There are 17 Laws of Associated Football (LOAF). The latest 2011-2012 version of the Laws can always be downloaded from the FIFA website - 'Laws of the Game'.
The 17 Laws:
1 The Field of Play: (Dimensions of the field of play, its markings, and structures etc.)
2 The Ball: (Qualities and measurements of the ball.)
3 The Number of Players: (Rules defining the number of players and substitutes allowed and the substitute procedure, along with infringements and sanctions.)
4 The Players' Equipment: (Basic equipment list, infringements and sanctions, and the safety aspects).
5 The Referee: (Authority, powers and duties of a Referee.)
6 The Assistant Referees: (Duties)
7 The Duration of the Match: (Periods of play, half-time, allowance for time lost, extended time and abandoned matches.)
8 The Start And Restart of Play: (Coin tossing ceremony, kick-off and dropped ball procedures.)
9 The Ball In and Out of Play: (Defines when the ball is in and out of play.)
10 The Method of Scoring: (Goal scored, wining team, Competition Rules to provide a winner by; Away Goals, Extra time or Kicks from the penalty mark.)
11 Offside: (The offside position, and involvement in active play, plus infringements and sanctions.)
12 Fouls and Misconduct: (Direct Free Kick, Penalty Kick, Indirect Free Kick and disciplinary sanctions -cautionable and sending-off offences.)
13 Free Kicks: Types of Free Kicks, direct and indirect, positioning, plus infringements and sanctions. )
14 The Penalty Kick: (Referee's' role, position of the ball and players, plus infringements and sanctions.)
15 The Throw-In: (Procedure and definitions plus infringements and sanctions.)
16 The Goal Kick: (Procedure and definitions plus infringements and sanctions.)
17 The Corner Kick: (Procedure and definitions plus infringements and sanctions.)
Kicks from the Penalty Mark (Procedure)
A Short History of the Rules and Laws
It would not be remiss to state that the modern day referee, is far more likely to enjoy his role today, than the original referees (or umpires as they were known) in the late 1800s. In those days, there were several versions of Public School rules to contend with.
Some goals (called bases) were 12 feet high and 150 yards away from each other, whilst the width of the ground was 100 yards. If a game ended in a draw, the length of the field was doubled! The ball could be caught, if kicked below the hand or knee; and if the catcher called out, "Three yards", he was awarded a free kick - probably the first use of this phrase in the history of football. If the ball was caught near the opposing goal, the catcher had the opportunity of scoring, by carrying it through the goal in three standing jumps. If he was unable to achieve this, he took the ball back to where he had caught it, and had a free kick anyway. Charging could be indulged to the full; and even the great C. W. Alcock was once recorded as bowling over his opponents "like Catherine Wheels".
In one set of rules, if a player grabbed the ball in a maul, and refused to loose it, he "may be hacked". This all sounds very much like Rugby, and in fact, this is where the rules of football evolved. It was William Webb Ellis who, "with fine disregard for the rules of Football, as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it" in 1823. The word 'sneaking' later to be known as offside, was beginning to shape the way in which the tactical game was played. And in one set of rules, if the ball rebounded back into play off a spectator, the offside player was allowed to kick it without recrimination. I wonder what modern day television coverage would have made of that talking point?
Despite its barbarity, the advent of the pennyfarthing bicycle, linked village to village, and the game's popularity mushroomed. But no two villages had the same rules. A spectator in Lancashire once chanced upon a game in progress, with the ball floating on a nearby pond. He was perfectly satisfied with the explanation of an enthusiastic player who remarked, "To hell with the ball, we're getting on with the game." This philosophy is something that we also see from time to time in the modern game!
This rag-tag and bobtail affair with the rules, continued up to 26 October 1863, when representatives from eleven football clubs, eventually met in London to form themselves into The Football Association (FA). Hence the term 'The FA' was coined. Apparently there is only one 'The FA', the rest have to make do with plain FA! One of the first aims of The FA's sub-committee was to produce a standard code of laws that would allow matches to be played between different clubs, irrespective of their place of origin.
