With the 2019/20 season already upon us, here’s a run through of the rule and law changes within the game which you might not yet know about (on top of VAR, which is a whole other topic!)  The following changes came into force as of the 1st of June 2019, introduced by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).  The changes are for football worldwide.

Dropped ball

  • 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 4m (4.5yds) 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


  • When there is a ‘wall’ of three or more defenders, the attackers are not allowed within 1m (1 yd) of the wall; an attacker less than 1m (1yd) 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

 Goal celebrations

  • A yellow card will be awarded for an ‘illegal’ celebration (e.g. removing the shirt) even if the goal is disallowed


  • The ball is in play once the kick is taken; it can be played before leaving the penalty area. Opponents must remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play


  • Deliberate handball 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 touched 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


  • 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)

 Medical breaks

  • Difference between ‘cooling’ breaks (90 secs – 3 mins) and ‘drinks’ breaks (max 1 min). In the interests of player safety, competition rules may allow, in certain weather conditions (e.g. high humidity and temperatures), ‘cooling’ breaks (from ninety seconds to three minutes) to allow the body’s temperature to fall; they are different from ‘drinks’ breaks (maximum one minute) which are for rehydration.

 Penalty kick

  • 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

 Players’ equipment

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

 Quick free-kick and cards

  • If the referee is about to issue a yellow or red card but the non-offending team takes the free-kick quickly and creates a goal-scoring opportunity, the referee can delay the card until the next stoppage if the offending team was not distracted by the referee


  • 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.)

 Team officials

  • A team official (member of the coaching staff) guilty of misconduct will be shown a yellow card (caution) or red card (sending-off); if the offender cannot be identified, the senior coach who is in the technical area at the time will receive the card.


by Rob Clothier