Number of Players
A match is played by two teams, each with a maximum of eleven players; one must be the goalkeeper. A match may not start or continue if either team has fewer than seven players.
If a team has fewer than seven players because one or more players has deliberately left the field of play, the referee is not obliged to stop play and the advantage may be played, but the match must not resume after the ball has gone out of play if a team does not have the minimum number of seven players.
If the competition rules state that all players and substitutes must be named before kick-off and a team starts a match with fewer than eleven players, only the players and substitutes named in the starting line-up may take part in the match upon their arrival.
Number of substitutions
The number of substitutes, up to a maximum of five, which may be used in any match played in an official competition will be determined by FIFA, the confederation or the national football association except for men's and women's competitions involving the 1st teams of clubs in the top division or senior 'A' international teams, where the maximum is three substitutes.
The competition rules must state
- how many substitutes may be named, from three to a maximum of twelve.
- whether one additional substitute may be used when a match goes into extra time (whether or not the team has already used the full number of permitted substitutes)
In national “A” team matches, a maximum of twelve substitutes may be named of which a maximum of six may be used.
In all other matches, a greater number of substitutes may be used provided that:
- the teams reach agreement on a maximum number
- the referee is informed before the match
The use of return substitutions is only permitted in youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football, subject to the agreement of the national football association.
Substitution procedureThe names of the substitutes must be given to the referee before the start of the match. Any substitute not named by this time may not take part in the match.
To replace a player with a substitute, the following must be observed:
- the referee must be informed before any substitution is made
- the player being substituted
- receives the referee’s permission to leave the field of play, unless already off the field, and must leave by the nearest point on the boundary line unless the referee indicates that the player may leave directly and immediately at the halfway line or another point (e.g. for safety/security or injury)
- must go immediately to the technical area or dressing room and takes no further part in the match, except where return substitutions are permitted
- the player being replaced is not obliged to leave on the halfway line and takes no further part in the match, except where return substitutions are permitted
- if a player who is to be substituted refuses to leave, play continues
- during a stoppage in play
- at the halfway line
- after the player being replaced has left
- after receiving a signal from the referee
The substitution is completed when a substitute enters the field of play; from that moment, the replaced player becomes a substituted player and the substitute becomes a player and can take any restart.
All substituted players and substitutes are subject to the referee’s authority whether they play or not.
Changing the goalkeeperAny of the players may change places with the goalkeeper if:
- the referee is informed before the change is made
- the change is made during a stoppage in play
Offences and sanctions
If a named substitute starts a match instead of a named player and the referee is not informed of this change:
- the referee allows the named substitute to continue playing
- no disciplinary sanction is taken against the named substitute
- the named player can become a named substitute
- the number of substitutions is not reduced
- the referee reports the incident to the appropriate authorities
If a substitution is made during the half-time interval or before extra time, the procedure must be completed before the match restarts. If the referee is not informed, the named substitute may continue to play, no disciplinary action is taken and the matter is reported to the appropriate authorities.
If a player changes places with the goalkeeper without the referee’s permission, the referee:
- allows play to continue
- cautions both players when the ball is next out of play but not if the change occurred during half-time (including half time of extra time) or the period between the end of the match and the start of extra time and/or kicks from the penalty mark.
- the players are cautioned
- play is restarted with an indirect free kick, from the position of the ball when play was stopped
Players and substitutes sent offA player who is sent off:
- before submission of the team list can not be named on the team list in any capacity
- after being named on the team list and before kick-off may be replaced by a named substitute, who can not be replaced; the number of substitutions the team can make is not reduced
- after the kick-off can not be replaced
Extra persons on the field of play
The coach and other officials named on the team list (with the exception of players or substitutes) are team officials. Anyone not named on the team list as a player, substitute or team official is an outside agent.
If a team official, substitute, substituted or sent-off player or outside agent enters the field of play the referee must:
- only stop play if there is interference with play
- have the person removed when play stops
- take appropriate disciplinary action
- a team official, substitute, substituted or sent-off player, play restarts with a direct free kick or penalty kick
- an outside agent, play restarts with a dropped ball
Player outside the field of play
If a player who requires the referee's permission to re-enter the field of play re-enters without the referee's permission, the referee must:
- stop play (not immediately if the player does not interfere with play or a match official or if the advantage can be applied)
- caution the player for entering the field of play without permission
- with a direct free kick from the position of the interference
- with an indirect free kick from the position of the ball when play was stopped if there was no interference
A player who crosses a boundary line as part of a playing movement, does not commit an offence.
Goal scored with an extra person on the field of play
If, after a goal is scored, the referee realises, before play restarts, an extra person was on the field of play when the goal was scored:
- the referee must disallow the goal if the extra person was:
- a player, substitute, substituted player, sent-off player or team official of the team that scored the goal; play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position of the extra person
- an outside agent who interfered with play unless a goal results as outlined above in ‘extra persons on the field of play’; play is restarted with a dropped ball
- the referee must allow the goal if the extra person was:
- a player, substitute, substituted player, sent-off player or team official of the team that conceded the goal
- an outside agent who did not interfere with play
If, after a goal is scored and play has restarted, the referee realises an extra person was on the field of play when the goal was scored, the goal can not be disallowed. If the extra person is still on the field the referee must:
- stop play
- have the extra person removed
- restart with a dropped ball or free kick as appropriate
The team captain has no special status or privileges but has a degree of responsibility for the behaviour of the team.