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Soccer Rules – An Introduction

The 1st part in a 3 part series on the 17 basic rules in the game of soccer

Soccer, the sport that has been played since medieval times.

By 1860, organized soccer clubs were starting to pop up around England, especially around London and they were becoming semi-professional, as the competition level started rising.

This caused most of the London clubs to meet in the Freemasons’ Tavern in London on 26 October 1863, forming the Football Association (FA), which is still the governing soccer organization in England. They decided that they would need certain rules for the game of soccer if they were to keep on playing competitively.

By the second meeting on the 8th of December 1863, they decided to draw up the plans for the Laws of the Game, which is a sort of constitution holding all of the rules for soccer up till this date, with some modifications.

The 17 Rules for Soccer

This soccer constitution that was the Laws of the Game now holds 17 specific key points that determine the rules of soccer.

1. The Field of Play – The field of play is the surface on which the game of soccer is played on. This law regulates everything regarding line markings, soccer pitch dimensions and how to use them properly. For example, an adult soccer pitch is 100 yards in length and 60 yards in width.
Other basic rules of soccer and field measurements are specified in this law, such as the dimensions of each goal is 24 yards wide and 8 feet in height, the diameter of the center circle 30 yards or the distance between the penalty spot and the goal is 12 yards

2. The Ball – The modern history of the official soccer ball begins in the mid-1800s when Charles Goodyear designed and built the first vulcanized rubber soccer balls

Throughout time, the rules for soccer regarding the football remained the same, but the way in which they were applied was on a constant change. The rules state that the soccer ball must have a circumference between 27 and 28 inches and a weight of between 14 to 16 ozs but they also state that the ball can be made out of “leather or any similar material”. This is the standard ball size used in official FIFA championships all over the world. It is also the most widely used size of ball by players 12 years old or older. A size 5 soccer ball could also be made from polyurethane. It is a less soft material that still retains a good feel and is much more durable. This material is a type of plastic, so it can increase the life of the ball dramatically.

3. The Number of Players – According to the official soccer rules, a team can bring in 10 outfield players and one goalkeeper on the pitch and can have several substitutes on the bench. The numbers of benched subs as well as the actual number of substitutions that are allowed in a single game vary with the type of the game played. For example, in official matches only 3 substitutions are allowed, with 5, 7 or 9 players on the bench.

4. The Player’s Equipment – Just like with the soccer ball, soccer equipment maintained most of the original rules in the Laws of the Game, but the way people interpret them today is quite different from how they did back in 1863. Basically the rules of soccer say that a player must wear a shirt or jersey, footwear, shin pads, shorts and socks and the two teams must have different equipment so that they can be differentiated on the pitch.
Back then however, a soccer jersey was a largely uncomfortable one and it was very simple, without too many details strapped on it. Today’s jerseys are very light and comfortable and on many occasions they have the club’s sponsors imprinted on them, they have the number of the player (and the name in some cases) on the back and the club’s badge on the chest. These are not enforced by the soccer rules, but they have become common standards in today’s game.
5. The Referee – The referee was probably the biggest “invention” that came with the initial soccer rules constitution and his role is to enforce these official rules of soccer “in connection to the match he has been appointed to”.
The center referee is accompanied and helped by two assistant referees (one on each side of the pitch) and a fourth one that handles small issues like showing injury time duration, checking a substitute player’s equipment and replacing one of the three main referees if they can’t continue the game.

Check part 2 for more of the rules of THE BEAUTIFUL GAME

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