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Wait? What just happened?

Your team was starting to gain some momentum and then the play stopped. Why did the referee stop the play?

There have been some pretty significant rule changes over the last year. Not only will play be stopped (unexpectedly, because we aren't used to the new rules yet) but the restart might look a little different too. We are sharing this blog post not because we want you to feel like you have to referee your referees but because we want you to NOT get angry at your referees as we adopt the new rules.

Dropped Ball

When play is stopped inside the box the ball will be dropped back to the goalkeeper in their box.

Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

If play is stopped outside of the box the ball will be returned to the possession of the team last in possession. That means the days of standing nose-to-nose waiting for a ball to hit the ground and play, is over. This isn't a free kick of any sort it is just reestablishing possession. Players from both teams will have to be 4.5 yards from the dropped ball at the restart.

Previously the laws of the game acknowledged the referee as a fixture, a part of the field, a blade of grass so to speak. If the ball hit the referee and changed possession, too bad so sad, play on. Now if the ball touches the referee and possession changes, the ball goes into the goal or advantage changes then the play is stopped and a drop ball is given to the team with last possession.

Free Kicks and Goal Kicks

Although two different laws; I grouped these together because they are similar for the most part. Both of these rules should speed up the return to active play in a game.

When taking a goal kick or a free kick from within your own penalty box you do not have to clear the penalty box before receiving it. The opposing team must start the play from a position outside the penalty box but the ball can be received and played out from within the box itself.

When defending a free kick with a "wall" of 3 players or more, attacking players can not insert themselves in the wall, they have to be one yard away.

Hand Ball

I'm ready for you to argue with me about these rules and the interpretation because it is SO CONFUSING but I will link you to my sources at the bottom so you can interpret yourself.

There is a lot of talk that the "new" handball rule indicates any time the ball touches the hand it is an offense. This is not entirely the case. A goal scored off of the hand or arm is not allowed. Contact with the ball off of the hands or arms gaining deliberate possession is not allowed. Having your hands or arms above your head or in a position that makes your body larger is a handling infraction BUT if a ball is fired at a player from close distance and the player has their arms in a natural position and does not have time to react that is not a handball, unless it changes possession or advantage. Also falling and naturally trying to catch yourself while accidentally making contact with the ball is not a hand ball.

If a player does make contact with the ball with the hands and/or arms, even if it is not deliberate and it causes a goal, goal scoring opportunity or advantage this would be, although not deliberate, considered a handling infraction.


Players being substituted should leave at the closest touchline, they do not need to go back to the midfield line to exit the field unless the referee indicates that is where he/she wants them to leave the field.


There aren't any rule changes for offside but if you want to better understand this complicated rule visit our post explaining the offside position and related offenses.


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