The IFAB: How it works

The IFAB is the universal decision-making body for the Laws of the Game (LoG) of association football. Its objectives are to safeguard, compile and amend the LoG as they apply within the scope of world football as organised by FIFA, which includes ensuring that the LoG are uniformly applied worldwide and monitored accordingly, and that organised football is practised consistently.

While the IFAB is made up of 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.

Suggestions or proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game, requests for experimentation to the Laws of the Game and other items for discussion during the next meeting of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) must be submitted in writing to the Secretary of The IFAB (secretary@theifab.com) by no later than 1 November of the preceding year. For any amendment to be made to the Laws of the Game at the AGM, a three-quarter majority of those present and entitled to vote is required. The British associations have one vote each while FIFA has four votes.

Recent reform of The IFAB
The IFAB reform process, which started in 2012, has included a detailed and thorough review of IFAB activities, processes and organisational structure. At the 127th AGM on 2 March 2013, The IFAB formally agreed to the formation of two new advisory panels: a Technical Panel and a Football Panel that include different stakeholder groups from across the world of football. This was the start of The IFAB reform, which was concluded on 13 January 2014, following 14 months of comprehensive work, in which The IFAB founded itself as an autonomous association under Swiss Law and approved its own statutes.

Whilst The IFAB composition remained unchanged – including the four British associations and FIFA – the two new advisory panels aim to improve the consultative process and foster a more proactive approach, with a wider group of representatives from all over the world able to bring new ideas to the table. To provide greater transparency, accountability and approachability, an executive secretarial support led by the Secretary of The IFAB was introduced, reporting to the Board of Directors.

Annual General Meeting (AGM)
The ordinary meeting of the General Assembly, the AGM, takes place in February or March in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in strict rotation, as well as locations decided by FIFA (normally Zurich) in years when the FIFA World Cup™ is held. The decisions of the AGM of The IFAB regarding changes to the Laws of the Game are binding on confederations and member associations as from 1 June following each AGM. Confederations or member associations whose current season or tournament has not ended by 1 June may delay the introduction of the adopted change(s) until the beginning of their next season or end of the competition. No alteration to the Laws of the Game can be made by any confederation or member association unless it has been passed by The IFAB.

Annual Business Meeting (ABM)
The ABM is the preparatory meeting for the AGM and is held in November prior to the AGM. Although the ABM can consider general business submitted to the Board by any of the continental confederations or any of FIFA’s 209 Member Associations and provide decisions, it does not have the authority to alter the Laws of the Game. Any possible law amendments are put forward (or not) to the agenda, for voting or further discussion at the AGM.

History
Comprising two representatives from each of the UK's four football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), The IFAB met for the first time on 2 June 1886. The brainchild of the English FA, the new body was created with a view to drawing up a uniform code at a time when each country applied different rules. Once established as the guardian of the Laws of the Game, The IFAB’s role was to preserve, monitor and study them, and amend them if necessary.

The game of football 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
Offside has without doubt been the most controversial of all laws since the creation of the first set of official rules in 1863. At the time, any player positioned in front of the ball was deemed to be offside. At the end of the 1860s the FA drew up the so-called “three-player rule”, by virtue of which a player would only be ruled offside if there were less than three players situated between him and the goal, an innovation that allowed the game to develop. In 1925 the law was amended to the current two-player rule.

The six-yard box made its first appearance in 1869, followed by corner-kicks in 1872, and the first penalty kick was awarded in 1891. Up until 1902 spot-kicks could be taken from any point along a line 12 yards out from goal.

The decision to prohibit goalkeepers from handling the ball outside the penalty area, taken in 1912, led to an increase in the number of goals scored. And as of 1920, players could no longer be ruled offside from throw-ins.

Slowly but surely, The IFAB was changing both the game and the mind-set of the people who played and watched it. The rule change prohibiting goalkeepers from handling deliberate back-passes, introduced after the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™, and the 1998 ruling that red cards be awarded for tackles from behind are good examples of that shift in attitude.

It was also The IFAB that decided in October 2010 during its ABM to reconsider the introduction of goal-line technology in the Laws of the Game. Following a two-year period of comprehensive testing and the setting up of a stringent licencing 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 approve – temporarily during a trial period – the wearing of headscarves.

Further information on The IFAB will be available soon (on www.theifab.com), including a comprehensive explanation of The IFAB and its administration, the Laws of the Game and any other related official documentation and communication.