Entries related to Law 1 – The Field


September 6, 2014

Why is the touchline so named? What is the origin of “touch” and “in touch”?

Answer (September 5, 2014):
“Touch” is any area outside the boundaries of the field, particularly the lines that run between the corners across the halfway line to the corner at the far end of the field. It is the area in which the ball may be handled legally by players, i.e., “touched.” Once the whole of the ball has crossed the whole of the boundary line, it is “in touch.”

A couple of months ago, I was watching the UEFA U-17 Championship final, and it went to kicks from the penalty mark. It seemed like every single player was trying to place the ball at the very edge of the mark in order to have the ball a few inches closer to the goal. And every single time, the referee intervened. He made every player reposition the ball, and it seemed he wasn’t satisfied until the ball was at the center of the mark. To me, the referee was wrong.

Law 14 says the ball must be placed on the mark. And Law 1 says that the lines are a part of areas which they define. I know the penalty mark isn’t a line, but doesn’t the same principle apply to it? Just as a ball that is touching the imaginary plane above the touchline or goal line is in play, shouldn’t a ball that is touching the imaginary cylinder above the penalty mark be considered on the penalty mark?

Answer (July 22, 2012):
In order to ensure uniformity in penalty kicks and kicks from the penalty mark, the IFAB established the penalty mark in the form of a circle 9 inches in diameter; not a box or a simple line. The Law specifies that the ball “must be placed on the penalty mark” and “the ball is properly placed on the penalty mark,” not elsewhere.

My child plays U8 soccer. There is no goal box, only a penalty area. When taking a goal kick, the ref insists the ball sit on the corner of the penalty area. The offense of a team we played either stood immediately in front of or rushed the ball while it was being kicked. For larger fields, the offense has to stay back because of the goal box being inside the penalty box. since they’re one in the same for us, can the offense stand immediately in front of the ball?

Answer (May 9, 2012):
According to USYS Rules for U8, there is no penalty area in U8 soccer; they use only a goal area, which has two lines drawn at right angles to the goal line three (3) yards from the inside each goalpost. These lines extend into the field of play for a distance of three (3) yards and are joined by a line drawn parallel with the goal line. The area bounded by these lines and the goal line is the goal area. The opponents must remain outside the goal area and at least four (4) yards from the ball until it is in play. There is absolutely no requirement that the kick must be taken from one of the corners of the goal area, just as there is no such requirement in adult soccer

One of our readers, Greg Brooks, supplied this useful information:

I thought I’d chime in on the U-8 question posted today. In a league
which I officiate, they allow the U-8 players to take goal kicks from
the edge of the penalty area instead of the goal box. I believe the
required minimum distance is 8 yards, so that should apply to those
goal kicks in such U-8 games, correct? I’ve never had a problem with
failure to maintain the required distance, but this gives me something
to think about.


February 25, 2012

The following occurred in an official match in Argentina’s “Torneo Argentino C”: A forward kicks the ball towards the goal, the ball hits the crossbar and goes up, then hits a branch that was inside the field area and goes down. A defender takes the ball with his hands, and the referee signals a penalty.

Questions: Was the branch an outside agent? Should have the referee signaled a dropped ball instead of a penalty?

Please advise.

Source (with video):
also at

USSF answer (February 25, 2012):
We agree with the referee that the ball was still in play. The tree limb overhanging the field is a pre-existing condition, meaning that play is the same as if the ball had hit the crossbar or the referee — it is still in play.

One is unlikely to find a tree overhanging a field in which the game is played under a FIFA-run competition, as there would certainly be no tree to worry about.


November 24, 2011

As a referee, I have always been told that the lines on a field are part of the area of which they “contain”. However, this seems to be in conflict with the law regarding throw-ins and the placement of the feet of the individual taking the throw-in along the touchline.

I recently had a game in which I had to explain the lines are part of the area of which they contain and he brought up the fact that on a throw-in as long as both feet are touching the touchline in some form that the throw-in is considered legal. However he then pointed out that by my description, would not that be illegal since in a throw-in the player must take the throw-in from outside of the field of play, however the line is considered in play?

The only reasoning I can come up with for this is that at its most basic form the throw-in is a method of restarting the match and thus follows a slightly different set of circumstances or rules than normal course of play.

