Circular No. 585

10th April 1996


Dear Sirs,

At its annual meeting held at the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday, 9th March 1996, the International Football Association Board, chaired by FIFA President, Dr. J. Havelange, made a number of amendments to the Laws of the Game and the Decisions.

The relevant texts appear hereunder:


New Text - (Replacing Present Text)
The ball shall be spherical; the outer casing shall be of leather or other suitable materials. No material shall be used in its construction which might prove dangerous to the players. The circumference of the ball shall not be more than 70.0cm and not less than 68.0cm. The weight of the ball at the start of the game shall not be more than 450g. nor less than 410g. The pressure shall be equal to 0.6-1.1 atmosphere (=600-1, 100gr./cm²) at sea level. The ball shall not be changed during the game unless authorised by the referee.

Such a decision is necessary in view of the programme to improve the quality of footballs, currently implemented by FIFA.

Decision (4) - New Text - (Replacing present text)
Acceptance of Use
In FIFA competition matches and in competition matches under the auspices of the Confederations, acceptance of a football for use will be conditional upon the football bearing one of the following three designations:

Such designation on a football indicates that it was duly tested and found to be in compliance with the specific technical requirements for each category (FIFA APPROVED, FIFA INSPECTED and International Matchball Standards, the latter being of equal technical standard to FIFA INSPECTED), additional to the minimum specifications set forth in Law II. The ball shall carry appropriate indication that it has been sucessfully tested. Such additional requirements, specific to each of the respective categories, have to be approved by the International F.A. Board. The institutes conducting the tests shall be selected by FIFA.

In all other matches the ball used must satisfy the requirements of Law II. National Associations or Competitions may require the use of balls bearing any one of the three afore-mentioned designations.

The proposed new text better describes the situation with respect to the improvement programme for footballs integrated last year into the Laws.

New Text of (2) - Replacing Present Text (2)
(2) Up to a maximum of three substitutes may be used in any match played in an official competition under the auspices of FIFA, the Confederations or the National Associations.

The rules of the competition shall state how many substitutes may be nominated, from three up to a maximum of seven.

The names of the substitutes must be given to the referee prior to the commencement of the match.

Substitutes not so named may not take part in the match.

A positive development for the quality of the game by having a bigger choice of players is anticipated.

The rest of Law III remains unchanged.

New Text of (h) - Replacing Present Text
(h) send off the field of play and show a red card to any player who, in his opinion, is guilty of violent conduct, serious foul play, the use of foul or abusive language, or is guilty of a second cautionable offence.

This change was deemed necessary to keep in line with the words of Law XII (9).

Decision (7) - New Text - Replacing Present Text
(7) If the referee applies the advantage clause and the advantage which was anticipated does not develop at that time, the referee shall penalise the original offence.

The amendment seeks to indicate a timescale during which the referee may penalise the original offence if the anticipated advantage does not develop.

The above-mentioned new text now gives the referee the possibility of waiting to see how an advantage situation develops and if it does not develop after a short while, e.g. two/three seconds, then the referee has to immediately stop the game and penalise the original offence, provided that the ball is still in play (if not then play must be restarted in accordance with the Law). Furthermore, should a second offence be committed by a player of the offending team during the time the referee is allowing for the development of the anticipated advantage, then the referee must sanction the more serious of the two offences. In any case, this does not exempt each offending player from being dealt with appropriately (caution or dismissal) by the referee.

To replace the words "linesman" and "linesmen" in the Law by the words "assistant referee" and "assistant referees", where applicable.

The word "linesmen" does not accurately reflect the tasks of the linesmen who are, in actual fact, assistants to the referee. Furthermore, it does not reflect the fact that there are also women who are active in this function.

New Text of 1st Paragraph
Two assistant referees shall be appointed, whose duty (subject to the decision of the referee) shall be to indicate:

  1. when the ball is out of play;
  2. which side is entitled to a corner-kick, goal-kick or throw-in;
  3. when a player may be penalised for being in an offside position;
  4. when misconduct or other incident has occurred out of the vision of the referee;
  5. when a substitution is desired.


