International Football Association Board
|Purpose||Guardians of the Laws of the Game|
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is the body that determines the Laws of the Game of association football. IFAB was founded in 1886 to agree standardised Laws for international competition, and has since acted as the "guardian" of the internationally used Laws; since its establishment in 1904 FIFA, the sport's top governing body, has recognised IFAB's jurisdiction over the Laws. IFAB is known to take a highly conservative attitude regarding changes to the Laws of the Game.
It is a separate body from FIFA, though FIFA is represented on the board and holds 50% of the voting power. As a legacy of association football's origins in the British Isles, the other organisations represented are the governing bodies of the game in the four countries of the United Kingdom. Amendments to the Laws require a three-quarter supermajority vote, meaning that FIFA's support is necessary but not sufficient for a motion to pass.
IFAB is made up of representatives from each of the United Kingdom's pioneering football associations—England's Football Association (The FA), the Scottish Football Association (SFA), the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and Northern Ireland's Irish Football Association (IFA)—and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international governing body for football. Each UK association has one vote and FIFA has four. IFAB deliberations must be approved by three-quarters of the vote, which translates to at least six votes. Thus, FIFA's approval is necessary for any IFAB decision, but FIFA alone cannot change the Laws of the Game—they need to be agreed by at least two of the UK members. As of 2016, all members must be present for a binding vote to proceed.
The Board meets twice a year, once to decide on possible changes to the rules governing the game of Football and once to deliberate on its internal affairs. The first meeting is called the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and the second is the Annual Business Meeting (ABM). In FIFA World Cup years, the AGM is held at FIFA's offices; otherwise, it rotates between Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland in that order. Four weeks before the AGM, the member associations must send their written proposals to the secretary of the host association. FIFA then prints a list of suggestions that are distributed to all other associations for examination. The AGM is held either in February or March and the ABM is held between September and October. In cases of necessity, the Board can meet in a Special Meeting in addition to the two ordinary annual meetings. As of December 2012, the last Special Meeting was hosted by FIFA in Zurich on 5 July 2012.
The decisions of each year's Annual General Meeting of the Board regarding changes to the Laws of the Game enter into force as from 1 July (and are binding on FIFA and on the other members of the Board, and, given that FIFA's Statutes establish that FIFA and its member associations and affiliates adhere to the Laws of the Game laid down by IFAB, those changes bind also FIFA's other member associations, FIFA's continental confederations of member associations, and the subnational entities of the national associations) but confederations, member associations and other bodies whose current season has not ended by 1 July may delay the introduction of the adopted alterations to the Laws of the Game in their competitions until the beginning of their next season. As well as permanent changes to the Laws, IFAB also authorise trials of potential amendments.
Though the rules of football had largely been standardised by the early 1880s, the UK's four football associations still each had slightly different rules. This posed a problem with international matches and when matches were played the rules of whoever was the home team were used. While this solution was workable, it was hardly ideal. To remedy this, the then football associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland met on 6 December 1882 in Manchester, in order to set forth a common set of rules that could be applied to matches between the UK football associations' national teams. The conference created the first international competition, the British Home Championship, and proposed the establishment of a permanent board to regulate the laws of the game.
Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international organising body for the sport, was formed in Paris in 1904 and declared that, regarding the Laws of the Game itself, they would adhere to the rules laid down by IFAB.
The growing popularity of the game internationally led to the admittance of FIFA representatives to IFAB in 1913. Initially, they only had two votes (the same number as each of the UK associations) and decisions required a four-fifths majority to pass, meaning that the UK associations could still change the laws against FIFA's wishes if they all voted together. In 1958, the Board agreed on its current voting system.
Since Irish partition in 1921, the IFA has evolved to become the organising body for football in Northern Ireland. Football in the Republic of Ireland is now organised by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), which is not represented on the IFAB.
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