Kick-off (association football)

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Kick-off at the final of the 2005 Confederations Cup

A kick-off is the method of starting and, in some cases, restarting play in a game of association football. The rules concerning the kick-off are part of Law 8 of the Laws of the Game.[1]


A kick-off is used to start each half of play, and each period of extra time where applicable. The kick-off to start a game is awarded to the team that lost the pre-game coin toss (the team that won the coin-toss chooses which direction they wish to play). The kick-off begins when the referee blows the whistle. The kick-off to start the second half is taken by the other team. If extra time is played another coin-toss is used at the beginning of this period.

A kick-off is also used to restart play after a goal is scored, and is taken by the team that conceded the goal.


Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll preparing to kick-off.

The kick-off is taken from the centre spot. All players, except for the kicker, must be in their own half of the field of play, and all opposing players must remain at least 10 yards (9.16m) from the ball (a distance marked on the pitch by the centre circle), until the ball is in play.

The ball is initially stationary until it is put into play by being kicked. The player who has first kicked the ball may not touch it again until it has been touched by another player.

A stipulation that this kick must be towards the opponents' goal existed in the rules from 1883[2] until 2016.[3] This resulted in kick-offs typically involving two people (as pictured), with one tapping the ball forward and the other passing it back to the rest of the team. Now a team may kick the ball backwards explaining why the kicker may be in the other half of the field when kicking the ball.

A goal may be scored directly from a kick-off against the opponent.[4]


If a player moves from their required position as detailed above the kick is retaken. Failure to maintain position may constitute misconduct and be punished by a caution (yellow card).

It is an offence for the kicker to touch the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player; this is punishable by an indirect free kick to the defending team from where the offence occurred, unless the second touch was also a more serious handling offence, in which case it is punishable by a direct free kick.


Before 1863

Illustration of the kick-off used at Rugby School (1845)

Few details of the rules of English traditional football are preserved, but one of them is the means by which the matches were started. It appears to have been the custom in several places for the game to start with the ball being "thrown up" in the middle of the field of play by a neutral official. The players would then contest for possession of the ball as it descended.[5][6][7] The rules of Surrey Football Club, published in 1849, likewise specify that the game is started by the ball being "tossed up in the centre of the ground".[8]

A game played on Christmas Day 1841 is recorded as having been started with the ball placed in the middle of the field of play, with each team attempting to play the ball as soon as possible after the firing of a pistol.[9]

The oldest published laws of football (Rugby School, 1845) specify that the game is to be started with a "kick off" from the middle of the field of play, which must be a place-kick.[10] Most codes of laws from this era provide for a similar "kick off" from the centre of the ground; these include the Cambridge rules of 1856,[11] the Sheffield rules of 1858,[12] and the rules for Harrow football of 1858.[13] One exception is the laws for the Eton field game (1862), which specify instead a "bully" in the middle of the field (similar to a scrummage in rugby union).[14]

The FA Laws of 1863

The original FA laws of 1863 specify that "[t]he game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side losing the toss, the other side shall not approach within 10 yards of the ball until it is kicked off". A "place kick" is further defined as "a kick at the ball while on the ground, in any position in which the kicker may choose to place it". Another law states that "[a]fter a goal is won the losing side shall kick off and the goals shall be changed."[15]

Subsequent developments

The original FA laws of 1863 specified that ends should be changed whenever a goal was scored, and made no provision for half-time. In 1870, the change of ends at half-time was introduced, but only if no goals had been scored during the first half; the laws did not specify which team should kick off the second half.[16] In 1872, the change of ends was eliminated after goals scored in the second half.[17] In 1874, the laws specified that "[a]fter the change of ends at half-time the same side as originally kicked off shall kick off"[18] This was changed in 1875 to the current law, where the change of ends was restricted to half-time only, and the opposite side kicked off the second half.[19]

The original laws of 1863 placed no restriction (other than offside) on the players' position during the kick-off, except that opponents could not approach within 10 yards of the ball. In 1874, a new restriction was added that all players had to be in their own half of the field.[18]

In 1875, it was forbidden for a player taking the kick-off to play the ball again until it had been kicked by another player. It was also forbidden to score a goal directly from the kick-off.[19] This restriction was partly reversed in 1997, when it was permitted to score a goal directly from the kick-off, but only against the opposing team.[20][21]

In 1883, the kick-off was required to be kicked forwards.[22] This restriction was removed in 2016.[23]

In 1891, internal pitch-markings were introduced. These included a "suitable mark" at the centre of the pitch and a "circle of radius 10 yards" to mark the area within which opponents were forbidden.[24]


  1. ^ "LAW 8 - THE START AND RESTART OF PLAY -". Retrieved 2014-02-04.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1883). The Football Association. Wikisource. 1883. 
  3. ^ Football: IFAB Confirm Series of Changes to Football Rules Ahead of Next Season Yahoo! Sport, 16 April 2016
  4. ^!/laws/the-start-and-restart-of-play/chapters/kick-off The IFAB Laws of the Game, Law 8
  5. ^ "Foot-Ball Match". Morning Chronicle. London (14555): 4. 1815-12-27. The ball was thrown up between the parties by the Duke of Buccleuch 
  6. ^ "London". Kentish Gazette. Canterbury (358): 3. 1771-10-26. On beginning a second time, two of the gentlemen of opposite parties met together at the ball with such violence, the one of them had his leg broke, and the other his shoulder dislocated 
  7. ^ "Lincoln Municipality". Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford Mercury. Stamford. 144 (7489): 3. 1839-02-15. Through the interference of the authorities at Market Rasen, the annual nuisance of foot-ball playing in the streets of that town on Shrove Tuesday has been discontinued [...] This year, although several groups of men and boys were observed in various parts of the town, no attempt was made to throw up the ball 
  8. ^ Wikisource link to Rules of Surrey Football Club (1849). Wikisource. 
  9. ^ "Foot-ball". Bell's Life in London: 4. 1842-01-02. the ball was placed in the middle of the field, and both parties, at the fire of the pistol, started for the game, the Fearnoughts getting the first kick 
  10. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of Football as played at Rugby School (1845). Wikisource. 
  11. ^ Wikisource link to Cambridge Rules (1856). Wikisource. "At the commencement of the play the ball shall be kicked off from the middle of the ground: after every goal there shall be a kick-off in the same way" 
  12. ^ Wikisource link to Sheffield Rules (1858). Wikisource. "Kick off from middle must be a place kick" 
  13. ^ Wikisource link to Rules of Harrow Football (1858). Wikisource. "The Ball must be kicked off from the middle of the ground, halfway between the two Bases" 
  14. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of the Eton Field Game (1862). Wikisource. "The game lasts an hour, and is commenced by a "bully" in the middle of the field" 
  15. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1863). Wikisource. 
  16. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1870). Wikisource. 
  17. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1872). Wikisource. 
  18. ^ a b Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1874). Wikisource. 
  19. ^ a b Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1875). Wikisource. 
  20. ^ "History of the Laws of the Game - 1990-2000". Retrieved 2018-09-02. 
  21. ^ "Starts and restarts of play". Retrieved 2018-09-02. 
  22. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1883). Wikisource. 
  23. ^ "Kick-offs can now go backwards, and other rule changes newly approved". Guardian. 2016-01-08. 
  24. ^ Wikisource link to Laws of the Game (1891). Wikisource. 
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