What are the rules in the English Premier League?
In soccer there are quite a few rules that sometimes seem arbitrary or difficult to understand. At times it is still hard to understand or explain even for the experienced fan out there. Here are some of the basic rules to look out for with some brief explanations. For most rules there are several additional nuances to the rule that can become difficult to explain in a brief generalized way.
How is a player ruled Offside?: Generally speaking a player is offside if he is behind the last defender (in other words the player is closer to the goal than the defender) at the time the ball is kicked to him. An offensive player can be behind the last defender if he does not attempt to make a play on the ball while he is in an offside position.
What is a Foul?: a foul is basically whenever a player is judged to have made a bad tackle or play on an opposing player. Many times these calls can be at the discretion of the referee. There are certainly times where fans and players deem a foul to either have occurred or not occurred based on which side they are on. Fouls can often incur the wrath of managers, players, and fans alike.
Yellow/Red Card: A yellow card is given as a warning to a player. If that player then receives a second yellow card, he is also shown a red card and must leave the game and cannot be replaced. A red card means that the player must leave the game and cannot be replaced. A card can be shown if a foul is judged to be too dangerous. It is up to the referee’s discretion whether it is a yellow card or a red card. There are finer points to this rule as well including the possible intent of the player as well as the seriousness and dangerousness of the foul. Cards are also given for such things as, excessive celebrating (automatic yellow for taking off a jersey), foul language (very rarely given), time wasting, handballs, some tackles that result in penalties (but not all).
Throw-in: When the ball completely crosses a side line the opposing team from the one that kicked the ball out is allowed to throw the ball back in. On the throw-in both feet must remain on the ground and the ball must be released by both hands simultaneously with both arms coming directly over the head.
Corner kick: When the ball completely crosses the end line and was kicked out by the defending team the attacking team is given a corner kick. The ball is placed in the corner quarter circle by the corner flag. The ball can then be kicked into play. Once it is touched by the attacking team (following the whistle to restart play) the ball is live. It is possible to score on a goal on the corner kick.
Goal kick: when the attacking team puts the ball out of bounds completely across the end line, the defending team is given a goal kick. For the goal kick the ball can be placed inside the 6 yard line and kicked down-field.
Referees/Officials: There are 4 referees in each match. 2 linesmen that patrol each side line, 1 main referee and a 4th referee on the touchline (sideline by the benches). The linesmen’s job is to track their side of the field. The 2 are split between the half field on each side. They assist the main referee in making calls including using their flag to hold up for offside, waving the flag overhead to signal a foul, pointing the flag in the direction of a throw-in, pointing the flag down to the corner to signal a corner kick, pointing the flag to the 6 yard line to signal a goal kick, and holding the flag in 2 hands over the head to signal a substitution.
The 4th official on the touchline is in charge of communicating with the managers of each team, tracking substitutions and is also a backup for any injured referee. The main referee keeps track of the time on the field including stopping his watch for any injuries or delays. This referee is the only one with a whistle and is in charge of the game. He is the only one that will blow the whistle to stop play for any reason. He is also the only referee with the ability to give out a red or yellow card.
The interesting thing with football is the amount of interpretation that is put into each call made. For each rule made there are always finer points and interpretations that can be enforced (or not enforced) by the referee. Many people feel that this adds to the game while others feel there should be more electronic interventions including instant replay.
The fact that there is still the human element of possible mistakes made by referees can make for interesting debate. There are still times where referees make horrible decisions that can alter the future of a team. In these cases it is my opinion that more needs to be done to keep referees accountable for their actions on the field instead of giving them total power and blanket immunity (or at least that is how it seems at times).