Whatever small sided football league you play in, whether you play with us or someone else, the rules you are playing with were first written by Leisure Leagues! Yes, before the days of structured small-sided leagues, Leisure Leagues had to invent their own, bespoke rules for, what was then, only 5-a-side. And these rules have been inherited by every small-sided organiser, as well as national FAs to become the benchmark for small-sided football across the world. We don't mind that everybody uses our rules, we see that as a compliment. Anyway, here are the most up to date rules for small-sided leagues.
Start and End of Match
1a) Play is started by the referee giving the ball to one or other team alternately at the start of each half from the centre circle.
1b) Game duration is 13 or 18 minutes each way.
1c) Where applicable, the referees whistle overrules the hooter.
1d) There shall be 9 players maximum per squad in one night.
2a) A team is allowed no more than two guest players per match and all guest players should be agreed before kick-off with the opposing captain and the referee.
2b) The referee reserves the right to refuse or accept guest players if, in his opinion, the outcome of the match would be considerably altered.
2c) Guest players can only be used to make up the basic squad of six. Teams may not use guest players as substitutes.
2d) If a team uses a guest player, that team is still liable to pay their full match fee.
2e) If a guest player is disciplined during the game then the team captain is responsible for any fine incurred.
2f Thanks to our unique ‘flexi-squad system’ teams do not have to register players before a game and can use any amount of players during the season, as long as they do not conflict with any other team in the same division.
3a) In the event of a penalty being awarded, time shall be added at the end of either half.
3b) The penalty taker is allowed no more than two steps before striking the ball.
3c) The keeper must remain on his line and not move until the ball is struck.
3d) It is the responsibility of teams to clarify to the referee who is taking the penalty kick. Teams will be penalised and the penalty disallowed if the referee feels the goalkeeper was placed at a disadvantage by the opposing teams not making it clear who was taking the penalty kick.
3e) In the absence of a penalty spot being visible, the penalty kick shall be taken 1 yard back from the edge of the area.
The Goalkeeper/The Area
4a) After a goal is scored, the goalkeeper shall roll the ball out with an underarm action to restart play. The ball must stay below head height.
4b) The goalkeeper must not leave their area. If they do, a penalty will be awarded
4c) If the goalkeeper makes a save and part of his body slides out of the area, then the referee shall use his discretion. However, in this instance, for the referee to rule in favour of the goalkeeper, the ball must have remained in the area and part of the goalkeepers body must also have remained in the area. If, in the referees opinion, the goalkeeper started a sliding save too near to the edge of the area, which he could have reasonably foreseen would have taken the majority of his body out of the area (even though the ball may have remained in the area) then the referee shall penalize the goalkeeper. The referee shall take into account the conditions of the surface in determining how far goalkeepers may slide out of the area.
4d) If a defensive side has a free-kick near to the goalkeepers area, then the referee may elect to continue play with an underarm roll-out by the goalkeeper.
4e) The goalkeeper must always roll the ball out with an underarm action, an indirect free kick shall be awarded if either the ball goes above head height or his roll out is above the level of the shoulder
4f) If a team makes a change of goalkeeper during the match then the referee must be notified before the change is made.
4g) If an attacker kicks the ball near the area the action of the kick must have started and finished outside the area, however the momentum of the kick is allowed to travel in the area.
4h) Attacking players may also enter the opposing area through momentum only however, the referee shall be the sole judge of momentum and the attacker should make every reasonable effort not to enter the area.
4i) No player shall be penalised if, through no fault of their own, they enter the area when they have made a reasonable attempt not to enter the area. This particularly applies to attacking players who may push defending players into the area.
4j) In all matters relating to the area the overriding rule should be that, with discretions, the ball should not have been played in the area. Discretions apply to momentum only.
4k) The goalkeeper may not kick the ball under any circumstances except in the course of making a save. If the goalkeeper does kick the ball, an indirect free kick will be given, two yards outside the area.