Certain clubs left the newly formed FA, because the new laws forbade 'hacking their adversaries'. Despite this defection, on 1 December 1863, the new laws were finally agreed by the remaining clubs, which included a 'Definition of Terms'. The interpretation of these phrases has stood the test of time, being as good today as they were nearly 140-odd years ago.
For example; A Free Kick - is the privilege of Kicking the Ball, without obstruction, in such manner as the Kicker may think fit. Tripping - is throwing an Adversary by use of the legs without the hands, and without hacking or charging. Touch - is that part of the field, on either side of the ground, which is beyond the line of the flags.
In the every early years, the onus was on the players themselves (and later on, the captains) to agree any disputes concerning play. In the mid-1800's, the idea of external control developed in school football. Certainly, by 1847 there was an established practise (probably copied from cricket) of having two "umpires", to resolve disputes.
The Referee also appeared around this time, and is specifically mentioned in the Cheltenham rules.
"Any point on which the umpires cannot agree shall be decided by the referee".
The word "umpire" is derived from the old French nomper meaning "the man without equal".
If they failed to agree, they referred the point at issue to a third man who was seated outside the field, and later became known as the Referee.
The umpires were bound to accept the Referee's ruling. In certain cases, the umpire could only take action after an appeal by the captain.
A very early edition of The Referees' Chart' shows that players still "appeal" for free kicks; since at that time - as is the case today in cricket - a decision would not be given except after an appeal.
The following is an extract of those times, in a column headed "Hints to Payers".
"When you do claim, say what for and do not shout "foul" which may mean one of a dozen offences. If 'hands' say 'hands' and so on. The Referee then knows what you want. 'How's that', cannot in any way be taken as an appeal."
The International FA Board (IFAB)
Since it was founded in the 19th century, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has played a vital role in international football. It acts as the guardian of the Laws of the Game and is responsible for studying, modifying and overseeing any changes to it. The first-ever IFAB meeting took place in 1886 when the English FA, conscious of the need for standardisation, invited their Irish, Scottish and Welsh counterparts to join forces to come up with a uniform code. Up until then, different rules had applied in different countries. As guardian to its Laws, the IFAB seeks to preserve the original seeds on which football has blossomed so spectacularly.
1886: First meeting of the International F.A. Board.
1913: FIFA, founded in 1904, joins the Board.
1938: Revision of the Laws of the Game. The Board had decided in 1937 that the rules, now numbering 17, should be revised in the light of half a century of changes and additions. The Laws were drafted in a rational order.
1958: New voting rights are determined and they are still the same today.
1997: A new version of football Laws of the Game comes into force. The style and format of the text is changed. The content becomes approximately 30 per-cent shorter, and in a more modern idiom.
Although the official sounding 'International Football Association Board' (IFAB) is now the sole guardian of the Laws, the game originated from grassroots. Our forefathers got on very well without a Referee.
Football began without an "Autocrat" and it may yet end without him if technology has its day. Who can say?
There were no Laws when the game originally kicked off. Every man did what seemed right in his own eyes. Even when the Football Association made its own rules in 1863 there was no mention of the Referee. He eventually appeared in 1891 when a single man in the middle replaced the two umpires.
Prior to the standardisation of the Laws by the FA, it was the grassroots Public schoolboys that had the greatest influence in formulating the Law (or Rules as they were called in those days); many of which still exist today.
A child with a ball is king.
It is refreshing to note that FIFA have the grassroots' game close to their heart by fending of advances in technology. Introduction of such aids will have a drastic effect at the grassroots level, and the game could degenerate into the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.
Once read, who can ever forget the words in 'The Magic Kingdom of Football' story by Stanley Lover, when he describes a journey into the magic kingdom of football where a child with a ball is king.
"Two small West African boys [playing on a wooden balcony], no more than 7 or 8 years old, moved excitedly and happily on an area about three metres by two. The ball was a tight bundle of rags. No goalposts, corner flags or officials, their imagination transported them into the centre of the most important match in history."
There was probably not a blade of grass to be seen in that African landscape - this is the true grassroots of the game.