Football’s new rule changes you need to know ahead of the 2019/20 season

Huddersfield Town v Manchester United - Premier League

The 2019/20 football season kicks off in England on Friday night.

Luton Town host Middlesbrough at Kenilworth Road as the Championship campaign gets underway.

The rest of the Football League clubs play over Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We also have the Community Shield to look forward to on Sunday afternoon between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley.

When watching these games, you will see referees making decisions that may seem a little odd if you’re unaware of the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) rule changes that came into force over the summer.

If you watched any of the Women’s World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations or Copa America, then you might already be familiar with the new rule changes. However, there are a lot of them - and we’ve broken them down into sections to make the changes as easy as possible to digest.


Deliberate handball is still an offence - but now accidental handballs can also result in a free-kick or penalty if…

- The ball goes into the goal off an attacker

- A player gets the ball using his or her arm or hand and then scores, or creates a goalscoring opportunity (BBC Sport give the example of Ellen White's disallowed goal against Sweden in the Women's World Cup third-place play-off)

- The player's arm or hand is above their shoulder (unless the player has controlled the ball onto his own arm or hand)

- A player's hand or arm has made their body "unnaturally bigger" (Moussa Sissoko’s handball in last season’s Champions League final, for example).


A handball will not be a free-kick if…

- The ball is knocked on to a hand by the player in question or a nearby player

- The arm or hand is close to their body and "has not made their body unnaturally bigger"

- A player is falling and the ball touches their hand or arm when it is between their body and the ground to support the body - but not extended to make the body bigger

Meanwhile, goalkeepers can handle the ball if their attempt to clear (“release into play”) a throw-in or back-pass fails.

IFAB says this is because "when the goalkeeper clearly kicks or tries to kick the ball into play, this shows no intention to handle the ball”.

Drop balls

Drop balls can no longer be contested, meaning no old-fashioned scraps for possession between two opponents.

However, in what should be a positive change, the ball will now be dropped to a player on the team that last touched the ball - and where they touched it.

All other players must be 4.5 yards away.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - Group E: UEFA Euro 2016

We should no longer see opponents booting the ball down the field because the attacking team will receive the ball back in the position they last had it.

Any play stopped in the penalty area, though, will see the ball returned to the goalkeeper.

Oh, and a drop ball will also be awarded if the ball hits the referee and goes to the opposite team as a direct result.

And refs will no longer be able to accidentally score a goal - like we saw happen in the Dutch fourth division back in May - because this will also result in a drop ball under IFAB’s new laws.


As Inter Milan demonstrated last week, goalkeepers can now pass goal-kicks to teammates inside the penalty area.

Previously, goal-kicks needed to be retaken if the ball failed to leave the box - but this is no longer the case.

Opponents must still remain outside the box until the kick is taken.

This should benefit teams that like to build from the back, such as Liverpool and Manchester City. Watch out for this on Sunday.


If the defending team has three or more players in a wall, the attacking team can no longer place a player in or next to it.

And if an attacker is standing within one yard of the wall when the kick is taken, the referee will penalise their team with an indirect free-kick.

Spain’s Women’s team have already found a loophole for this new rule, though, and you can watch it here…

Like goal-kicks, defending teams can now take free-kicks inside their own box without the ball needed to leave the penalty area before being deemed ‘in play’.

Quick free-kicks

Teams can no play with a quick free-kick even if the referee is about to show a yellow or red card to a player from the offending team. The official will go back and penalise the offending player when the ball goes out of play.

The quick free-kick is not allowed if the ref has distracted the offending team by starting to show the card.


Interestingly, if the offence was going to be a red card for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity but the opposite take a quick free-kick, the player will only be booked because the other team are considered to have restarted their attack.


Penalty kicks can’t be taken while the goalkeeper is touching the woodwork or nets - of if the woodwork or posts are still moving after being touched.

The ‘keeper must also have their feet partly on the goal-line (or above it if jumping) when the kick is taken. They cannot be positioned behind or in front of the line.


VAR will not review penalties that have been taken. The responsibility will be on the on-field officials to make the correct call.

Players can now take penalties even if they need treatment, as long as the treatment is quick.


Players will no longer be able to waste time by walking from one end of the pitch to the other after being substituted.

They must now leave the pitch by the nearest point on the touchline or byline - unless the referee says they can leave quickly at the halfway line, or elsewhere for safety of injury reasons.

Manchester City v Arsenal FC - Premier League

Players will be booked for unsporting behaviour if they ‘infringe the spirit of this law’.

Cards for coaches

How about this… a team guilty of misconduct can be shown a yellow or red card, but if the offender cannot be identified then the senior coach in the technical area at the time will receive the red card.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Other changes

Players can now be booked for celebrating - for removing their shirt or celebrating with the fans - even if the goal is disallowed.


Teams that win the pre-match coin toss can now choose whether to take kick-off or which goal to attack.

Multi-coloured or patterned undershirts are allowed if they are the same as the sleeve of the main shirt.

News Now - Sport News