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Founded in 1886, the International Football Association Board or IFAB is the universal body that determines that Laws of the Game (LoF) of association football. Besides compiling and amending the LoG, its mission is also to safeguard that the laws are internationally used as intended and organised by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) – the top governing body of the sport that also holds 50% of the voting power.

Operations

Despite the fact that IFAB is made up of FIFA and the four British football associations – namely, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland– any amendments to the laws can be suggested by any football association through one of the IFAB members. Nevertheless, since its establishment in 1904, FIFA’s attitude towards accepting changes to the LoG is rather conservative.

Any proposed alterations or suggestions to the rules governing the game of Football are discussed during the IFAB Annual General Meeting while a supermajority vote (support from the ¾ of the members present and entitled to vote) is required for any alteration to the LoG to be approved, with FIFA having four votes and the British associations having one vote each. That being said, though, FIFA alone cannot forward any alterations to the LoG without, at least, two of the UK members’ consent.

The Laws of the Game

Some of the most significant decisions made by IFAB are as follows:

  • Offside regulations – A player is ruled offside if there were no more than three players between the goal and the player. This rule came to replace the highly controversial law pertaining offside from 1863 until the late 1860s, where a player was offside if they were positioned in front of the ball. The law was re-amended in 1925 to the current rule that wants two players to be situated between the goal and a player so the player can be ruled offside.
  • Goalkeepers regulations – From 1912 onwards, the goalkeeper can no longer handle the ball outside the penalty area. Also, after the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy, goalkeepers are not allowed to handle deliberate back-passes.
  • The six-yard box – First made its appearance in 1869. The first corner and penalty kicks were awarded in 1872 and 1891 respectively.
  • Red cards – Since 1998, red cards have been awarded for tackles from behind.  
  • Goal-line Technology – After two years of testing and setting up strict licensing processes, the principle of using goal-line technology was approved in 2012.
  • Headscarves – Wearing headscarves is temporarily approved.

The IFAB Reform

The activities and organisational structure of IFAB were reviewed in 2012. A year later, the IFAB agreed to the formation of a Football Panel and a Technical Panel (both sharing advisory roles), created to improve the consultative process and promote a more proactive approach. The stakeholders of these newly formed panels are individuals from all over the world of football. In 2014, the IFAB eventually founded itself as an autonomous Swiss Law-pertaining association, and approved its own statutes. Finally, to provide high levels of transparency and ensure approachability and accountability, the IFAB decided the introduction of an executive secretarial support that would report to the Board of Directors.

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