The IFAB: How it works

The role of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is to discuss and decide upon proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game. FIFA and the UK-based associations (English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs) can propose matters to be discussed and ratified at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), which usually takes place in February or March.

These meetings take place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in strict rotation, as well as locations decided by FIFA in years when the FIFA World Cup™ is held. A representative of the 'host' association acts as chairman. The same country also acts as hosts for the Annual Business Meeting (ABM) which takes place in September or October.

Although the ABM can consider general business submitted to the Board by any of the continental confederations or any of FIFA’s 208 Member Associations and provide decisions, it does not have the authority to alter the Laws of the Game.

As a FIFA vice-President and Chairman of the Referees’ Committee Angel Maria Villar Llona has been involved with IFAB meetings since 2003. In his view, the organisation is vitally important to football as “it controls and defines the Laws of the Game, which is the soul of any sport.”

“It’s a very co-ordinated group effort,” Villar Llona told FIFA.com. “Although there are different points of view on certain matters, every representative is a hard worker, who is very pro-active and qualified. They’re all very aware of their responsibility.”

More about the AGM
Each of the IFAB members can forward in writing suggestions or proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game, requests for experimentation to the Laws of the Game and other items for discussion to the secretary of the association hosting the meeting by 1 December of the preceding year. This is then printed and distributed by 14 December. If any amendments or alterations need to be made to the initial proposal, the deadline to do this is 14 January, as topics for discussion are printed and distributed to the members of IFAB on or before 1 February.

It controls and defines the Laws of the Game, which is the soul of any sport.
Angel Maria Villar Llona.

More about the ABM
Each of the IFAB members can forward any proposals, requests for experimentation regarding the Laws of the Game and other items for discussion in writing to the secretary of the host association, at least four weeks before the date of the meeting. Any confederation or other member association of FIFA may forward proposals, requests or items for discussion in writing to FIFA’s Secretary General, in good time to ensure that they can be considered by FIFA and, if acceptable, forwarded to the secretary of the host association at least four weeks before the meeting.

Voting and decision making
FIFA has four votes on behalf of all its affiliated member associations. The other associations of the IFAB each have one vote. For a proposal to succeed, it must receive the support of at least three-quarters of those present and entitled to vote. The decisions of the Annual Business Meeting of the Board shall be effective from the date of the meeting, unless agreed otherwise.

The decisions of the AGM of the IFAB regarding changes to the Laws of the Game shall be binding on confederations and member associations as from 1 July following each AGM. However, confederations or member associations whose current season has not ended by 1 July may delay the introduction of the adopted until the beginning of their next season. No alteration to the Laws of the Game can be made by any confederation or member association unless it has been passed by the Board.

IFAB reflections
“I think that the most important change I’ve been involved with was the amendment to the offside rule [in 2005], because it meant a big step in the game’s development,” reflected Villar Llona. “And above all, it has benefited attacking football and goals.”

“I don’t think there will be significant modifications at this forthcoming meeting [in March 2010]. It’s not usual to introduce important changes a few months ahead of a World Cup, but there are different reports to study and discuss, and those can be really relevant in the future.”