click here.

The Only Thing That’s Changed Is Everything

Publisher.  Document organization.  Formatting. Download options.  Law titles.  Law content and wording.  Apart from those small items, not much has changed!

The new Laws are published directly by the International Football Association Board and not FIFA.  The IFAB is now setup as a Swiss corporation in its own right, separate and apart from FIFA.  As a result, the new IFAB logo is prominently featured on the cover, while the logos of the IFAB members – including FIFA – are displayed below the IFAB logo.

As previously reported, the Interpretations are now incorporated directly into the Laws themselves.  This makes the interpretations part of the Laws and makes it much easier to use the Laws book as a reference guide.

All of the graphics and fonts have been updated with a more modern look.

The IFAB website (and here on iTOOTR) now offers downloads of the Laws in three formats: PDF, Word (DOCX) and E-Book (coming soon).

Two new sections of the book summarize and detail changes to the Laws for 2016/17.

New Law Titles

The names of three of the Laws have been updated to reflect changes to the Laws themselves.

Law 3. Was: The Number of Players.  Now: The Players

Law 6, Was: The Assistant Referee.  Now: The Other Match Officials

Law 10.  Was: The Method of Scoring.  Now: Determining The Outcome of a Match

Law Changes and Clarifications

In total, there are 57 changes and clarifications to the Laws.  These range in importance from very significant (changes to misconduct application for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity) to relatively minor (that a match shall not continue if a team is reduced to fewer than 7 players is now officially part of the Laws rather than a suggestion of the IFAB).

Among the more interesting changes not previously mentioned:

  • Interference by a substitute or team official will result in a direct FK for the opponents (Law 03)
  • Ball must “clearly move” to be in play for all kicked restarts (Law 08)
  • Attempted violent conduct shall be punished with a send-off, even if no contact occurred (Law 12)
  • Striking an opponent in the face/head when not challenging for the ball shall be punished with a send-off (Law 12)
  • Impeding with contact results in a  Direct Free Kick (Law 12)

There are many other changes (52 others, in fact), so fire up the downloads and get to studying!



Major Changes Coming to 2016/17 Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game are set for a major overhaul in 2016/17.  They won’t be officially published until May, but I’ve been scouring the Internet for clues, and have been able to come up with a fairly clear picture of what’s ahead.


For the first time, the Laws of the Game will be published by IFAB, the International Football Association Board, the organization responsible for updating the Laws for many years.  This means the IFAB logo – and not the FIFA logo – will be featured on the cover. 

This is the result of IFAB being formed as a legal entity separate and apart from FIFA.  IFAB exists solely for the purpose of setting the Laws of the Game.

The Laws had not seen a comprehensive rewrite in many years.  IFAB selected retired English referee David Elleray (pictured above) to oversee the rewrite.  Among other goals, Elleray has said the rewrite should make the laws “clearer” and less subject to contradicting interpretation.

Administrative Changes

Until now, the Laws were actually two separate publications: the Laws “proper” and a separate section called “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees”, or simply “The Interpretations” to most referees.  Under the rewrite, these two separate sections are merged into a single publication.  Interpretations are discussed within each Law itself.

Referees in the USA may be familiar with this approach, as it has been utilized for years in the NCAA and the NFHS Soccer Rules publications (both of which vary to some extent from the LOTG).

The Laws will now be gender neutral.  Instead of using only masculine pronouns, the revised Laws use language that does not refer to one gender.

The Laws will be much briefer.  In the current edition of the Laws and Interpretations, the document clocks in at over 20,000 words.  The revised Laws will be about 10,000 words.

Law Changes

The most significant change to the Laws is the removal of the controversial “triple punishment” requirement.  In the current Laws, if a defender fouls an attacker in the defender’s own penalty area, and the referee determines that the defender should be sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, the defender (and their team) is subject to three punishments:

  1. The defender is sent-off (and the team must play with one less player)
  2. The attacking team is awarded a penalty kick.
  3. The defender is subject to a further suspension (which varies by league, but ranges from 1 to 3 games).

