Football FAQ

Football faq“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”

This is an old Chinese proverb but it works just as well for the good old English game of football.

Not everyone who bets is an encyclopaedia of the beautiful game, and some people might be branching out from other sports to expand their portfolio of sports to bet on.

There is a lot to know about football and in many different categories too, but until you know the basics you can't really move on, so that is where we are starting with this FAQ.

Whatever the reason you are here, there are no stupid questions on this website, so have a look and you should find the answer to any football related question you can come up with.

How Long is a Football Match?

The official answer to this question is 90 minutes, but it’s very rare for a game to actually last this exact amount of time. A game of football is traditionally played over two 45 minute periods of play, with a break in the middle during which the teams swap ends. However, since a match will be stopped for disciplinary actions, substitutions, injuries and the like, the whistle almost never blows bang on time. The referee will add injury time (or stoppage time) once the clock reaches 45 minutes and 90 minutes, to allow for any points at which the game was stopped.

There are also certain competitions like the World Cup where a match winner is necessary in order for the competition to progress. So in a situation where the score was equal at the end of 90 minutes plus injury time, extra time would begin. This would see the game played for a further 30 minutes, split into two 15 minute halves, and if a winner was still not decided after this the game would be decided by penalty shootout. So although the official answer is 90 minutes, it is often a little more than that, and sometimes quite a lot more than that.

How Long is Half Time in Football?

Once the first 45 minutes of play have occurred, it is half time. The FA rules state that the half time interval must not exceed 15 minutes.

During half time the players can catch their breath, get a drink or go to the toilet, and maybe get any knocks seen to by the medical staff. They might also fix any clothing issues that have been annoying them. Half time serves as an opportunity for the manager to regroup with his players as well, and dish out any praise or criticism he deems necessary or issue new instructions regarding strategy.

There is also a very short 1 minute break at the midway point during extra time. This is just to allow players to grab a drink and swap ends though, and they don’t go back to their dressing rooms.

What is Injury Time?

injury timeDuring any game of football, the flow of the game can be interrupted by injuries, substitutions, disciplinary actions, time wasting, and all manner of other events to boot. This means that the full 90 minutes of play is whittled away. In order to make up for this lost time, the referee and their team will keep track of how much time was lost along the way and add it on to the end of each half. This is called injury time, or stoppage time.

However, injury time isn’t 100% accurate, and some events such as throw ins and goal kicks don’t count towards it at all. Other events such as substitutions and penalties are usually given a set amount of time to be added on regardless of how long they actually take, which is why injury time is most often somewhere between 2 minutes and 5 minutes per half.

What is Extra Time?

Not to be confused with injury time, extra time is additional time given at the end of the regular 90 minutes of play in order for a winner to be decided. It isn’t necessary in standard league games, but in knockout competitions like the Champions League or the World Cup which require a clear winner to go forward to the next round, extra time is used.

It only comes into effect if the score is level at full time, and it must be played in full. That means that if extra time began with a 1-1 score line and Team A scored in the first half of extra time, the second half would still be played. If extra time ends in a draw as well then the game is decided on penalties.

What is an Own Goal?

An own goal is a goal scored accidentally, usually via a deflection or last ditch challenge, whereby a player puts the ball into their own net. In other words, they score at the wrong end of the pitch and give a goal to their opponents. It’s arguably the worst thing that can happen to a player, and defenders are most in danger of scoring them. There have been some real clangers over the years, from a keep throwing the ball into their own net to pass backs gone wrong, but many are much more forgivable.

The key thing about own goals, is that they are only counted as such if the ball wasn’t already on target. A shot that was on target but hit a defender on its way in would be classed as a deflection and the goal would be given to the shooter. A shot that was going wide but ended up in the back of the net because of a deflection would go down as an own goal.

What is Offside?

offside flagThe offside rule states that any player in the opposition’s half of the pitch must have at least one defending player between them and the goal at the point the ball is played to them. So a player can be in an offside position without the whistle being blown so long as they are not actively involved in play at the time – so not touching the ball or about to be given the ball. When offside is called the ball is given to the opposition as a free kick.

The rule exists to stop players poaching; just sitting behind the oppositions defence until they get hold of the ball and end up one on one with the keeper. Players cannot be offside in their own half and the rule does not apply when the ball is received directly from a throw in, corner, or free kick. It also only applies to balls played forwards; if the ball is played backwards to a player in an offside position then the game will not be stopped.

This rule is followed very strictly, even more so since VAR was introduced, and a player can be deemed offside even if only a single part of their body was behind the last defender. This has caused much controversy, such as when Leeds striker Patrick Bamford was ruled offside by his arm because he was pointing and had a goal disallowed.

What is the Centre Circle?

