© 1998 jointly in the following individuals: Jim Geissman, David Graham, Jim MacQueen, Connie Matthies, Jim Meinhold, Chris Mohr, Gary Rue, Ken Smith, Dave Teetz, Ron Tremper, who are together known pseudonymously as the SOCCER-COACH-L LOTG COLLECTIVE

Law 14 - The Penalty Kick

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A penalty kick is simply a direct free kick taken from the penalty mark, with a few important additional rules. There is nothing especially complicated about the procedure for taking a penalty kick, but because a penalty, whether successfully converted or not, can have such a decisive effect on the outcome of a match, it is vital for coaches to ensure that they and their players are aware of and have practised the procedure for taking penalties.


Penalty kicks are one of the most dramatic events in soccer. They are also one of the most nerve-wracking. Important considerations include the following differences between a PK and a normal direct free kick:

  1. the defending players are not allowed to form a wall;
  2. all players except the penalty taker (and the defending goalkeeper) must be outside the penalty area and behind the ball, and must remain there until the ball is kicked;
  3. the ball must be kicked forward;
  4. the defending keeper must remain on his goal line until the ball is kicked.

Special considerations apply when a penalty must be taken when time has already expired at the end of either half or when penalties are used to decide the outcome of a match (for the latter case, see the special section of the FAQ devoted to it, some of whose provisions override the general considerations of Law 14).

Questions on Law 14

14.01 Who should take the penalty?

A player who wants to take it and who is likely to be successful. No player should be forced to take a penalty if s/he does not want to. Nervousness is a primary cause of poor penalties, and you should avoid making your players look bad if at all possible. Players who are good under pressure, good at 'self-paced' activities, and have an accurate shot make the best penalty takers. A good time to experiment is after a friendly match with another team. That's a good time to hold a penalty contest and let everyone on both teams shoot. Many coaches designate a player to take penalties during a match, so that the captain will know who is to take the penalty if one is given. This avoids the potential for arguments on the pitch.

14.02 Exactly how much movement can my goalkeeper get away with?

Law 14 says that the keeper "must remain on his line until the ball has been kicked". S/he may move anywhere on the line from side to side, however -- many keepers will move slightly to one side to encourage the shooter to shoot to the other side, and then dive to that side just as s/he kicks the ball.

14.03 I heard that kickers are not allowed to stop their run once they have started forward, and that even hesitations may cause a successful penalty to be called back. Is that true?

Law 14 does not address this question directly. It does stipulate, however, that if the penalty taker infringes the LOTG before the ball is in play, the penalty must be retaken if the ball enters the goal. This might occur in the case you describe if the referee thought the penalty taker's hesitation was a deliberate attempt to put the keeper off-balance before taking the kick; this could be called unsporting behaviour, in which case the player concerned would also be cautioned (shown the yellow card).

14.04 What about infringements of the Laws by other players before the ball is kicked?

Generally speaking, infringements are punished the same way regardless of who commits them. If a player from the defending team infringes, an unsuccessful penalty will be retaken and a successful one will stand. If a player from the attacking team is at fault, the reverse applies. If players from both teams infringe the laws simultaneously (for example, if a player from each team enters the penalty area before the kick is taken), the kick is retaken regardless of its outcome.

14.05 Does the penalty taker have to wait for the referee's signal, or can he shoot whenever he's ready?

The penalty taker must wait for the referee's signal. This will not be given until the referee has clearly identified the penalty taker to the goalkeeper, is satisfied that all players are properly in position for the penalty kick to the be taken and the ball is properly placed on the penalty spot.

14.06 Can the penalty taker move the ball so it's partly off the spot (for example, to get it out of a rut)?

Law 14 requires the ball to be placed "on the penalty mark". Referees will normally interpret this to mean that the bottom of the ball must be fully in contact with the mark itself, which is a circle 9" in diameter as specified in Law 1. Some movement will be possible, but the referee's word is law.