Under the revised Laws, if the defender is making a legitimate attempt to play the ball and simply mis-times a tackle, for example, the defender will be cautioned instead of sent off. This only applies to fouls committed inside the penalty area, and only when the referee determines there was a legitimate attempt to play the ball.  If the defender should, for example, grab the jersey of the attacker, the defender would still be subject to being sent off.

Further, if the foul occurs outside of the penalty area, the defender would continue to be subject to a send off, consistent with the current edition of the Laws.

Other changes to the Laws include:

  • A kick-off may now be kicked in any direction, including backwards
  • Players who are injured as the result of a reckless or excessive force challenge (resulting in a caution or send off to the offender) will not be required to leave the field of play to receive treatment, if treatment can be handled expeditiously
  • Goalkeepers who come off their line during a penalty kick will be cautioned if the kick fails, in addition to the kick being re-taken
  • If the kicker of the penalty kick violates the Laws, the kick will no longer be retaken and play will be restarted with an indirect free kick for the defending team
  • If opposing players are off the field of play (through the course of normal play) and one commits a foul, play will be restarted with the appropriate free kick, on the touchline or goal line.  Under the current Laws, play restarts with a dropped ball, as only misconduct and not fouls can be committed off the field of play.  The example given by Mr Elleray to illustrate is when a pair of opponents go off the field during the run of play, and one grabs the other to prevent him/her from re-entering the field of play.  The team of the player whose shirt was grabbed will now be awarded a free-kick on the appropriate boundary line.  Note that this could result in a penalty kick being awarded.
  • Offside restarts will be taken from the point on the field where the offending player was when they became offside.  Under the current Laws, the restart would be taken from the point where they were originally in an offside position.  (Editor’s note: it will be interesting to see how the Assistant Referee mechanics might be updated to handle a situation where a player starts a play from an offside position in the attacking half of the field and then becomes involved in active play on the defending half of the field)

There are other minor changes to the Laws, but I’ve attempted to list what I believe to be the most significant changes.  There’s certainly enough change to ensure 2017 recertification classes will be have plenty of discussion points.

R.I.P. Advice to Referees

If you’ve visited the US Soccer referee downloads section lately, you might have noticed the absence of the “Advice to Referees” document.

I’ve been informed by Rick Eddy, Director of Referee Development at US Soccer, that publication of “Advice to Referees” has been discontinued. Going forward, says Rick, referees should depend solely on the FIFA publication “Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” (better known among referees as simply the “Interpretations”).

No further explanation was offered by Mr. Eddy (and to be fair, I didn’t ask).

The Interpretations can be found as the last section of the Laws of the Game document, which is available in the Downloads section of this website.  Exclusively on this site, you will find the LOTG in three formats: PDF, ePub (a popular eBook format), and Kindle.  You can also find the final edition of “Advice to Referees” on the Downloads page.  Use it at your own risk!

For those of you following from outside the USA, the “Advice to Referees” was very similar to the “Interpretations”, but with many more examples and explanations, published by the Referee Education department of the US Soccer Federation.

Respect for John Bieniewicz

It pains me greatly that I have to write another post about a referee brother who we’ve lost to senseless tragedy.

By all accounts John Bieniewicz, a referee affiliated to Michigan Soccer, was a great person and referee whose life was cut short due to on field violence.

Rather than repeating what has been said elsewhere, I’ll refer you to media reports about John and the terrible incident that took his life:

Detroit Free Press:  http://www.freep.com/article/20140701/NEWS02/307010110/Soccer-referee-dies-Livonia

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/01/justice/michigan-soccer-death/

CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/report-michigan-referee-punched-during-soccer-game-dies/

To honor John, Michigan Soccer has asked referees, players, supporters and all who love the world’s greatest game to change their social media avatars and profile photos to a version of the USSF Referee badge with a black stripe.  You can download a version pre-formatted for Facebook (and will work on other social media as well) directly from iTOOTR, by clicking here.

My plan is to keep this as my profile photo at least until the John’s funeral service.  I’m also asking everyone who posts about John and this tragedy to include the hashtag #RespectForJohnB which echoes FIFA’s “Respect” campaign.

Finally, if you would like to contribute to a memorial fund that has been established for John’s children, you can do so by clicking here.  (Please note that iTOOTR has not researched the memorial fund and cannot say how the funds will be used)