A new version of football s Laws of the Game comes into force on 1 July this year.
The revised text is the result of some two years of work by football s world governing body, FIFA, and the International Football Association Board, which meets every year to consider changes to the Laws.
However, the revision does not change the basic format of the Laws. There are still 17 basic rules, in the same sequence as before. And the content has not been altered.
The change is in the style and the format of the text, which is approximately 30 per-cent shorter than the current version and in a more modern idiom.
"It is FIFA s obligation to make the Laws available to as many people as possible throughout the world," says FIFA General Secretary, Joseph S. Blatter. "As we try to achieve more standardised refereeing around the world, we have to ensure that players, officials, fans, media and especially referees all have the same clear understanding of the rules. And clarity comes from simplicity."
The rules of football have undergone various developments over the past 200 years. Generally recognised as the first complete codes were those written by English public schools in the early 19th century, largely standardised in the so-called Cambridge Rules of 1848 and then incorporated into the first rules of the new Football Association in 1863.
The current Laws of Game were composed in 1938 by the Englishman Sir Stanley Rous while he was Secretary of The Football Association. Sir Stanley served as President of FIFA from 1961 to 1974.
The current FIFA President, Dr. Joao Havelange, who succeeded Rous in 1974, says, "Even if Sir Stanley s text is about to become to some extent obsolete, the spirit of his works will remain valid. The greatest tribute to his achievement is precisely that it stood the test of time so long. But I am sure that as a man of vision, he would have agreed that the time had come for an update."
The Laws of the Game are issued by FIFA in the official languages of English, French, Spanish and German. Thousands of copies are made available to all the 198 member associations of FIFA and may be requested from FIFA House in Zurich. The text is widely published, without copyright charge, throughout the world, also in many other languages.
THE MAIN AUTHORS OF THE REVISED LAWS
The revised Laws of the Game are largely the fruits of the labours of three men :
- Michel Zen-Ruffinen (Switzerland), the Deputy General Secretary of FIFA and a former international referee
George Cumming (Scotland), Development Director (Referees and Education) of the Scottish Football Association
Ken Ridden (England), a former referee and schoolteacher and now Director of Refereeing for The Football Association.
"It has been very time-consuming to check and cross-check the details," says George Cumming. "On several occasions, there was a temptation to make major changes in the original, only to find that alternatives did not really fit the bill. And the Board was always insistent that when in doubt, the status quo should continue to apply. We had to avoid changes just for the sake of it. After all, the Laws have served us well for 60 years!"
"We had to remember the international aspect of the Laws," says Ken Ridden. "When Sir Stanley Rous wrote them originally in 1938, the game was still largely a European and South American phenomenon. Since then, of course, it has expanded enormously and it is tremendously important to ensure that the rules are easy to understand everywhere."
"With the official Laws of the Game existing in the four FIFA languages, we had to make sure that they corresponded perfectly between these versions," says Michel Zen-Ruffinen. "So we held special coordination sessions with translators and experts in all four languages, to make sure that not only the letter but also the spirit of the Laws was the same in all four languages which then get translated into a variety of other languages, largely outside of FIFA s control."
Please note: In the coming week, visitors to FIFA On-Line will be able to download a copy of the new edition, in a variety of file formats and in all four official FIFA languages.