Laws of the Game changes 2019-2020

Laws of the Game changes 2019-2020. IFAB announces some changes. Biggest changes is on handballs and the place subbed players have to leave the field of play and the position of the goalkeeper at penalty kicks.

Laws of the Game changes 2019-2020

Handball changes

On the topic of defining handball, a decision was taken by The IFAB to provide a more precise and detailed definition for that constitutes handball, in particular with regard to the occasions when a non-deliberate/accidental handball will be penalised. For example a goal scored directly from the hand/arm (even if accidental) and a player scoring or creating a goal-scoring opportunity after having gained possession/control of the ball from their hand/arm (even if accidental) will no longer be allowed.

Subbed player leaving FOP

Following experiments in different parts of the world, the AGM also approved changes to the Laws of the Game related to a player being substituted having to leave the field of play at the nearest boundary line, yellow and red cards for misconduct by team officials and the ball not having to leave the penalty area at goal kicks and defending team free kicks in the penalty area.

Goalkeeper one foot on line with penalty kick

Additional approved Law changes included: measures to deal with attacking players causing problems in the defensive ‘wall’, changing the dropped ball procedure, giving a dropped ball in certain situations when the ball hits the referee and the goalkeeper only being required to have one foot on the line at a penalty kick. The changes also mention: ” cannot stand behind the line”.


The DOGSO changes in the Laws of the Game changes are reviewed and will remain the same. “The feedback for both changes has been overwhelmingly positive and The IFAB has not received a single complaint; not even from the public.”

Some case studies abou these DOGSO law changes:

Free kick changes

  • 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

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

Other decisions

  • A yellow card for an ‘illegal’ celebration (e.g. removing the shirt) remains even if the goal is disallowed
  • With goal kicks: the ball is in play once the kick is taken; it can be played before leaving the penalty area
  • 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)
  • If the referee is about to issue a YC/RC but the non-offending team takes the free kick quickly and creates a goal-scoring opportunity, the referee can delay the YC/RC until the next stoppage if the offending team was not distracted by the referee
  • A team official guilty of misconduct will be shown a YC (caution) or RC (sending-off); if the offender cannot be identified, the senior coach who is in the technical area at the time will receive the YC/RC


Changes in force on 1st of June 2019

All changes come into force on 1st June 2019. Competitions starting before that date may  apply the changes from the start of their competition, at an agreed point during the  competition (e.g. after the mid-season break) or may delay them until no later than the start of the next competition.


    • About time for some of the changes!

      You’re kidding, right? Some of these changes are well overdue e.g. removing the requirement for goalkicks to be untouched by a second player before it’s left the area – before it was a re-take with no punishment and you could use that to either time waste or save yourself if a dodgy short goal kick has put you under pressure from an attacker. And the handball law has been a mess forever with the requirement for officials to interpret intent. Which change is (or are) you saying is ruining the game?

    • Vader

      These are some of the best changes that they’ve made to the LOTG in quite a while. Have you even read the changes yet?

    • Maurice William Hilarius

      These are the best changes to the laws I have seen in decades.
      BTW, I have been a ref for over 32 years now..

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      It’s the link used by IFAB, as the latest minutes were not out yet. Changed the whole body of the text now as the changes got more detailed.

  • Ephraim w. Grant

    I read the changes and there are pretty good stuffs. I would have preferred the issue of 6 seconds possession by goalie be removed completely.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Why would you like to see that changed? Now refs might not check it all the time, but it gives refs back-up to call them for time-wasting or so. If you remove it, you can’t do something about it.

      • Jan ter Harmsel

        Curious about that too. I don’t see the problem so far. With some seconds mentioned, you have a measurable reason you can whistle for when time-wasting. Although refs usually do not count, without any time being mentioned, it leaves it all up to the referee’s ideas of time-wasting.

  • David Lopez

    I am unclear on this new Law:

    “If, when a free kick is taken, an attacking team player is less than 1m (1yd) from a ‘wall’ formed by three or more defending team players, an indirect free kick is awarded.”

    Would this not give an unfair advantage to the defending team if there is a DFK say about 11 yards outside of the penalty area where a wall would be necessary since a potential goal could be scored from this spot. If a defender then encroaches on the wall does that mean the ref would give an IDFK just outside the penalty area removing the opportunity for the attacking team to score directly from the previous DFK? As well if the encroachment occurs inside the penalty area does that now mean a ref would give an IDFK inside the penalty area? This is confusing!

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      No, that is not what the LOTG say. They say it gives an indirect free kick to the defending team if the attacking team makes the offence of coming to close. It is not that the attacking team gets in IDFK.

    • Maurice William Hilarius

      If the attacking team ( NOT the one making the wall) does not stay away from the players in the wall, they will be punished by losing their DFK and the kick will then go to the defenders, an an IDFK

  • Steve

    Not sure I like the substituted players leaving at the closest line. That could potentially result in their having to walk past opposition fans and/or the opposing team’s technical area on the way back to their own bench.

    I’d rather the rule stayed as is and the refs added on the correct amount of stoppage time to account for any delays.

    • JR

      That’s a good point. Although I’m presuming the rule change is to reduce time wasting during substitutions late in the match (in which case I agree with the change), we should be sensitive to this potential dangerous situation for the player.

