The penalty area or 18-yard box (also known less formally as "the penalty box" or simply "the box") is an area of an association football pitch. It is rectangular and extends 16.5m (18 yd) to each side of the goal and 16.5 metres (54 ft) in front of it. Within the penalty area is the penalty spot (or penalty mark), which is 11 metres (36 ft) or 12 yards from the goal line, directly in-line with the centre of the goal. A penalty arc adjoins the penalty area, and encloses the area within 9.15 metres (30.0 ft) from the penalty spot; it does not form part of the penalty area and is only of relevance during the taking of a penalty kick.
Previously, penalty areas extended the width of the field, but were reduced to their current dimensions in 1901.
Fouls punishable by a direct free kick (i.e. handling the ball and most physical fouls), committed by the defensive team within the penalty area, may be penalised by a penalty kick. A penalty kick is taken from the penalty spot. The penalty spot is located 12 yards (10.97m) away from the goal line.
The penalty area has other functions, including:
- Goalkeepers: The area delimiting the area in which a goalkeeper may legally handle the ball;
- Goal kicks: The ball is not in play until it has left the area, and opposing players must remain outside the area until this time;
- Defensive direct free kicks and indirect free kicks: Again, the ball is not in play until it has left the area, and opposing players must remain outside the area until this time;
- Taking of penalty kicks: players other than the kicker and the goalkeeper must remain outside the area (and also the penalty arc) until the kick has been taken.
- http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/generic/81/42/36/lawsofthegame_2012_e.pdf Laws of the Game at Fifa.com