Football pitch

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Standard pitch measurements. Not all pitches are the same size, though the preferred size for many professional teams' stadiums is 105 by 68 metres (115 yd x 74 yd) with an area of 7,140 square metres (76,900 sq ft; 1.76 acres; 0.714 ha). Football pitch metric and imperial.svg
Standard pitch measurements. Not all pitches are the same size, though the preferred size for many professional teams' stadiums is 105 by 68 metres (115 yd × 74 yd) with an area of 7,140 square metres (76,900 sq ft; 1.76 acres; 0.714 ha).

A football pitch (also known as a football field) [1] is the playing surface for the game of association football. Its dimensions and markings are defined by Law 1 of the Laws of the Game, "The Field of Play". [2] The pitch is typically made of natural turf or artificial turf, although amateur and recreational teams often play on dirt fields. Artificial surfaces must be green in colour.


All line markings on the pitch form part of the area which they define. For example, a ball on or above the touchline is still on the field of play, and a foul committed over the line bounding the penalty area results in a penalty. Therefore, a ball must completely cross the touchline to be out of play, and a ball must wholly cross the goal line (between the goal posts) before a goal is scored; if any part of the ball is still on or above the line, the ball is still in play.

The field descriptions that apply to adult matches are described below. Because of the role of the British football associations in the history of the game, the dimensions of the field of play were originally formulated and expressed in imperial units. Since 1997, the Laws of the Game have preferred metric units, with imperial equivalents given only in brackets. Because the actual values have, in general, not changed since the early twentieth century, they tend to be round numbers in imperial units (for example the width of the goal, unchanged since 1863, is 8 yards or 7.32 metres). Use of the imperial values remains common, especially in the United Kingdom.

Pitch boundary

The goal line at the Stretford End of Old Trafford in Manchester (1992) Goal line at Old Trafford 1992.JPG
The goal line at the Stretford End of Old Trafford in Manchester (1992)

The pitch is rectangular in shape. The longer sides are called touchlines. The other opposing sides are called the goal lines. The two goal lines must be between 45 and 90 m (50 and 100 yd) wide, and be the same length. [3] The two touchlines must be between 90 and 120 m (100 and 130 yd) long, and be the same length. [3] All lines on the ground must be equally wide, not to exceed 12 cm (5 in). [3] The corners of the pitch are marked by corner flags. [4]

For international matches the field dimensions are more tightly constrained; the goal lines must be between 64 and 75m wide (70 and 82yds), and the touchlines must be between 100 and 110 m (110 and 120 yd) long. [3]

Although the term goal line is often taken to mean only that part of the line between the goalposts, in fact it refers to the complete line at either end of the pitch, from one corner flag to the other. In contrast, the term byline (or by-line) is often used to refer to that portion of the goal line outside the goalposts. This term is commonly used in football commentaries and match descriptions, such as this example from a BBC match report: "Udeze gets to the left byline and his looping cross is cleared..." [5]


A football goal Football goal 20050521.jpg
A football goal

Goals are placed at the centre of each goal-line. [6] These consist of two upright posts placed equidistant from the corner flagposts, joined at the top by a horizontal crossbar. The inner edges of the posts must be 7.32 metres (8 yd) apart, and the lower edge of the crossbar must be 2.44 metres (8 ft) above the ground. As a result, the area that players have to shoot at is 17.86 sq. metres (192 sq. feet). [7] Nets are usually placed behind the goal, though are not required by the Laws.

Goalposts and crossbars must be white, and made of wood, metal or other approved material. Rules regarding the shape of goalposts and crossbars are somewhat more lenient, but they must conform to a shape that does not pose a threat to players. Since the beginning of football there have always been goalposts, but the crossbar was not invented until 1875, before which a string between the goalposts was used. [8]

A goal is scored when the ball crosses the goal line between the goal-posts and beneath the crossbar, even if a defending player last touched the ball before it crossed the goal line (see own goal). A goal may, however, be ruled illegal (and void by the referee) if the player who scored or a member of their team commits an offence under any of the laws between the time the ball was previously out of play and the goal being scored. It is also deemed void if a player on the opposing team commits an offence before the ball has passed the line, as in the case of fouls being committed, a penalty awarded but the ball continued on a path that caused it to cross the goal line.