  1. The present text makes no mention of this duty which is one of the most important performed by the assistant referees.
  2. This should encourage assistant referees to be aware of their responsibilities within the match officials' team, in order to ensure that the correct decisions are arrived at.

(Remainder of the present text to remain unchanged)

LAW XII - FOULS AND MISCONDUCT - (English Version Only)
New Text of Paragraph 3 of Law XII - Replacing Present Text
Should a player of the defending team commit one of the above ten offences within the penalty area, he shall be penalised by a penalty-kick.

The word "intentionally" in the English version is inconsistent with the new text of Law XII and has been deleted.

New Text of Paragraph 5 Law XII - (1) Replacing Present Text
(1) Playing in a manner considered by the referee to be dangerous (example to be deleted as it is no longer an appropriate example since the introduction of the terms "careless" and "reckless" into the Law in 1995).

Addition to the present text, becoming point 8.
"After the match the fourth official will submit a report to the appropriate authorities, on any misconduct or other incident which has occurred out of the vision of the referee and the assistant referees. The fourth official must advise the referee and his assistants of any report being made".

The above text enhances the role of the fourth official as one of the refereeing team and facilitates the use of written evidence from the fourth official by the appropriate authorities.


Instructions to Encourage an Increase in the Actual Playing Time
  1. The Board expressed concern about the tendency of the actual playing time being reduced. To increase the same, it decided that the national associations should be instructed to organise a system, wherever possible but especially in the top leagues, according to which additional footballs are placed around the edge of the field with ball- boys to hand them over to the players. It is suggested that at least six footballs be available, two of them strategically placed along the touch lines, on either side of the field and one behind each goal line.

  2. The Board also wants the national associations to instruct their referees to speed up the substitution procedures, so that no unnecessary time is lost when players are exchanged.

  3. In addition, the Board insists on referees strictly implementing the rule according to which the goalkeeper, having taken control of the ball, must release it into play after he has taken four steps in any direction.

  4. Finally, the referees must be instructed to accelerate the restart of the matches, when goals have been scored. It is agreed that players may demonstrate their joy when a goal has been scored, but the demonstration must remain reasonable. In particular, the referees have to caution players who demonstratively run round the stadium, take off their shirts, climb on the fences, or similar exaggerated behaviour.

Further Instructions

  1. The FIFA Sports Medical Committee has drawn the attention of the Board to the fact that there are numerous injuries due to incidents of tackling (challenges) made from behind with little or no attempt to play the ball. It is once more emphasised that the current Laws of the Game forbid such action and condemn it as serious foul play (which implies the expulsion of the offending player).

  2. Regarding the implementation of Law XI (off-side), the assistant referees are requested to indicate a punishable off-side position only if they are sure that the player is off-side. Therefore, in case of doubt, they should refrain from intervening.

Statement of the Board

Finally, the Board once more reaffirmed that the rule according to which the referee's decision on a point of fact connected with play is final, is absolutely irrefutable.

The afore-mentioned amendments, decisions and instructions are binding as from 1st July 1996. National Associations whose competitions start prior to 1st July 1996, may implement the amendments to the Laws immediately (this does not apply to those National Associations whose current competitions have not terminated on that date).

The National Associations are requested to send a copy of this circular to all of their referees and assistant referees.

Thank you for your attention to the above-mentioned information.

Yours faithfully,
General Secretary

J.S. Blatter

cc.:  - FIFA Executive Committee Members
       - Confederations
       - FIFA Referees and FIFA Assistant Referees
       - FIFA Referees' Committee
       - Members of the Panel for Referees' Courses

The above changes will be included in the forthcoming 1996 edition of the Laws of the Game, to be published and available on-line, July 1996.

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