In association football, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is responsible for deciding the Laws of the Game (LoG).
IFAB’s sole objective is to ensure that the Laws of the Game are uniformly applied worldwide and monitored accordingly, as well as to ensure that organized football is practiced consistently within the scope of world football as organized by FIFA. It has the objective of safeguarding, compiling, and amending the LoG.
While the IFAB comprises the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and FIFA, any football association or confederation can suggest amendments to the LoG through one of The IFAB members.
The Board would like to hear any suggestions or proposed changes to the Laws of the Game, as well as requests for experimentation with the Laws of the Game, during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) meeting.
By 1 November of the preceding year, these must be submitted in writing to the Secretary of The International Football Association Board.
A three-quarters majority of those eligible to vote must be present at the AGM to amend the Game Laws. FIFA has four votes, while the British associations each have one.
IFAB Recent Reforms
As part of the IFAB reform process, which began in 2012, activities, processes, and organizational structure have been thoroughly reviewed.
The IFAB formally established two new advisory panels at its 127th AGM on 2 March 2013, including representatives from several stakeholder groups.
A comprehensive reform of The IFAB was concluded on 13 January 2014, following 14 months of extensive work, in which The IFAB was formed under Swiss Law, and its statutes were approved.
Even though IFAB remains composed of four British associations and FIFA, the two new advisory panels aim to strengthen the consultative process and foster a more proactive approach, with representatives from all over the world being able to contribute new ideas.
The IFAB introduced administrative and secretarial support led by the Secretary, who reports to the Board of Directors to provide greater transparency, accountability, and approachability.
Annual General Meeting (AGM)
As well in years when the FIFA World Cup is held, the ordinary meeting of the General Assembly, the AGM, is held in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in strict rotation.
Confederations and member associations are bound by the decisions of the IFAB AGM regarding changes to the Laws of the Game.
The introduction of the adopted change(s) may be postponed until the starting of the next season or the end of the competition by federations or member associations whose current season or tournament has not ended as of 1 June.
A confederation or member association cannot change the Game Laws without The IFAB’s approval.
Annual Business Meeting (ABM)
Before the AGM, the ABM is held in November to prepare for the AGM.
Although FIFA’s 211 Member Associations or the continental confederations may submit general business to the ABM, it cannot alter the Laws of the Game.
Any possible law amendments are placed on the agenda (or not) for a vote or further discussion at the AGM.
History Of The IFAB
On 2 June 1886, the IFAB met for the first time, consisting of two representatives from each of the UK’s four football associations.
Founded by the English FA to create a uniform code in an era when each country applied different rules, the new body was the brainchild of the English FA.
In its role as guardian of the Laws of the Game, the IFAB is responsible for preserving, monitoring, studying, and amending them as needed.
The football game spread rapidly around the globe in the years that followed, and in 1904 seven nations came together in Paris to found the Federation Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA).
The English FA joined world football’s governing body in 1906, with FIFA becoming a member of The IFAB in 1913.
The Laws Of The Game
Since the first official rules were created in 1863, offside has been, without a doubt, the most controversial law in football.
Offside was deemed to exist if a player stood in front of the ball at the time.
The FA established the so-called “three-player rule” in the 1860s, by which a player could only be ruled offside if he was less than three players away from the goal.
The current two-player rule was amended in 1925.
Corner-kicks were introduced in 1872, penalty kicks in 1891, and the six-yard box in 1869.
In the past, spot-kicks were taken from anywhere along a line 12 yards from goal.
Goalkeepers were prohibited from handling the ball outside the penalty area in 1912, which increased the number of goals. From 1920 onwards, throw-ins could no longer be ruled offside.
Slowly but surely, The IFAB was changing the game and the mindset of the people who played and watched it.
Goalkeepers were prohibited from handling deliberate back-passes after the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, and red cards were awarded for tackles from behind starting in 1998.
The IFAB also decided in October 2010 during its ABM to reconsider the introduction of goal-line technology in the Laws of the Game.
Following two years of comprehensive testing and a stringent licensing process, The IFAB made the historic decision to approve the principle of using goal-line technology in July 2012.
Another significant decision by The IFAB was to temporarily approve wearing headscarves during a trial.
Further information including a comprehensive explanation of The IFAB and its administration, the Laws of the Game, and any other related official documentation and communication can be found here.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!