The football goal size for a junior match goal is approximately half the size of an adult sized match goal. [9]

History of football goals and nets

Football goals were first described in England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In 1584 and 1602 respectively, John Norden and Richard Carew referred to "goals" in Cornish hurling. Carew described how goals were made: "they pitch two bushes in the ground, some eight or ten foote asunder; and directly against them, ten or twelue [twelve] score off, other twayne in like distance, which they terme their Goales". [10] The first reference to scoring a goal is in John Day's play The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green (performed circa 1600; published 1659). Similarly in a poem in 1613, Michael Drayton refers to "when the Ball to throw, And drive it to the Gole, in squadrons forth they goe". Solid crossbars were first introduced by the Sheffield Rules. Football nets were invented by Liverpool engineer John Brodie in 1891, [11] and they were a necessary help for discussions about whether or not a goal had been scored. [12]

Penalty and goal areas

The penalty area is the large marked rectangular area. The smaller rectangle within it is the goal area (here, the yellow-shirted goalkeeper is the only player in the goal area). The penalty arc is the curved line adjoining the "top" of the penalty area (here, the red-shirted referee is standing near the arc). Flickr RangersZenit1.jpg
The penalty area is the large marked rectangular area. The smaller rectangle within it is the goal area (here, the yellow-shirted goalkeeper is the only player in the goal area). The penalty arc is the curved line adjoining the "top" of the penalty area (here, the red-shirted referee is standing near the arc).

Two rectangular boxes are marked out on the pitch in front of each goal. [3]

The goal area (colloquially the "six-yard box"), consists of the rectangle formed by the goal-line, two lines starting on the goal-line 5.5 metres (6 yd) from the goalposts and extending 5.5 metres (6 yd) into the pitch from the goal-line, and the line joining these, ie they are a rectangle 6yds by 20yds. Goal kicks and any free kick by the defending team may be taken from anywhere in this area. Indirect free kicks awarded to the attacking team within the goal area are taken from the point on the line parallel to the goal line (the "six-yard line") nearest where the infringement occurred; they cannot be taken any closer to the goal line. Similarly drop-balls that would otherwise occur closer to the goal line are taken on this line. [13]

The penalty area (colloquially "the 18-yard box" or just "the box") is similarly formed by the goal-line and lines extending from it, but its lines start 16.5 metres (18 yd) from the goalposts and extend 16.5 metres (18 yd) into the field. ie this is a rectangle 44yds by 18 yds. This area has a number of functions, the most prominent being to denote where the goalkeeper may handle the ball and where a foul by a defender, usually punished by a direct free kick, becomes punishable by a penalty kick. Both the goal and penalty areas were formed as semicircles until 1902. [12]

The penalty mark (colloquially "the penalty spot" or just "the spot") is 11 metres (12 yd) in front of the very centre of the goal: this is the point from where penalty kicks are taken.

The penalty arc (colloquially "the D") is marked from the outside edge of the penalty area, 9.15 metres (10 yd) from the penalty mark; this, along with the penalty area, marks an exclusion zone for all players other than the penalty kicker and defending goalkeeper during a penalty kick. [14]

Other markings

The centre circle is marked at 9.15 metres (10 yd) from the centre mark. Similar to the penalty arc, this indicates the minimum distance that opposing players must keep at kick-off; the ball itself is placed on the centre mark. [12] During penalty shootouts all players other than the two goalkeepers and the current kicker are required to remain within this circle.

The half-way line divides the pitch in two. The half which a team defends is commonly referred to as being their half. Players must be within their own half at a kick-off and may not be penalised as being offside in their own half. The intersections between the half-way line and the touchline can be indicated with flags like those marking the corners – the laws consider this as an optional feature. [4]

The arcs in the corners denote the area (within 1 yard of the corner) in which the ball has to be placed for corner kicks; opposition players have to be 9.15 m (10 yd) away during a corner, and there may be optional lines off-pitch 9.15 metres (10 yards) away from the corner arc on the goal- and touch-lines to help gauge these distances. [6]


Grass is the normal surface of play, although artificial turf may sometimes be used especially in locations where maintenance of grass may be difficult due to inclement weather. This may include areas where it is very wet, causing the grass to deteriorate rapidly; where it is very dry, causing the grass to die; and where the turf is under heavy use. Artificial turf pitches are also increasingly common on the Scandinavian Peninsula, due to the amount of snow during the winter months. The strain put on grass pitches by the cold climate and subsequent snow clearing has necessitated the installation of artificial turf in the stadia of many top-tier clubs in Norway, Sweden and Finland. The latest artificial surfaces use rubber crumbs, as opposed to the previous system of sand infill. Some leagues and football associations have specifically prohibited artificial surfaces due to injury concerns and require teams' home stadia to have grass pitches. All artificial turf must be green and also meet the requirements specified in the FIFA Quality Concept for Football Turf. [15] [16] [17]

Football can also be played on a dirt field. In most parts of the world, dirt is only used for casual recreational play.

See also

Related Research Articles

Association football Team field sport

Association football, more commonly known as simply football or soccer, is a team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of 11 players. It is played by approximately 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field called a pitch with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to outscore the opposition by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal. The team with the higher number of goals wins the game.