Slap bang in the middle of the pitch is the centre spot, and this is where the game starts from in each half and after every goal. Around that centre spot is the centre circle. This circle is drawn 10 yards from the centre spot and acts as a boundary that no player is allowed inside during kick off except the player who is doing the kicking off.

It ensures that all players stay at least 10 yards from the ball until the game has officially begun, and creates an orderly start to the game. However, once kick off has happened the centre circle can be ignored and players can run in and out of it at will.

What is the D?

The D or semi-circle just outside the penalty area is there to mark off a 10 yard distance from the penalty spot. It serves a very similar purpose as the centre circle, but because the penalty box also exists, the full circle isn’t required. Where the D joins the penalty box, the penalty box then creates the 10 yard minimum distance.

The rules of a penalty state that all players except the keeper and the penalty taker must be behind the ball, inside the field of play, outside the penalty area, and at least 10 yards from the ball. The D is there to enforce this last rule at the point at which the lines of the penalty box fall too close to the penalty spot.

The D is not part of the penalty area though, so a foul inside the D would be a free kick rather than a penalty, and the keeper cannot handle the ball inside the D.

What is the Penalty Area?

There is a rectangular area surround each goal at either end of the pitch, and this is the penalty area. It’s also known as the 18 yard box, and contains the penalty spot which is 12 yards from the centre of the goal line.

Inside this area, the goal keeper can use their hands and arms to handle and stop the ball, but if they leave the area they are limited to their feet, chest, and head just like all other outfield players. The penalty area is also a dangerous place for defenders because a foul committed inside the penalty area will give the opposition a penalty as opposed to a free kick.

What is a Penalty?

penalty kickA penalty is a direct opportunity to score a goal from a dead ball situation, where no opposing player apart from the goalkeeper is allowed to interfere with the shot. It is technically a type of direct free kick. Penalties are usually awarded for offences inside the penalty area, but they are also used as a way to decide the winner of games in certain cup competitions after extra time has been played and the score is still equal.

When a penalty takes place, the ball is placed on the penalty spot and the goalkeeper takes their position on the goal line. The player taking the penalty is allowed to approach the ball but all other players on both side must stay at least 10 yards away from the penalty spot and remain behind the ball. If the penalty is saved but the ball is loose then anyone can go for it and defend or attack as normal. This is not the case in aforementioned cup games though; in a penalty shootout the penalty taker has one chance to score only, even if the keeper only manages to fumble the shot away.

What is a Free Kick?

A free kick is a dead ball situation awarded when one team commits an offence, but the nature of that offence dictates whether a direct (can shoot) or indirect (must pass first) free kick is given. It is a chance for one side to create an opportunity uninterrupted by the opposing team.

Whichever type of free kick is awarded, opposition players must remain at least 10 yards from the ball and can in no way interfere with the ball until the free kick has been taken. The kick can be taken by any player on the team, but the referee will decide from where the kick takes place. Typically, it will be from the spot the offence was committed, but sometimes players try to cheat that position a little at which point the referee might step in.

What is a Direct Free Kick?

A direct free kick is where the player taking it can take a shot at goal from the dead ball situation. Some players such as David Beckham become specialist direct free kick takers, known for scoring incredible goals in dead ball situations, but a direct free kick doesn’t have to be used to take a shot, it’s just that the option is there.

A direct free kick might be given for offences such as a hand ball, a dangerous challenge, kicking, tripping or charging at an opponent, holding or pulling them back, or even unprofessional behaviour such as spitting. Some of these instances might be subjective, but the referee essentially has to decide if tackles and challenges are careless, reckless, or done with excessive force.

What is an Indirect Free Kick?

An indirect free kick is where a goal can’t be scored by the free kick taker, it has to be passed before a shot can be taken. Most notably given inside the penalty area where the offence wasn’t serious enough to result in a penalty, what tends to happen is that the free kick taker gives the ball a gentle nudge just before another player runs in and wellies it into the goal. Indirect free kicks can be given anywhere on the pitch though, so they aren’t always a goal scoring opportunity.

An indirect free kick might be awarded for things like a goalkeeper picking up a back pass from a defender or holding the ball for longer than 6 seconds, offsides, dissent, interfering with a goal kick, dangerous play such as high tackles. Again, some of this is down to the referee’s discretion.

What is VAR?

VARVAR stands for Video Assistant Referee, and is essentially another referee who watches the game from a video operation room with the ability to play back and scrutinise crucial but difficult to call moments from multiple camera angles. It is actually a team of 3 people; the main assistant who is usually a former or current on pitch referee as well, their assistant, and a replay operator.

It is used to look at goals or violations leading up to goals, red cards, penalties, and mistaken identity. The referee can ask for the VAR team’s advice or the VAR team can ask for the referee to review a decision. The referee can either take their advice or check the monitor for themselves. VAR was only introduced in 2019 and has been very poorly received by some who say it is ruining the game.