4l) Players who run through the area and in doing so gain an advantage, will be penalised.
5a) When an outfield player receives the ball from the goalkeeper, the ball must be touched by another player before being passed back to the goalkeeper. This is punishable with an indirect free kick, 2 yards outside the area.
6a) Outfield players may not play either with a cap or hat, jeans or shoes. The goalkeeper is allowed to wear a cap.
6b) Players may not play without a shirt on.
7a) Teams are allowed three substitutes who must stand behind the goal which is occupied by their goalkeeper.
7b) More than one substitution is allowed at any one time however, if there are more than the allotted players on court at any one time the teams shall be penalised.
7c) Substitutes can only enter play when their team is in an attacking position in the oppositions half.
7d) Substitutes can be used as often and whenever the team wishes.
7e) Substitutes are not allowed onto the playing area until the substitutes player has left.
7f) If substitutes do not stand behind the goal and the ball strikes them then the referee shall award a penalty.
The Head-Height Rule
8a) The ball cannot be played above head-height in indoor leagues.
8b) The referee shall decide what constitutes head-height, however, head-height is determined as an infringement when the whole ball passes above the height of the tallest player on the pitch.
8c) When the head-height rule is infringed, the free-kick shall be taken where the ball was originally played.
8d) If the ball goes above head-height off the goalkeeper, goalposts, fixed equipment or, in the case of sports halls, the bottom boarding, then play shall continue.
8e) If the ball goes above head-height off a wall or netting then, the referee shall decide whether an infringement has occurred.
8f) The heading of the ball is allowed.
Free Kicks, Kick ins/Roll In's & Corners
9a) All free kicks, kick ins/roll in's and corners are indirect.
9b) On all free kicks, players should be two yards from the ball. When a free kick is on the edge of the area, the ball should be played two yards back.
9c) If a player refuses to retreat two yards from the free kick or, as the free kick is being taken extends any part of his body towards the ball which means that he is no longer two yards from the free kick then he shall be penalised. The ball should be stationary before the free kick is taken.
The Two Yard Rule
10a) If a player fails to retreat two yards or, the ball hits a player from the free kick who has not retreated two yards, or who has extended his leg towards the ball meaning that he is no longer two yards from the ball, then the referee shall move play forward two yards and allow the kick to be taken again.
10b) Players that show dissent towards the referee or his decision at a free kick, will result in the kick being moved forward two yards.
10c) The referee may move the kick forward at two yard intervals, however many times he wishes.
10d) If by moving the ball forward two yards, the free kick then becomes within the area of the defending side, a penalty shall be awarded.
11a) If applicable, the referees scoring overrules the scoreboard.
11b) The referee will be the sole judge of whether a tackle is dangerous or not in the best interests of the spirit of the game.
11c) Teams must not alter or move equipment to gain an advantage.
11d) Teams should make every attempt to play in similar colours or use the coloured bibs provided.
11e) Teams who arrive late for their kick off time may be subject to forfeiture of the match.
11f) The signing of the entry form indemnifies Leisure Leagues from any responsibility for personal injury or lost property whilst participating in the organised leagues. Teams are responsible for arranging their own personal insurance cover at centres where this is not automatically applicable.
11g) If teams wish to cancel a match, they automatically lose 5-0 (Leisure Leagues allow a flexible squad system) and their opponents will play a friendly arranged by Leisure Leagues.
11h) – If there are one or more vacancies in any league a friendly fixture will be arranged for the team(s) who are scheduled to play a ‘Points Match’ for that particular date. Teams are required to attend all scheduled Points Match fixtures, pay their full match fee and play the pre-arranged friendly as normal; the relevant team will then receive a 5-0 win and two points towards the league. If a team does not wish to play a scheduled friendly then it is the team’s responsibility to notify Head Office 7 days or more in advance or they will be liable for payment of the match fees for that particular week, teams who do not attend points matches will not receive their 5-0 win for that week regardless of whether they have provided 7 days notice.
