Laws of the Game changes for 2020-2021

Laws of the Game changes for 2020-2021. Some highlights first, then the summary. You can also download the full text pdf (English).

There are also options in:

Watch back: webinar about these changes

IFAB also made a presentation with videos on the changes, as presented above. Plus you can find available full docs with recent LOTG (also 2020-2021) on my LOTG page.

Facebook live session on changes

Below I’ve highlighted the five most important changes in a YouTube clip, but I’ve also done a Facebook session. In this 1 hour video I get into the details of the LOTG changes. Watch below or on Faceboook.

IFAB LOTG changes 2020-2021

Most important changes

  • For accidental handballs: no foul if the ball travels some distance (pass
    or dribble) and/or there are several passes before the goal or goal-scoring opportunity
  • Deliberate handball is considered a deliberate play (in case of offside)
  • At penalty kicks: The goalkeeper is warned for the first offence; it is a YC for any further offence(s)
  • And the handball is explained a bit further, as shown in the image below

Summary of Laws of the Game changes for 2020-2021

Law 1 – The Field of Play

Goalposts and the crossbar may be a combination of the four basic shapes

Law 10 – Determining the Outcome of a Match

  • Yellow cards (YCs) and warnings are not carried forward into kicks from the penalty mark (KFPM)
  • See also changes to Law 14 relating to KFPM

Law 11 – Offside

Deliberate handball by a defending player is considered ‘deliberate play’ for offside

Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct


  • the boundary between the shoulder and the arm is defined as the bottom of the armpit (see the diagram on p. 14)
  • ‘accidental’ handball by an attacking player (or team-mate) is only penalised if it occurs ‘immediately’ before a goal or clear goal-scoring opportunity
  • A goalkeeper can receive a YC or be sent off (RC) for ‘illegally’ touching the ball a second time after a restart (e.g. goal kick, free kick etc.) even if the touch is with the hand/arm
  • Any offence (not only a foul) which ‘interferes with or stops a promising attack’ should result in a YC
  • A player who fails to respect the 4m required distance at a dropped ball should receive a YC
  • If the referee plays advantage or allows a ‘quick’ free kick for an offence which ‘interfered with or stopped a promising attack’, the YC is not issued

Law 14 – The Penalty Kick

  • An offence by the goalkeeper is not penalised if a penalty kick misses the goal or rebounds from the goal (without a touch from the goalkeeper) unless the offence clearly affected the kicker
  • The goalkeeper is warned for the first offence; it is a YC for any further offence(s)
  • The kicker is penalised if the goalkeeper and the kicker offend at exactly the same time

VAR protocol

  • Only one ‘TV signal’ is required for a VAR-only review


  • A definition of the offence of holding has been included
  • A player’s position at a restart is the position of the feet or any part of the body which is touching the ground (except as outlined in Law 11 – Offside)

Want to know more?

Download the full text pdf.

Changes in other languages

Click on the image to download the changes in your preferred language.

Reglas de Juego Cambios
Lois du Jeug changements
Spielregeln Regeländerungen


  • Erick H

    Being a referee is great all the time. To include the good bad and the ugly parts. I tell ya these may be minor changes, but this is going to affect the game so much. Its already difficult trying to remember the current changes and now add these into the mic WHEWWWW!!! Its gonna be an interesting season if the season starts. Thanks Ref.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      I’ll make sure to do some new Laws of the Game quizzes at the start of the new season to test you on the new laws.

  • Bikramjit Purkayastha

    Kindly share with me the quizzes on amendments, which is going to help the Match Officials to apply in the game.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Bikramjit, the quizzes will appear from next season on, as then the new laws apply. If football continues in some countries now, things will get mixed up.

  • James Keenley

    Hello Jan!

    I’m a big fan of both your blog and your YouTube channel.

    I think one of the most intriguing changes, which you didn’t mention in your video, is the change defined in the IFAB memo:

    “Deliberate handball by a defending player is considered ‘deliberate play’ for offside.”

    In other words, a deliberate handball is included as a deliberate play that “resets” offside. Though this happens relatively rarely, if it does, we should apply advantage and let play continue for a few seconds, rather than immediately stopping play for a DFK or PK.