How Big is the Ball?

A regulation football is 28cm to 30cm long and 58cm to 62cm in circumference at its roundest point. That’s 11 to 12 inches and 23 to 24 inches respectively. In terms of weight it must be 410 grams to 460 grams which is 14oz to 16oz for our American friends, and must be inflated to between 65.7 and 68.8 kPa which is 9.5 to 10 psi.

So all footballs aren’t exactly the same size, but they are all very close and sit with pretty tight margins. This collective group of measurements is also more easily described as a Size 5 ball and is recommended for all players aged 14 and over, whether training or competing.

How Fast Does the Ball Go

Without wanting to sound trite, it depends how hard you kick it.

The fastest kick of a football ever officially recorded was in 2006, when Brazilian Ronny Heberson struck home for Sporting CP in a shot that almost tore open the net. The ball was recorded as travelling at 210.9 kmh, which is 131.82 mph here in the UK, and the keeper had absolutely no chance of stopping it.

Arjen Robben is believed to have struck the second fastest shot in football history clocking 190 kmh which is 118 mph. Obviously though the average pass/shot is nowhere near as fast as that.

What is a Linesman?

linesmanThere is only one referee on the pitch with the players, but they are assisted by a team of officials, and the 2 linesmen are key parts of this team. They will stay on the touch lines on either side of the pitch, travelling up and down it as the ball moves around the field, and act as a second pair of eyes for the main referee.

Their key duties are to get the best view of things like offsides, throw ins, corners, etc., and then use a flag to indicate which team the decision will go against. Because of their position on the touch line, they usually have a better view of these things then the referee, but the referee can overrule the lineman if necessary. The linesman will also indicate to the referee when a manager wishes to make a substitution.

What Does the 4th Official Do?

Their most visible role is holding up the substitution board, but the 4th official does more than meets the eye during a game. They are often qualified to take the place of the referee or linesman if they are unable to continue for any reason, but more usually they remain in a support role behind the scenes, ensuring the smooth running of things off the pitch so the referee and assistant referees can concentrate on what is happening on the pitch.

Before the game they maintain order, remind all players/staff of what constitutes professional conduct, ensure the balls are of regulation size/pressure and that all electronic boards are working. During the game they will make note of all decisions, cards, penalties etc., maintain order in the technical area and inform the referee of any unprofessional or abusive behaviour, control entry to the pitch when it comes to medical staff and substitutions, and display any injury time as advised by the referee. After the match, they help the referee prepare the official match report.

How Many Players are in a Football Team?

Each side will field 11 players at the start of each game, known as the starting 11. This means that unless a player is sent off, there will always be 22 players on the pitch at any one time. However, there will also be up to 9 substitutes per team on the bench, and the first team squad is made up of even more players from which the manager can select their starting 11.

On the pitch though, a football team has 11 players. These will consist of 1 goalkeeper, and then a mixture of defenders, midfielders, and forwards, but the number and exact position of each will vary depending on the team’s style of play and the strategy decided on by the manager.

How do Points Work in Football?

football league table All football leagues work in a fairly similar way, with each team in that league playing all other teams both at home and away over the course of a season, winning points as they go, and the team with the most points at the end of the season wins the league.

A team will get 3 points for winning a match, 1 point for a draw, and no points if they lose. There is no extra benefit to winning away from home as far as points are concerned. Points are used in all leagues, but they aren’t used in all competitions; for instance the FA Cup is a knockout competition so if a team loses an FA Cup game they are simply eliminated from the competition. The number of goals scored in a match doesn’t matter, a 1-0 win is worth the same 3 points as a 15-0 win, but goals can be important if two teams are tied on points at the end of a season, because in this situation the team with the most goals will win the league.

How Big is a Football Pitch?

The recommended length as specified by FA regulations is 115yards, or 105 meters, but the rules allow for a range of sizes. That means not all football pitches are the same size. However, they do all fall between 100-130 yards (90-120 meters) in length, and 50-100 yards (45-90 meters) in width, which is the range stipulated in the rules. Most pitches give players around 2 acres, or 64,000 square feet of playing space.

That said, the dimensions of all of the markings within the pitch dimensions such as the centre circle, the penalty area, and the D, will always be the same. The pitch must also maintain the same aspect ratio, so you wouldn’t ever see a pitch that was more square than another, but you might see one that is smaller or larger than your team’s pitch.

What is a Throw In?

throw inWhen the ball crosses the touchline, the long white line down the length of each side of the pitch, it is deemed to be out of play and the game is restarted by way of a throw in. This is when a player throws the ball back into play by holding it with two hands above his head, and propelling it forward to a team mate. A throw in is taken from the place where the ball crossed the line.