11i) If a team fails to turn up for a scheduled fixture without giving Leisure Leagues 7 days’ notice, they lose the fixture 5-0 and will be charged the full match fee for the missed game. Teams who wish to withdraw from the league need to give two weeks’ notice of their intent to withdraw from the league and are required to pay for and play two full matches prior to withdrawal; failure to adhere to this will result in the Team Captain being charged their full two weeks match fees for both missed fixtures.
11j) If you are removed from the league for any reason, Leisure Leagues reserves the right to charge the 2 weeks notice period, for the games you would have played had we not removed you.
11k) If a team fails to attend two consecutive matches and fails to inform Leisure Leagues Head Office of their intention to withdraw from the league then they will be liable for both missed match fees and will also be charged their two matches withdrawal notice on top of these match fees.
11l) – Please note that teams are automatically entered into a new league season unless they provide us with the required two weeks withdrawal notice prior to the end of the season. If a team wishes to withdraw from the league and only notifies us of this at the beginning of the new season then they will be required to play the first two matches of the new season before being able to withdraw, failure to adhere to this will result in the team being charged their match fees for these two fixtures.
11m) The disciplinary procedure is indicated on the card and it also indicates that any players disciplined will not play until the fine is paid to the governing body we affiliate to.
ORDINARY CAUTION/SIN BIN (YELLOW) FINE BAND 1 (£10)
ORDINARY DISMISSAL (2 YELLOWS) FINE BAND 2 (£15)
DISMISSAL FINE BAND 3 (£20) (includes dangerous play, sarcasm and swearing at official)
SERIOUS DISMISSAL FINE BAND 4 (£50) (includes persistent verbal abuse towards official, blows exchanged between players or fighting)
DISMISSAL & EXCLUSION FINE BAND 5 (£100) (includes physical abuse towards official plus serious incidents involving other players or spectators.
The Sin Bin
12a) There is a disciplinary procedure in place for all leagues and it is the responsibility of all teams captains to adhere to this. However, if a player is shown the yellow card then he is sin-binned for two minutes and must wait behind his own goal until the referee instructs him to come back onto the field of play. If the player refuses to leave the pitch immediately then a red card and dismissal will occur. The referee shall be the sole timekeeper in cases of sin-bin.
13a) If a player is dismissed then he should leave the pitch immediately. Failure to do so will result in the referee automatically awarding the match to his opponents.
14a) In small-sided football, officials are instructed to take a more active approach towards time wasting.
14b) If a player is guilty of time wasting at any point then the referee has full discretion to either award a free kick or a penalty kick as he see fit.
14c) The player does not need to be warned about time wasting.
Penalties For Infringement Of The Rules
15a) ALL FREE KICKS ARE INDIRECT AND INCLUDE
1. Intentional handball (and the player gains an advantage by doing so).
2. The ball going above head-height (at a league where the head-height rule applies)
3. Players time wasting
4. At a drop ball situation, a player does not allow the ball to touch the surface before striking it.
5. An attacker entering the opposition area.
6. A player not retreating two yards from the ball or showing dissent (this may also result in a penalty, see earlier rules).
7. A direct pass back to the keeper. In this instance the free kick should be taken two yards outside the area where the ball left the area (the back pass must be intentional and the keeper must touch the ball. If however, the ball rolls to a halt after the back pass has been made without it touching the keeper and without the ball entering the goal, then the referee should award an indirect free kick as if the keeper has touched the ball.
8. The goalkeeper making a foul throw. In this instance the free kick should be taken two yards outside the area where the ball left the area from the goalkeeper.
9. A player committing a slide tackle (players are allowed to slide in the course of making a pass or a block, however, they are not allowed to slide when making a tackle and this is for the players’ own safety). If a player slides and intercepts a pass then this is classed as a slide block. If a player slides and dispossess a player that has the ball under control then this is classed as a slide tackle. However, the difference is the discretion of the referee.