    I thought it was brilliant how you put that piece of tape on your arm to show the “new” definition of what constitutes the arm for a hand ball. The graphic in the memo is straightforward, but your demonstration is perfect.

    Thanks for all of the hard work you do keeping all of us referees focused, and for your enthusiasm for the beautiful game.


    Jim Keenley
    Brooklyn, NY

    • David

      For me nothing has changed, or maybe I don’t understand it correctly. A ref should always play advantage if a foul occurs. Obviously you have to be careful when giving advantage instead of a PK, but I would have given advantage for the handling even before the rule change, and I think the rules implied it aswell . Wasn’t the rulechange more a wording thing?

      • Jan ter Harmsel

        The handball situation is a clarification, I guess. Although playing the ball normally is with your feet. A new situation normally starts when someone plays the ball. So they want to make sure that a deliberate handball is considered playing the ball.

  • Dennis

    It seems that there are more and more rules connected to handling. Why make it so complicated? They should make one simple rule. “If the ball touches the arm from elbow (or shoulder) down, it is penalized.” It will not matter if deliberate or unintentional. It doesn’t matter if ball to hand or hand to ball. No matter if offense or defense.
    Just make it simple. Any contact of ball with elbow (or shoulder) down is handling.
    I think the rules committee is overthinking every rule. KISS.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      And what would be the ideal restart of play then if that’s in the penalty area? Consider a short corner kick like in field hockey or a penalty kick?

      Love to hear what your restart would be.

  • Abraham Zuah

    Hello Jan,

    Like I mentioned before on your blog, you are doing a fantastic job by keeping us referees on top of the organic law of football (the LOTG). With your blog posts, most of us who follow are always far ahead of situations or events when it comes to important LOTG changes.

    I learn faster through graphics and videos. Your graphic (reinforced by the
    video) illustrating the difference between the arm and the bottom of the armpit perfectly conveys the underlining concept relative to changes to the LOTG affecting handball. I will download to get full understanding of the concept relative to accidental handballs by attackers that eventually result into goals or goal scoring opportunities; I thought it is not too clear from the video.
    on suggestions about improving your blog page, I am already admiring the new interface and I have taken keen interest in the area of nutrition. This is a topic that is rarely spoken about on your blog and at many other referee’s seminars that I have attended. I hold the view that aside from routine physical workouts, nutrition has got a part to play in a referee’s fitness level. What should constitute a referee’s diet is a big question that still remain unanswered for me to date and I am glad you are dedicating a section of your blog to it. I hope it will help answer this question! Thanks once more for all that you do to keep us alive as far as the LOTG are concerned.

    Abraham Zuah, Liberia

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Abraham, good to hear from you. I am working on these stories on nutrition already. As the summer starts soon, I’ll be releasing new stories before the new season and after the current one. So after May i hope to share these on the blog. Thanks for reading it and I hope these new stories will help you.

  • JM STalin

    Hello Jan,

    Interesting regarding the changes, the video you have done but, if you can go doing some animated technical aid for the young referee

    I Hope that can take bring more use of it


  • Nazeem shah

    I from pakistan, and football is part of my spiritual. But a strong organization is not installed in pakistan so we are fail to promote this king game in our country. Some specific ares are the crazy of football but they are refused by fifa.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Nazeem, I hope my blog then helps you develop as a referee, no matter your level. I hope you’ll finally have a chance to shine at the international stage.

  • Rymell, aka Ram

    New handball rules:

    As the arm move upward so does the shoulder, when the arm is level with the shoulder. We should use the armpit as the guide calling the handball?… I wish I could put up a diagram to show what I mean…

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Rymell, you use the line from armpit to outside of the arm in the shortest way. When the arm moves you, it doesn’t mean the line from the armpit stays horizontal. The angle moves as you move the arm.

  • Mohsin

    these are to be applied for the 2020-21 season right? I mean in a recent Real Madrid game vs Sociedad benzema controlled the ball with his shoulder, some part contacting with that “red area” in ur handball diagram. Can the rule be used to justify that or it will take place from 2020-21 season?

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