If you’re a long-term football fan, you almost certainly grew up watching two players take kick-off in the centre circle. Nowadays, only one player takes kick-off, but why?
In 2016, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) announced that one player can take kick-off instead of two. After 18 months of consultations about rule changes, two-player kick-offs were no longer deemed necessary.
IFAB decision-makers introduced the rule change because they felt that the ball should be allowed to move in any direction from kick-off. Before 2016, rules stated that the ball had to move forward from kick-off. That meant a second player had to be on hand to immediately receive the ball from a teammate.
How do they decide who kicks off in football?
Before a match, the referee tosses a coin in front of the captain of each team. Whichever captain wins the toss gets to decide whether their team takes kick-off or attacks a certain goal in the first half.
For example, if a captain wins the toss and chooses to attack the away end in the first half, the other captain can choose whether their team will take kick-off. Similarly, if a captain wins the toss and wants to take kick-off, the other captain can choose which goal to attack in the first half.
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At the start of the second half, both teams swap sides and attack the goal they defended in the first half. As IFAB rules state, the team that did not kick off in the first half takes kick-off to begin the second half.
Can you kick the ball forward from kick-off?
Although the kick-off rule changed in 2016, players are still allowed to kick the ball forward when play restarts. The ball can move in any direction from kick-off, as long as the person taking kick-off does not touch the ball twice.
During kick-off, every player must be inside their own half except the kick-off taker, who can be inside the opposition half. If the player taking kick-off touches the ball twice, the opposing team receives an indirect free-kick.
In the event of a bizarre handball offence by the kick-off taker, the other team receives a direct free-kick.
Can you score from kick-off in football?
Yes. IFAB rules state that players can score directly from kick-off without anyone else touching the ball.
Realistically, this is unlikely to happen unless a team desperately needs a last-minute goal immediately after the other team has scored. Even in that situation, the chances of a player successfully beating the goalkeeper with a shot from the halfway line are extremely slim.
Players cannot score own goals directly from kick-off. If someone fires the ball back into their own net from kick-off, the opposing team receives a corner kick – not a goal.