But is there any further reasoning as to why a player is allowed to be completely in the field of play when taking a throw-in (in the case where they keep both heels on the inside edge of the touchline) and yet the throw-in is technically taken to put the ball back in to play?

USSF answer (November 24, 2011):
The answer to your question lies in applying Laws 1 and 15 as they are written, not in finding reasons to doubt them. “He,” whoever “he” may be, was totally wrong in suggesting that having one’s feet on the line had anything to do with a dichotomy in the Laws. Your original understanding is correct. Your interlocutor is talking apples and applesauce, two different things, and creating his own muddled version of the Laws.

Law 1:
Field Markings
The field of play must be rectangular and marked with lines. These lines belong to the areas of which they are boundaries.

Law 15:
At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower:
* faces the field of play
* has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line

This is the Law and it is also tradition. Where the Law is clear, follow the Law; where it is not, do the best you can (including applying logic).

Earlier this month, I was refereeing [at a] Labor Day Cup. It was very, very windy. An attacker shot the ball from a far distance towards the goal. However, the wind pushed the net on the other side of the crossbar. The net shockingly prevented the ball from entering the net. (Did I mention how windy it was?) The net did NOT detach from the crossbar, but the wind was so strong the net was sitting in front of the goal.

What does the law say about the net? Well, from what I’ve researched, you do not have to have a net. From my perspective, the net (once it is pushed by the wind onto the field) becomes an outside agent even though the net is still connected to the posts. The referee should restart with a dropped ball from goal area line outside of where the contact was made. “Selling” this call would be nearly impossible, so I thought I would ask you guys on the best way to handle a situation like this.

USSF answer (October 3, 2011):
No, the net cannot be considered an outside agent in any game situation. In this case, referee failure to follow the dictates of Law 5 was the cause of the incident

As you say, the net is not required by the Laws of the Game; however, it is normally required by most rules of competition (such as the tournament at which the incident occurred). The organizers should have ensured that the net was firmly mounted on the goal and secured to the ground. The referee and the rest of the officiating crew should have inspected the field an all its appurtenances before the game began (and again prior to the start of the second half or any additional periods) and also ensured that the net was firmly mounted on the goal and secured to the ground.

Therefore, the fact that the net was blowing around must be regarded as a natural occurrence. There is no solution other than the one you suggest: once the net has been repaired, the referee must drop the ball from the spot at which the interference occurred (in accordance with Law 8): “The referee drops the ball at the place where it was located when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped. Play restarts when the ball touches the ground.”

The same logic could be applied to other situations caused by referee inattention to the Law and his or her duty to protect the players and, most important, to provide a “level” playing field so that each team receives fair and equal treatment. For example, suppose the scenario had involved a goal frame which, due to the high winds, was pushed forward toward the field such that the crossbar (though still attached) was ahead of the goal line rather than straight above it. Suppose further that a shot on goal was made at an extreme angle such that the ball struck the crossbar and the deflection enabled the ball to stay on the field whereas the ball would have gone into the upper left corner of the net if the crossbar had been properly positioned.

Law 1 tells us that goalposts and crossbars must be white and that they must be shaped a certain way (e.g., if the goalposts are rectangular or elliptical, the longer axis must be perpendicular to the goal line).

In Tennessee, we have goals that aren’t white (they’re bare metal), and it’s not uncommon to see portable goals that aren’t shaped as now specified in Law 1. For example:

If a referee notices unsanctioned goals (wrong color, wrong shape, or both), does US Soccer really want that referee to mention this in his/her referee report? Also, should goals that are the wrong shape be treated the same way as goals that aren’t white?

Should these two parts of Law 1 be ignored (by referees)? After all, neither infraction is a safety issue, and neither should be the reason for preventing a match from being played.

I’m asking how we should handle such goals because my instructors are asking me how they should teach the material and how they should respond to “What do I really do” questions.

USSF answer (August 12, 2011):
The safety of the players and other participants always comes first. Referees should conduct a complete inspection of the field and its appurtenances before every game (and again if something happens to endanger a participant). If there is a problem, such as the goal made of steel 2 x 4s in the hotlink you provided, the referee must judge whether or not the item is truly safe for the players. If the referee decides that the goal or any other appurtenance is unsafe — and there is no viable alternative — then the game cannot be played.

