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The development of football rules since 1863



The development of football rules since 1863

The rules of Association Football have changed dramatically since it’s codification in the 1860s. If you watched a game from back then, you’d barely recognise it as the sport we see today. The game went from effectively ‘gentlemen’s rules’ to a rigorously officiated sport. The changes in the laws have tended toward making the game gradually less violent; in the early version of the sport, tackles and barges were often ‘full bodied’ and goalkeepers in particular could often be the focus of some heavy challenges.

Football Rules

1863 – The Football Association becomes established and the rules of the game of Football were formally codified, largely an amalgamation of the Rugby Rules (1845), the Cambridge Rules (1848) and the Sheffield Rules (1857). Two of the rules adopted by the FA were controversial, one relating to the outlawing of a player running with the ball in their hands, and the other preventing players from being ‘hacked’ (or kicked below the shins). Following the passing of these rules, the representative from Blackheath Club (who were supporters of the 1845 Rugby rules) left the FA in protest – this ultimately led to the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871.

•1866 – Law amended to allow forward passes – prior to this point, a player would be offside if he received a forward pass from anything other than a kick from the goal line

•1869 – Goal kicks introduced

•1870 – Goalkeepers introduced

•1870 – Teams begin to change ends at half-time if no goals scored in the first half. Prior to this, the teams swapped ends after every goal. This law changes again several times through the early 1870s

1871 – The FA Cup is launched, the oldest Football competition in the World. Prior to this point, clubs would only play each other through specifically organised tests or challenge games.

•1872 – Corner kicks are introduced, and Goalkeepers become the only players who are allowed to handle the ball, prior to this point, ANY outfield player could pick the ball up, although (like Basketball) they couldn’t run with the ball in their hands (a rule which led to the establishment of the sport of Rugby)

1872 – The first international game is played between England v Scotland, though the two countries (and even the players within the countries) had slightly different interpretations of the laws of the game, which led to confusion.

•1875 – The crossbar was introduced, and the kick-off was changed so that teams changed ends at half-time, no longer change ends in the second half after a goal is scored, and the opposite team kick off in the second half than the first half

•1878 – Whistles given to referees, who at this point, still stood on the touchline

1886 – The International Football Association Board (IFAB) standardised the rules between all Home nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – which was changed to Northern Ireland in 1921).

1889 – The Football League began in England – the first instance of regular season competitive fixtures anywhere in the World

•1891 – Referees were allowed on to the field of play

•1891 – Internal pitch markings – i.e. The Centre Circle, Centre Spot and the 12 yard penalty line are introduced. Nets were introduced for goals to avoid arguments about whether the ball went through the posts.

•1891 – Penalty kicks were first awarded for serious infringements, though the penalty could be taken from anywhere, as long as it was at least 12 yards from the goal

•1894 – The laws around ‘barging’ changed so that a goalkeeper could only be barged if he was holding the ball or obstructing play

•1896 – The number of outfiield players on each team was fixed at 11 and the length of the game was standardised at 90 minutes

•1899 – Standard field dimensions were formalised

•1902 – The rules of Penalties completely overhauled. The Penalty box and six-yard box was introduced, and the rule was amended so that a Penalty itself must taken from the ‘Penalty spot’

1904 – FIFA is formed in Paris; they decide to adopt the IFAB rule book as the basis of the World game, even though the Home nations did not begin to join the organisation until a year later

•1912 – Goalkeepers could no longer handle the ball outside the box

•1921 – Goalkeepers instructed to wear different tops to outfield players so as to make them easily identifiable

•1925- The Offside Rule changed so that two members of opposing team (can include goalkeeper) must be in front of player receiving the pass

•1929 – Goalkeepers made to stand on the goal line when facing a Penalty

1930 – The first FIFA World Cup is held in Uruguay

•1938 – The penalty arc, known colloquially as ‘the D’ is introduced and the ‘shoulder barge’, up to this point a very common element of the game, is outlawed if the barge is deemed careless or reckless

1958 – The IFAB agrees to allow FIFA to have 50% of the votes for any proposed changes to the game. The Home nations have the remaining votes. Changes of the law require 75% of votes, meaning FIFA cannot force a change to the game without support from most of the Home Nations).

•1959 – Rule change to outlaw barging the goalkeeper if he has the ball in his hands. The followed Nat Lofthouse’s goal in the 1958 FA Cup Final when he barged the goalkeeper across the line and the goal stood

•1965 – Substitutes introduced (one per game)

•1970 – Yellow and Red cards introduced. Before this, players could be be cautioned and dismissed, but the crowd weren’t necessarily aware of what was happening

•1974 – Penalty shootouts introduced for tournament deciders

•1992 – The back-pass rule was introduced

The development of football rule since 1863
2000 Olympic

•1995 – Three substitutes per game introduced

•1998 – Tackle from behind which endangers the safety of an opponent is automatically a red card

•2016 – The kick-off law is changed so that the first kick does not necessarily have to be forward

•2018 – VAR first introduced in a World Cup

Source: John Ferguson

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