Penalty area

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The penalty area with penalty box marking and the penalty arc in parallel to the goal. The smaller box is often called the 6-yard box

The penalty area or 18-yard box (also known less formally as "the penalty box" or simply "the box") is an area of an association football pitch. It is rectangular and extends 16.5m (18 yd) to each side of the goal and 16.5m (18 yd) in front of it. Within the penalty area is the penalty spot (or penalty mark), which is 10.97 metres (36.0 ft) or 12 yards from the goal line, directly in-line with the centre of the goal. A penalty arc adjoins the penalty area, and encloses the area within 9.15m (10 yd) from the penalty spot; it does not form part of the penalty area and is only of relevance during the taking of a penalty kick.[1]

Previously, penalty areas extended the width of the field, but were reduced to their current dimensions in 1901.


Schematic of an association football pitch, the penalty areas are the larger of the two rectangular regions surrounding the goals at both ends of the pitch
A player taking a penalty kick from inside the penalty area.

Fouls punishable by a direct free kick (i.e. handling the ball and most physical fouls), committed by the defensive team within the penalty area, may be penalised by a penalty kick.[2] A penalty kick is taken from the penalty spot. The penalty spot is located 12 yards (10.97m) away from the goal line.

The penalty area has other functions, including:

  • Goalkeepers: The area delimiting the area in which a goalkeeper may legally handle the ball;
  • Goal kicks: The ball is not in play until it has left the area, and opposing players must remain outside the area until this time;
  • Defensive direct free kicks and indirect free kicks: Again, the ball is not in play until it has left the area, and opposing players must remain outside the area until this time;
  • Taking of penalty kicks: players other than the kicker and the goalkeeper must remain outside the area (and also the penalty arc) until the kick has been taken.

In play

In a typical game, for the majority of time the penalty area is only occupied by the goalkeeper. The attacking team generally aims to get the ball and their own players into the defending team's penalty area, and a high percentage of goals in professional football are scored from within the penalty area.[3] Usually during attacking set pieces, including corners, a large number of both attacking and defending players are in the penalty area and, although illegal, grappling between players is frequently observed.[4]


  1. ^ "Laws of the Game 2017-2018" (PDF). FIFA. p. 36. 
  2. ^ "LAW 12: FOULS AND MISCONDUCT". The FA. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Mitrotasios, Michalis; Armatas, Vasilis (16 January 2014). "Analysis of Goal Scoring Patterns in the 2012 European Football Championship". The Sport Journal. United States Sports Academy. Retrieved 28 October 2014. Other research has examined the position on the pitch from which goals are scored. In a recent study Wright et al. (50) showed that from 167 goals from English Premier League, 87% of goals were scored inside the penalty area which is similar to the 90% observed by Olsen (36) for the 1986 World Cup whereas Dufour (14) reported 80% for the 1990 World Cup. Yiannakos and Armatas (51) reported that 44.4% of goals scored were inside the penalty area, 35.2% inside the goal area, and 20.4% outside the penalty area, for the 2004 European Championship in Portugal. Finally, Hughes et al. (22) showed that successful teams in the 1986 Football World Cup made more attempts inside the penalty area in comparison to unsuccessful teams. 
  4. ^ Singh, Amit (27 October 2014). "Should referees take a tougher stance on penalty box holding at set-pieces?". Think Football. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 

See also

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