Here is how the biggest revamp of the rules of football in 135 years looks, largely
through former Premier League referee David Elleray’s explanations.
The current law says the ball must go forward at kick-off and players have to be in their own half. The
rule is being changed to allow the ball to go in any direction at kick-off as long as it moves.
Pre-match red cards
Citing a row in the tunnel between Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane before an Arsenal-Manchester
United match in 2005, Elleray highlighted how they could not have been sent off in the event of a full-scale fight. The laws were written at a time before it was customary for teams to line up next to each
other in the tunnel before kick-off.
In future referees will be able to punish red-card offences any time after the pre-match inspection.
Elleray: “[Fighting players] would be banned from playing the match but both teams would still start
with 11 because they would be able to use one of the named substitutes. They would lose a
Leaving the field after treatment
Elleray: “If a player is injured from a challenge which is punished by a red or yellow card, he can have
quick treatment on the field of play and does not have to leave. It always seemed unfair that the victim
team was down to 10 men and the guilty team has 11 against 10.”
Elleray: “If a player goes off to change his boots, at the moment he has to wait until the game is
stopped and the referee has to go and check his boots before he can play again. Now we are saying
his boots or whatever can be checked by the fourth official, the assistant referee even, and [the player
can] come back during play.”
Elleray: “Two players go off the field of play. One tries to get back on to play the ball and the other
one grabs him off the field of play to stop him going back on. At the moment the referee gives a red or
yellow card and restarts with a drop ball, which is clearly wrong. So we will be giving a free-kick on the
touchline or the goal-line. If it is inside the penalty area, it can be a penalty kick.”
Elleray: “If a [non-playing] substitute at the moment comes on and dives and stops the goal, it is an
indirect free-kick.” And then there is the unlikely but not unforeseen situation in which a team
physician comes on to the field during play. “If the doctor does it, it is a drop ball, which again is wrong
for football. Their team benefits from breaking the law. So they will become direct free-kicks or penalty
Elleray: “If a player gets sent off during kicks from the penalty mark, the other team does not also go
down to 10. So if it goes all the way through, the guilty team’s best player takes a second kick against
the innocent team’s worst player.”
In future both teams will be reduced to the same number of penalty-takers.
Elleray: “We are trying to make sure the laws are fair and support the team that has been offended
against and do not reward people for breaking the laws of the game.”
Elleray: “Part of the law book says when players commit an offside offence you give a free-kick where
the offence occurred. The other part of the law book says you give a free-kick where the player was
when he was in the offside position. So a player can actually move 20 yards from being in an offside
position … and it is only the moment he plays the ball that he is penalised. The law tells you to give
the free-kick in two different places.
“So, in future, the free-kick will always be given where he commits the offside offence, even if he is in
his own half, because 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.”
Club logos will be allowed on corner flags. Elleray: “It happens in the Premier League but is actually
against the laws of the game.”
Elleray: “We are encouraging referees to referee according to the spirit of the game and to use
common sense. … If you can play the game and there is a minor breach of the law, report it to the
authorities and sort it out afterwards. Do not be too black and white in minor areas.”
That means, for example, in the grass-roots game, not abandoning a match if one of the four corner
flags is broken.