14.07 But what if there's a big puddle right where the penalty spot is?

The Laws make no explicit provision permitting the referee or the kicker to move the ball elsewhere than the prescribed spot, to wit: 12 yards out from the goal line, centered in front of the goal. In fact, the International Football Association Board (associated with FIFA, soccer's rules body) ruled in response to a closely similar question that even though the penalty spot was "waterlogged", the player was not allowed to place the ball elsewhere. There exist quite a few refs with a by-the-book inclination who may require the kicker to take the shot from the puddle, even if they have never heard of this particular ruling (it's not in the rulebook itself). If so, the player has no other choice than to do his or her best with the shot, or else try to kick out a short, slightly forward lateral pass for a teammate to charge onto for a shot hopefully before any defenders can get there.

However, a great many referees (perhaps a majority) will reject this course of action entirely, because it contradicts their sense of the proper spirit of the game (SOTG). Therefore, don't be surprised if a ref takes one of the following alternative approaches:

  1. since the penalty mark itself has likely been obscured, the referee as the judge of facts determines where the mark in fact is (it may look off-center or a little farther from the goal or than you might expect);
  2. s/he may require the kicker to take the kick from some other spot 12 or more yards from the goal that is dry (chosen by the ref or the player), and the other players must stay outside the penalty area and at least 10 yards from that alternate spot, etc.;
  3. s/he may declare the match abandoned at that point, on the grounds that the field is too wet to continue.

Even if you are convinced one of these approaches (including taking the shot from the puddle) is the correct one and the others are incorrect under the LOTG, be prepared to live gracefully with the ref's decision. You won't get far with most refs trying to prove them wrong. Perhaps if you're ahead and the ref wants to abandon the match, you might want to state how gladly your team will take the shot from the puddle.

14.08 What if the penalty spot hasn't been marked or has been erased?

The referee will identify the center of the goal as best s/he can and will pace off a distance equal to 12 yards perpendicular from it toward the halfway line. The ball will then be placed at that spot.

14.09 What happens if the goalkeeper parries the penalty but the ball squirts loose, or the ball hits the crossbar or the upright and stays in play? Is the ball dead?

No, the ball is in play (but see question 14.10 for a possible exception to this rule). For this reason, it is always a good idea to train some of your players to enter the penalty area at speed when your team takes a penalty in order to take advantage of rebounds of this sort, which are often difficult to clear. If you are defending, your players should be trained to clear such rebounds immediately.

14.10 What if a penalty has to be taken just as time runs out?

Law 14 provides for the extension of the half by just enough time to permit the taking of a penalty in these circumstances. The primary difference is that the half ends as soon as the penalty has been taken: in other words, once it is clear that either the ball has properly entered the net or that it is not going to enter the net as a direct result of the penalty, the referee will signal the end of the half. Prior to 1997, the Laws stipulated that in these circumstances the ball would be deemed dead as soon as it rebounded from the crossbar or either upright or the goalkeeper. This is no longer the case, so that (for example) a penalty kick taken during extended time which rebounds off the crossbar and then strikes the goalkeeper in the back before entering the goal will be ruled a goal. Some modified versions of the laws still apply the former ruling, however, so coaches should ensure that they know which version applies in their own matches.

14.11 Don't they use penalties to settle ties in soccer?

Penalties are not normally used to settle ties except in competitions when the match must have a definite outcome other than a draw (for example, in tournaments or other knock-out competitions). This is a special case with its own section of the laws, and its own FAQ.

14.12 Can the penalty taker pass rather than shoot?

Yes, of course. The Laws require only that the ball be played forward and that the penalty taker not touch the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player. In some cases a pass may actually be the penalty taker's best option (for surprise value, or when the penalty mark is under water or very badly chewed up and a shot would most likely be very weak or inaccurate as a result). This needs to be carefully rehearsed before it is tried, however.

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Law 14

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Updated February 26, 1998