The team that last touched the ball before it crossed the touchline (even if it was a deflection) are in effect giving possession away to their opponents, because the opposing team will be the ones taking the throw in. Any player on the team can take the throw in but they cannot score directly from the throw, and they cannot touch the ball again until another player has touched it. All opposing players must stand at least 2 yards from the thrower until the ball is released.

What is a Foul Throw?

The proper way to take a throw in is to be facing the field of play, have part of each foot either on the touchline or outside of it, and to throw the ball from behind the head using both hands.

If the throw in is taken incorrectly then this is a foul throw and the team taking it forfeit the opportunity and the opposing team are given the throw. However, in some circumstances, such as the ball hitting the ground before entering the field of play, the thrower will be able to retake the throw. Interestingly, the referee might allow play to continue if the thrower uses an opposition player to bounce the ball off in order to then play it themselves.

What is a Goal Kick?

A goal kick is awarded when the ball crosses the goal line (but a goal has not been scored) having been last touched by a member of the attacking team. So a clean shot that sailed past the post would result in a goal kick, for example.

Any player can take the goal kick, and it can be taken from anywhere inside the penalty area, but the ball must be stationary at the point the kick is taken. Opposing players must not enter the penalty area until after the kick has been taken, and the player taking the goal kick can only touch the ball once. However, in some situations the goal kick may be taken very quickly before opposing players have chance to leave the penalty area, in which case the referee may allow play to continue regardless.

What is a Corner?

corner kickIf the ball crosses the goal line (without a goal being scored) and a member of the defending team was last to touch it, then a corner will be awarded to the attacking team. This is a dead ball situation taken from the corner point where the touch line meets the goal line. Corners can be taken from either side of the pitch, but will always be taken from the side the ball crossed the line, and defending players must remain at least 10 yards from the ball before the corner is taken.

Any player can take the corner, which is most often used as an opportunity to cross the ball into the area to create a scoring opportunity, so corners can be dangerous set pieces. However, sometimes a team will make a simpler pass and try to work the ball closer to the goal with a string of passes instead.

What is a Yellow Card?

A yellow card is an official warning to a player that they have broken the rules. A referee can verbally warn a player if their offence isn’t serious enough for a yellow card, but once a yellow card is issued it goes on the player’s record and cannot be taken away. A yellow card can be given after one single serious offence or after a string of more minor offences, but if a player receives two yellow cards in a game they are sent off.

Although yellow cards expire at the end of each game, getting too many in a season can result in a suspension. In the Premier League 10 yellow cards in your club’s first 32 games will result in a 2 match ban, whereas in the EFL 5 yellow cards inside of 19 games gets you a 1 match ban, and 15 in a whole season is a 3 match ban. The ban will carry over to the next season if necessary too. What’s more, each card issues comes with penalty points for the club, who end up with a fine if they get too many over the season.

What is a Red Card?

A red card is issued after a very serious offence or extremely bad behaviour by a player, and results in them being sent off the field, leaving their team with only 10 men for the rest of the match. Offences might be very dangerous tackles, fighting, abusive language, etc.

A red card will always result in a suspension, but the severity and type of offence will dictate how long the suspension will be. It can be between 1 and 6 matches on top of penalty points for the club. Fines can also be issued by the FA in extreme circumstances where a player’s behaviour is deemed completely unacceptable, and if a team collectively amasses too many disciplinary points the FA will fine the club. It is also possible for managers and staff to receive cards if they are behaving unprofessionally.

How do Football Kits Work?

football kitA football kit is just like the uniform the football player wears to make it obvious which team they are playing for. This is so the team can be represented smartly but most importantly it is so that players can easily recognise their team mates and tell them apart from the opposition. This is why football teams must have a home kit and an away kit (and sometimes even a 3rd kit) that are all different colours and/or designs; because if Manchester United and Liverpool both faced each other in their mainly red and white home kits, it would be difficult to tell them apart at speed. That said, if both teams home kits were different enough then the team playing away from home could still wear their home kit. Adding to this, each goalkeeper must wear a kit that clearly distinguishes them from the outfield players of both sides, so there will always be 4 different kits on the pitch in a game.

Clubs make deals with sportswear companies to become their official kit provider, so the brand (such as adidas, for example) will design and create the kits, but the clubs can also sell sponsorship to other companies who want their brand seen by a global audience; so you will see airlines, betting brands, electrical brands and all sorts of others on the front of football kit. In recent times sleeve sponsorship has also become an option.

Clubs change their kit every season, but sponsorship deals can last for anything from a single season to many years. Some even become synonymous with the club, such as Pirelli who sponsored Inter Milan for 26 years, from 1995-2021.