10. Kicking the ball away. This may also result in the referee yellow carding the offending player.
11. A part of a players attire, or more particularly, his shoe, comes off during the course of the match (if the players shoe comes off then the referee should consider this a serious offence and this may warrant a yellow card. The referee should then instruct the player to tie up his shoelace, however, the match should continue. If a goal is scored by a player whose shoe comes off during the course of kicking the ball into the goal then the goal shall be disallowed and a direct free kick awarded to the opposition where the player kicks the ball from).
12. Fouls & Obstruction
13. A player attempting to play or playing the ball or being on the court with his shirt off.
15b) A PENALTY SHALL BE AWARDED WHEN,
1. The goalkeeper comes out of the area and, at the referees discretion (see previous ruling) has gained an advantage in so doing.
2. A defender enters his own area and by so doing gains an advantage.
3. A defender enters his own area when he could reasonably have made an attempt not to encroach upon the area.
15c) REFEREES DISCRETION
1. The referee may award either an indirect free kick, a direct free kick or a penalty if a team plays with more than its allotted number of players on the pitch at any one time. The referee should award the free kick (if that is his choice) when the offence is spotted and where he spotted the offence.
Extra Rules For Astroturf leagues
16a) Where the ball leaves the area of play, the referee shall award a kick-in to the appropriate team. At a kick-in the ball should be stationary and the opposing player should be two yards from the ball.
16b) Rule 7f does not apply.
Extra Rules For Indoor/Sports Hall Leagues
17a) Where walls or boarding is used at the side of the pitch, the referee shall be more severe and impose greater punishment upon players who push or foul opponents near to the wall.
Health and Safety
18a) All participants understand that these events are contact sports and contain risk to the person participating for which the organiser cannot be held responsible.
18b) All participants agree that we have no control over the safety of the premises we hire, or persons admitted to the venues we hire and it is the sole responsibility of the team captain to ensure their team's players do not start any game unless they are satisfied that the surface and other conditions are satisfactory and safe for the activity in question having due regard for the participants. We cannot be held responsible for any defects to the venue which may cause injury and all team captains understand this when participating.
18c) Team captains must inspect the pitch and playing conditions and must report any issues prior to their game commencing to the officials on duty otherwise it will be deemed that the team captain and their players have accepted any risks and any ensuing liability for any subsequent injury.
19a) Please note that the Team Captain is responsible for the conduct of all players and all spectators connected with the team. Failure to control the conduct of players or spectators will result in the Team Captain being responsible for any resulting fines being paid in full
ANY PLAYERS THAT PLAY IN LEISURE LEAGUES NATIONWIDE PARTICIPATE AT THEIR OWN RISK AND IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EACH PLAYER TO ARRANGE EITHER THEIR OWN INSURANCE COVER OR A TEAM’S INSURANCE COVER THAT WILL COVER THEM FOR INJURY. LEISURE LEAGUES HOLD PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE ONLY AND CONCLUDE, TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURY SUSTAINED WHILST PLAYING IN THEIR LEAGUES.
What Does Your Entry Fee Cover?
The entry fee is a discipline bond and is a one-off fee, covering the cost of administering discipline in the leagues. The entry fee is a non-refundable deposit.
What Does Your Match Fee Cover?
Tha match fee goes towards the pitch hiring enabling you to participate in the sport itself. When you pay this fee you agree that the majority or full amount of your fee is directly paid, via the organiser acting as the collection officer, for the following:
1 The hire cost of the pitch
2 The cost of the referee and the match balls which are essential to the playing of the chosen competitive sport.
As our members you agree that when you make these payments you are making a commitment to participate for a minimum of ten consecutive weeks in the league, you automatically become our members along with other players in the league who are also our members, and that as part of our wider club or membership all our members have exclusivity on the pitch we have hired for the duration of hire and that non members have no right to participate on the pitch during that time.
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