IN all such cases, the referee must include full details in the match report.

Advice – dealing with Appurtenances – Pre-existing Conditions

Per Advice dealing with appurtenances, 1.8(c) -pre-existing conditions, specifically overhanging trees. We have several venues that have overhanging tree limbs on one end of the field that happens to behind the goal area/line. If the overhanging tree limbs ” do not affect one team or more adversely than the other are considered to be part of the field”. There have been two examples where the attacking team has to take a corner kick and the player taking the kick happens to kick it into the overhanging tree limbs, the referee then told the players that the ball is still in play because it did not leave the field of play. In another example, one team who was attacking their opponent’s goal had their player take a shot on goal, the ball was going over the cross-bar but for the tree limbs, the ball stopped and dropped in front of their opponent’s goalkeeper penalty area and the goal-keeper was able to retrieve the ball, since the ball was still in play, the goalkeeper then was able to punt the ball across the field and their forward was able to score a goal in a matter of seconds. A third example, occurred when the ball was kicked by an attacking team, the goal-keeper was out of position and the ball hit the tree limbs and the ball rolled across the goal-line and underneath the cross bar, thus a goal was scored. In the final example, the attacker took a shot and the ball hit the tree limbs yet the ball was still in play and the team-mate was able to score because the goal-keeper turned one way and the ball fell to the side of him inside of the goal area. In these four examples, how should the referee crew handle these examples. Should they tell the teams ahead of time, should they stop play and do a drop-ball or should the referee say “play-on” and where would play be restarted?

Thank you.

USSF answer (May 26, 2011):
Advice 1.8(c) is pretty clear and we believe it covers your situations fully::

(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)

Note: The difference between non-regulation appurtenances and pre-existing conditions is that, if the ball makes contact with something like uprights or crossbar superstructure, it is ruled out of play even if the contact results in the ball remaining on the field. Where there is a pre-existing condition (such as an overhanging tree limb), the ball remains in play even if there is contact, as long as the ball itself remains on the field. Referees must be fully aware of and enforce any rules of the competition authority or field owner regarding non-regulation appurtenances.

There is no bias in this guidance toward one team or the other, as each team must play one-half of the game under these conditions.

As the competition appears to play many games at these fields, it would seem that all teams should already be well aware of the conditions before they get to the field. However, the referee could be proactive and remind the teams of the conditions and that the ball will remain in play.

The only permanent solution we can recommend to avoid such events is that the limbs might be lopped off by a trained tree-removal person (with the permission of the landowner, of course).

Finally, let us add that our advice applies only to those portions of the trees that actually overhang the field; not to other portions of the same tree.

I had a question on what constitutes “superfluous items” on a goal post. I was officiating a game the other weekend when the ball bounced off the wheels attached to the goalposts (these are the movable goals), and in the subsequent play the attacker scored a goal. The defenders said that the ball had hit the wheel (that was attached to the goalpost) and came back unto the field of play. I talked to the AR and after the discussion allowed the goal to stand. At half time we went over to the goal post and put the ball down in front of the wheel and noticed that the wheel was placed in such a way that the ball never left the field of play, that part of the ball was on the goal line.

However, I was just reading the ATR and noticed that 1.7.b noted those items that were “non-regulation apparatus” and if the ball touched these items that the ball should be considered out of play, regardless of the ball rebounding back into the field of play.

The question I have is should I have consider the wheel attached to the goalpost to have been a “non-regulation” apparatus and therefore have waved off the goal?

USSF answer (March 25, 2011):
This answer repeats what we have replied in three earlier answers and in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The referee should not have allowed the goal to be used in the first place. An appropriate pregame inspection would have prevented such a thing. Wheeled goals fall under the same category as standard U. S. football goalposts. This is covered in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

(b) Non-regulation appurtenances (see 1.7)
These include superfluous items attached to the goal frame (such as the uprights on combination soccer/football goals) and not generally subject to movement. If the ball contacts these items, it is deemed to be automatically out of play and the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball.

The intelligent referee will either not permit equipment that is not in accordance with the Law or be prepared to face the problems that occur. Full details should be included in the match report.