Field hockey Team sport version of hockey played on grass or artificial turf with sticks and a round ball

Field hockey is a widely played team sport of the hockey family. The game can be played on grass, watered turf, artificial turf or synthetic field, as well as an indoor boarded surface. Each team plays with ten field players and a goalkeeper. Players use sticks made of wood, carbon fibre, fibreglass, or a combination of carbon fibre and fibreglass in different quantities, to hit a round, hard, plastic hockey ball. The length of the hockey stick is based on the player's individual height: the top of the stick usually comes to the players hip, and taller players typically have longer sticks. The sticks have a round side and a flat side, and only the flat face of the stick is allowed to be used. Use of the other side results in a foul. Goalies often have a different design of stick, although they can also use an ordinary field hockey stick. The specific goal-keeping sticks have another curve at the end of the stick, which is to give it more surface area to block the ball. The uniform consists of shin guards, shoes, shorts or a skirt, a mouthguard and a jersey.

Gaelic football Irish team sport, form of football

Gaelic football, commonly referred to as football or Gaelic, is an Irish team sport. It is played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch. The objective of the sport is to score by kicking or punching the ball into the other team's goals or between two upright posts above the goals and over a crossbar 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) above the ground.

Penalty area

The penalty area or 18-yard box is an area of an association football pitch. It is rectangular and extends 16.5m to each side of the goal and 16.5m in front of it.

Futsal Ballgame-team sport, variant of association football

Futsal is a football game played on a hard court, smaller than a football pitch, and mainly indoors. It has similarities to five-a-side football.

Goal (sports)

In sport, a goal may refer to either an instance of scoring, or to the physical structure or area where an attacking team must send the ball or puck in order to score points. The structure of a goal varies from sport to sport, and one is placed at or near each end of the playing field for each team to defend. For many sports, each goal structure usually consists of two vertical posts, called goal posts, supporting a horizontal crossbar. A goal line marked on the playing surface between the goal posts demarcates the goal area. Thus, the objective is to send the ball or puck between the goal posts, under or over the crossbar, and across the goal line. Other sports may have other types of structures or areas where the ball or puck must pass through, such as the basketball hoop.

International rules football Hybrid team sport between Australian rules and Gaelic football

International rules football is a team sport consisting of a hybrid of football codes, which was developed to facilitate international representative matches between Australian rules football players and Gaelic football players.

The Laws of the Game (LOTG) are the codified rules of association football. The laws mention the number of players a team should have, the game length, the size of the field and ball, the type and nature of fouls that referees may penalise, the frequently misinterpreted offside law, and many other laws that define the sport. During a match, it is the task of the referee to interpret and enforce the Laws of the Game.

Corner kick

A corner kick is the method of restarting play in a game of association football when the ball goes out of play over the goal line, without a goal being scored and having last been touched by a member of the defending team. The kick is taken from the corner of the field of play nearest to where it went out.

Goal kick

A goal kick, called a goalie kick in some regions, is a method of restarting play in a game of association football. Its procedure is dictated by Law 16 of the Laws of the Game.


A dropped-ball is a method of restarting play in a game of association football. It is used when play has been stopped due to reasons other than normal gameplay, fouls, or misconduct. The situations requiring a dropped-ball restart are outlined in Law 8 and Law 9 of the Laws of the Game; Law 8 also contains the dropped-ball procedure.

Comparison of American football and rugby union

A comparison of American football and rugby union is possible because of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.

A comparison between American football and rugby league is possible because of their shared origins and similar game concepts. Rugby league is arguably the most similar sport to American football after Canadian football: both sports involve the concept of a limited number of downs/tackles and scoring touchdowns/tries takes clear precedence over goal-kicking.

Rugby union is a team sport played between two teams of fifteen players.

Rugby league playing field

The rugby league playing field, also referred to as a pitch or paddock, is the playing surface for the sport of rugby league football and is surfaced exclusively with grass.

A comparison of Canadian football and rugby union is possible because of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.

Comparison of association football and rugby union

Comparison of association football (football/soccer) and rugby union (rugby/rugger) is possible because of the games' similarities and shared origins.

Field hockey pitch

A hockey pitch is the playing surface for the game of field hockey. Historically, the game was played on natural turf (grass) but nowadays it is predominantly played on an artificial turf. The transition onto artificial pitches came during the 1970s and was made mandatory for major competitions in 1976. All the lines, markings and goal specifications are outlined by the International Hockey Federation in "The Rules of Hockey".

Scoring in association football

In games of association football teams compete to score the most goals during the match. A goal is scored when the ball passes completely over a goal line at either end of the field of play between two centrally positioned upright goal posts 24 feet (7.32 m) apart and underneath a horizontal crossbar at a height of 8 feet (2.44 m) — this frame is itself referred to as a goal. Each team aims to score at one end of the pitch, while preventing their opponents from scoring at the other. Nets are usually attached to the goal frame to catch goalscoring balls, but the ball is not required to touch the net.

Comparison of association football and futsal

Futsal began in the 1930s in South America as a version of association football, taking elements of its parent game into an indoor format so players could still play during inclement weather. Over the years, both sports have developed, creating a situation where the two sports share common traits while also hosting various differences.


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