  • Steve

    Suggest you read this again. The change, as outlined above, only applies to “handball” only if a goal is scored direct from hand (or arm) or a player scoring or creating a goal scoring opportunity (himself or another player). There is nothing to suggest that handball anywhere else doesn’t have to be deliberate – it does have to be deliberate. So we now have two interpretations to apply.. Do you think is a change for the better or for the worse ?

  • Medi Deway

    I like all the new changes. I hope one day IFAB would get red of the throw-in and replace it with an IFK, this will increase play time. I also think that the last DOGSO chage about the triple punishment change was unfair when they took the red card away, they could have taken the suspension away instead. imagine this, an attacker passed everyone including the GK and just about to score when then taken out by a sliding defender from the back, so comes the PK and it is a miss!!!!! Now the attacking team who were just about to score a goal is left with nothing but a YC… not fair, should be a red card.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Thanks for the comment, Medi. Once you’ve show a red card and one player gets a suspension and another not, then you get weird situations.

      And if they miss: that is their problem, as a penalty kick is an obvious chance to score a goal. They get what they had. In an on field chance to score they could also miss.

    • Guga

      “Just about to score when taken out by a sliding defender from the back”.

      Well, the “no triple sanction” is valid only if it was a fair challenge with actual intent (and good chances) of hitting the ball.

      If it was a deliberate foul to stop the scoring opportunity, the red card remains as before.

      • Jan ter Harmsel

        It’s difficult to say when something is deliberate. Can’t read a player’s mind. If a challenge for the ball, then no red card.

      • Medi

        Guga, a “fair challenge” means that the player got the ball clean and that is not even a foul. The “No Triple Sanction” applies to all fouls even if done recklessly. It does not apply to fouls committed by hand or serious foul play.

        Jan, Here is another scenario that represent my dis-satisfaction of the yellow card: an attacker passes everyone including the GK. The attacker now 2 yards from the goal when the GK -as a last ditch- recklessly slide tackles the attacker and save the goal. The attacker takes the PK and misses!!! (Not unusual, happens to Mess) but is that really fair play?? The attacking team just lost a 100% goal and left with a yellow card???? not fair. I say for a DAGSO leave the red card and take the player suspension away so you will not have a triple punishment.

        • Jan ter Harmsel

          With giving the team a goal-scoring opportunity back, they still have the chance to score. In 99% of the situations it is a chance to score and not a situation like you describe. So I won’t change the rule just for that.

  • Steve K

    Haven’t read the rule book yet, but from the above I have a question about no longer needing to wait for the ball to leave the penalty area for a goal kick. Do the attacking players still have to be outside the area for the kick? The defenders? Presumably if players must be outside then they can rush in once the kick is made? Just wondering about the detail of this change. Thanks.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      It’s exactly as you described. They have to wait until ball is in play, which is right after it is taken. Then they can run into the penalty area. Something defenders need to be aware of – and us refs too if we are too far away in these situations. Be alert on that!

    • Steve K

      Looked at the rules. Attackers should try to be outside the area when the kick is taken (but if inside and do not affect play, then no offense and play continues). No mention that defense players must be outside the area?
      But “If a player enters the penalty area before the ball is in play…” implies both attack and defense – so does defense have to be outside too? And the only comment about first touch is that it can now be in the area, so presumably attackers CAN rush in and collect the ball (once alive) if they can. If someone could confirm/clarify, in particular can a defender stand in the area and receive a simple short pass. Thanks.

      • Jan ter Harmsel

        Hi Steve. The LOTG also mention this requirement: “Opponents must be outside the penalty area until the ball is in play”. So that applies just for opponents, not defenders. They can be in the penalty area – as seen during the Women’s World Cup.

  • steve k

    Oh – thanks for the quick reply earlier, I didn’t see it in time. That answers half my question. You are too quick! Well done. Cheers

  • William Noonan

    If the Ball hits a defending Players hand inside the Penalty area accidentally is it a Penalty if the Players hand is in a natural position

    Similarity if the Ball hits a players hand accidentally outside the Penalty area is it now a free kick


    • Jan ter Harmsel

      That has not changed. The only change is if the ball hits the attackers arm and he scores with it or creates a chance to score.

    • Maurice William Hilarius

      The exact new wording is :
      “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 “

  • dinotube

    Unlike any other year, the changes were not published to public (the best free test you can get) before going in the book so you would hope there would have been some internal QC.

  • Glen

    Hi Jan

    Excellent analysis as always, well done. I have a couple of questions:

    Scenario 1

    You are standing, as the Referee, outside the penalty area, when the ball is cleared from the penalty area by the attacking team as they try and it hits the ref.

    I think the correct restart is a dropped ball for the defending team goalkeeper as the LOTG only specifies “the last touch of the ball was in the penalty area” and not who played the ball.

    Is that correct?

    Scenario 2

    The changes to the LOTG for handball says:

    It is usually an offence if a player touches the ball with their hand/arm when the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level (unless the player deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm)

    I can’t think of a scenario or recall seeing an example of an offence NOT occurring, that is, when the player has their arms beyond shoulder level and deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm.

    Do you have any examples or videos for this? This would make an excellent case study.

    Thank you.


    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Glen,

      You also need to check if the ball posession changes etc. And if the ball goes out, then the restart is not a dropped ball either. But otherwise: dropped balls inside the penalty area are dropped for the goalkeeper.

      At scenario 2: have you checked the Refereeing Assistance Programmes? Lots of situations in there as well.

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