This question emphasizes the importance of a thorough pregame inspection. However, if the referee has inspected the field and determined that the goals or other appurtenances meet the requirements of the Law, then he or she cannot later rule that the equipment is no longer acceptable–unless something has happened that changes the state of the equipment. In that case, the wheels are still regarded as unofficial superstructure and if the ball is affected by them, the ball is dead and play stops, with an appropriate restart in accordance with the Law (corner kick or goal kick, depending on who last played the ball for a ball that left the field, and a dropped ball if the ball remained on the field).

I’ve looked through LOTG and searched the archives and cannot find a definitive answer to the following:

Keeper Punting the Ball – Enforcement of the PA in the taking of the punt. There is differing Veteran Referee opinions / judgements: A) PA is enforced from where the ball meets the foot; B) PA is enforced from where the ball left the hand(s) of the keeper in starting the punt toss.

Example: the keeper tosses the ball into the air from inside the PA but strikes the ball 2-3 feet outside of the area. Legal?

USSF answer (October 12, 2010):
Let’s look at it in increments. If any part of the ball is on the line, the ball is within the penalty area. The fact that part of the ball might be outside the penalty area is irrelevant. The BALL on the line is still in the penalty area and, accordingly, it can still be handled by the goalkeeper, and that includes ANY PART of the ball. The BALL is a whole thing and either is or is not in the penalty area. If it is, it can be handled by the goalkeeper. If it is not, it cannot be handled by the ‘keeper.

If the goalkeeper releases the ball from his (or her) hands while within the penalty area, but does not kick the ball until it is outside the penalty area, no offense has occurred. That is entirely legal.

While recognizing that the offense by the goalkeeper of crossing the penalty area line completely with the ball still in hand is often debatable, and that it is usually trifling, we must also recognize that it is certainly an infringement of the Law and must always be treated as such by the referee. The referee will usually warn the goalkeeper about honoring the penalty area line but allow the first such act to go unpunished; however the referee must then clearly warn the goalkeeper to observe and honor the line and the Law. If it occurs again, the referee should call the foul and, if the offense is repeated yet again, caution the goalkeeper for persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game.

We have heard, but cannot believe, that any referee instructor in any state would tell referees to punish this offense with an indirect free kick. The correct restart is a direct free kick for the opposing team from the place where the offense occurred. That means the point just outside the penalty area where the goalkeeper still had the ball in hand.

One unfortunate thing is that in many cases assistant referees do not do their job correctly in this respect. Instead of judging the place where the ball is released from the goalkeeper’s hands, they concentrate on the place where the goalkeeper’s foot meets the ball, which could be well outside the area with no offense having occurred.

[This answer repeats materials used in answers from 2003-2009, all in the archives of this site.]


September 6, 2010

Last night [a local administrator] instructed our officials that the sand bags out at [a soccer complex] which anchor the goals are not sufficient. Since these are the same sand bags used for Regionals, I am certain they would not have been used if they were not acceptable.
Can you please clarify?

USSF answer (September 6, 2010):
As we stated on March 15, 2006, this is a matter of player safety. There is no reason to look beyond Law 1. In describing the field and its appurtenances, Law 1 tells us, under “Goals”: “Goals must be anchored securely to the ground. Portable goals may only be used if they satisfy this requirement.” Using sand bags is one way of doing this, but even they present some danger. The decision can be made only by the referee on the spot.

The technical area was marked and extended up to 1m from the field of player. This is permissible in LOTG. However they then erected a temporary shade structure on this boundary. It comprised supports made of 1″ box channel made of aluminum steel, pegged to the ground. It was quite solid, and I had concerns a player could easily trip or run off the FOP and collide with it. If so could injure themselves.

While I could write a report to local association of my concerns, at the time what right do I have to have it moved back (say 2-2m) from FOP.

USSF answer (June 7, 2010):
Law 1 tells us:

Decisions of the International F.A. Board
Decision 1
Where a technical area exists, it must meet the requirements approved by the International F.A. Board, which are contained in the section of this publication entitled The Technical Area.

The Laws of the Game expect that competitions will follow the basic premise of all the Laws of the Game, protecting the safety of all participants. A structure within one meter of the touchline would likely not be considered to be safe for players, team officials, and the officiating crew.