Football scoring, rules and officials


In football, a goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes between the goalposts and travels fully over the goal line. However, a goal is not awarded until the referee has signalled this and they are confident that no infringement of the Laws of the Game has been committed.

The team at the end of 90 minutes with the most goals will be declared the winners. However, in the event that both teams have the same score, a draw is recorded.


  • A senior football match consists of two 45-minute halves and must have a 15-minute break in the middle.
  • A team can start with a maximum of 11 players, of which one is the designated goalkeeper.
  • To continue a match, a team must have a minimum of 7 players on the field.
  • The ball must be deemed spherical and have a circumference of 58-61 cm.
  • A team is able to make substitutions at any time of the match and are able to make a maximum of three changes.
  • A competitive game must be officiated by a referee and two assistant referees, also known as linesmen.
  • The whole ball must cross the goal line for it to constitute a goal.
  • A referee may award a foul if they believe an unfair act is committed by a player. A foul contravenes the laws of the game and can be given for a range of offences (for example, kicking the player, pushing, handball etc).
  • Fouls are punished by the award of a free kick (direct or indirect, depending on the offence) or penalty kick to the opposing team if it is committed in the penalty box.
  • In cases of foul play, a referee can penalise players with either a yellow or red card. A yellow card gives a player a warning about their conduct and a red card requires them to leave the pitch.
  • In the event that a player receives two yellow cards, the referee will automatically show a red card.
  • A throw-in is awarded to a team if the opposition kicks the ball over the sidelines.
  • A corner kick is awarded to a team if the opposition kicks the ball over the goal line and either side of the goal posts.
  • A player is deemed offside if they are in front of the last defender when a teammate passes the ball through to them (although this is often the most complicated of rules and has a range of interpretations).


During a competitive game of football there is a referee and two assistant referees, also known as linesmen or lineswomen, responsible for upholding the rules of the game. The referee's decision is always final and they have the ability to overrule an assistant referee if they consider their decision to be wrong. A linesman does not just look out for offsides and throw-ins, but acts as an additional referee and signals if they observe an infringement of the Laws.