10 Football Rules You Didn’t Know Existed

For decades the laws of the beautiful game had barely been touched. In the last few seasons though those in charge have ripped upthe rulebook introducing countless changes. The rules have changed so much that youeven see ex-referees on TV saying they don’t know what the laws are. How on Earth is the average fan supposed to keep up? Here we lend a hand to your education as we look at 10 football rules you didn’t know existed.

And the bonkers football rules are…

The ref is responsible for preventing pitch invaders

You’ve all seen the ballsy fearless streaker sprinting across the pitch followed by the stewards in their hi-viz jackets. Well, it turns out that they’re going above and beyond their duty. The law bookstates that it’s the job of the match official to prevent pitch invaders. Can you imagine Mike Dean chasing down a fan who has jumped the advertising hoardings? No, us either. Technically, he should though. We’d love to see him try too!


The offside rule differs from the norm if the keeper is out of his goal

Nearly every fan has called into question a lino’s decision to rule a player offside at some point but do you really know the rule? Here we’re looking at what happens when a keeper vacates his goal. Ordinarily, a player is deemed offside if he is beyond the last defender when receiving a forwards pass. Right? Wrong. The offside law actually states that there needs to be at least two players between the attacker and the goal. The keeper is one, the last defender is the other. If the keeper moves ahead of the ball – whether that be because he’s gone full Jose Luis Chilavert to take a penalty or if he’s gone wandering into no man’s land to deal with a corner – the attacker would be offside unless two defenders are ‘playing them on’.

Lacking sportsmanship with a back pass


Most football fans will know that you cannot pass the ball back to your goalkeeper for them to then handle the ball. Anyone who plays Sunday League, however, will undoubtedly have come across some clever-clogs defender who flicks the ball up to head it. Seemingly, this navigates the back pass rule. It doesn’t. Rules cite deliberate back passes as a foul. You can only pass back with your head, chest etc. in a reactionary manner e.g. to stop an attack.

You can assist from a penalty

Statistics suggest that approximately 70% of penalties are scored. It’s not a huge surprise is it? You’re talking about professional footballers from 12 yards versus a keeper who has to stay rooted to his line. Despite that, it’s far from uncommon to see a keeper save a penalty. Nor is it a rarity that the taker misses the target. What is more unusual is the penalty pass. What’s this? Well, the penalty taker can opt to pass to a teammate who could in theory then score. We’re not sure why you’d do this. People do though with the first ever penalty pass attempted – and scored – in 1957. Others have tried it since with varying degrees of success.

You can’t touch the ball twice from a penalty (or any other set-piece)


As we continue with our look at the football rules you didn’t know existed we’re going to stick on the penalty theme. So, we know you can set up a teammate but can you tee yourself up? The answer is no. Don’t get us wrong, the idea of rolling the penalty out of your feet before smashing home from 10 yards instead of 12 is insane; we bet plenty would try it mind you. Where this rule really stands out is in instances when a spot kick hits the woodwork before rebounding directly to the taker. The taker is not allowed a second touch and therefore panic ensues as opposing players try frantically to turn the ball home or clear. This rule applies to free-kicks, corners and throw-ins too.

Foreign objects touching the ball is deemed interference

We all love the rowdy atmosphere associated to football with fans hurling goodness knows what onto the pitch. What happens when those said items interfere with play though? Well the laws of the gamestate that play should be stopped if and when the ball comes into contact with them. Darren Bent famously scored via a beach ball deflection in the Premier League; the goal stood. It shouldn’t have.

Undershorts have to be a certain colour

It’s common place that players take to the field with undershorts or cycling shorts under their actual shorts nowadays. So much so that there is actually a law about it in the FA handbook. The shorts cannot be a different colour to the main colour of the club shorts. Random, yes but, actually, there is a logic to it. It’s to avoid confusion when players from opposing teams come together.

A goalkeeper can be subbed prior to penalties

Can you remember the headlines Louis Van Gaal created in 2014 when he switched keepers in the dying minutes of a World Cup match? He believed the sub keeper was a safer bet for winning the penalty shootout. Well, under the laws of the game he could have subbed his keeper after the final whistle but prior to spot kicks. The goalie being subbedwould need to be injured though for this rule to be used.

Celebrations can still be penalised if a goal is ruled out


With VAR in place across elite football we’re seeing more goals ruled out than ever before. Well, it’s surely only a matter of time until we see this rule enforced. In the scenario that a players celebration goes OTT they will still be cautioned even if the goal is chalked off. You can imagine the rage. A player scores what appears to be the winning goal, rips their top off in celebration only for the goal to be disallowed by VAR and the player to be booked. A double whammy.

Scoring a free-kick into your own net is impossible


The last of the bizarrerules we look at is possibly the strangest of the lot. Did you know it’s impossible to score an own goal from a direct free-kick? Well, it is. We’re not suggesting youchannel your inner David Beckham on purpose but if you play afree-kick back to your keeper and he lets it roll in then it wouldn’t count as a goal. Instead, the other side get a corner. Who would have known?

There you have it, the 10 football rules you didn’t know existed.

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