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For Boundary Throw-in, see Laws of Australian Football.
A player performing a throw-in during a game.

A throw-in is a method of restarting play in a game of association football when the ball has exited the side of the field of play.


The throw-in is taken from the point where the ball crossed the touch-line. The throw-in is taken by the opponents of the player who last touched the ball when it crossed the touch-line, either on the ground or in the air.[1] Opposing players may stand at any distance from the thrower but no closer than 2 m (2.2 yd), so long as they are still on the pitch. A player may take a throw in at a distance further back from the touch-line, and, typically, a referee will tolerate small discrepancies between the position where the ball crossed the touch-line and the position of the throw in.

At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must face the field of play. He should have part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line,[2] and use both hands to deliver the ball from behind and over their head from the point where the ball left the field of play.

The ball becomes in play as soon as it enters the field of play.

A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in – if a player throws the ball directly into their goal without any other player touching it, the result is a corner kick to the opposing side.[3] Likewise an offensive goal cannot be scored directly from a throw in - the result is a goal kick to the opposition team.

A player may not be penalised for an offside offence when receiving the ball directly from a throw-in.[4]

Handspring throw-in[edit]

A player performing a handspring throw-in

The handspring throw-in is a dramatic type of throw-in, rarely used in competitive games, where the player completes a front handspring while holding the ball. Instead of landing on the hands during the handspring, the player's weight is momentarily supported entirely by the ball. This type of throw-in follows the rules that require the player to have both feet on the ground when he is releasing the ball, and that the ball is thrown from behind the head. Strong abdominal muscles are required for this throw-in.[5]

Steve Watson of Newcastle United employed the technique after he made his debut as a 16-year-old in 1990.[6] Former Brazil under-20 women's player Leah Fortune used the flip-throw to convert long throw-ins.[7]


If an opposing player fails to respect the required distance (2m) before the ball is in play or otherwise unfairly distracts or impedes the thrower, he may receive a caution (yellow card) for unsporting behavior.

If the thrower fails to deliver the ball as per the required procedure, or delivers it from a point other than where the ball left the field of play, the throw-in is awarded to the opposing team. This is commonly known as a "foul throw",[8] though such throws are not considered fouls.

It is an infringement for the thrower to touch the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player; this is punishable by an indirect free kick to the opposing team from where the offence occurred, unless the second touch was also a more serious handling offence, in which case it is punishable by a direct free kick or penalty kick.

A goal will not be scored directly from a throw in, nor can an own-goal. The restarts for each are a goal kick for the defending team, and a corner kick for the opposing team, respectively.

A goal keeper cannot handle a ball thrown directly to him by a teammate. This cannot be circumvented by the keeper using his feet first before handling the ball. If this infringement occurs within the goalkeeper's penalty area, an indirect free kick is awarded. If the infringement occurs outside the goalkeeper's penalty area, a direct free kick is awarded.

If, in the event that the goalkeeper takes the throw-in, the goalkeeper cannot touch the ball again until it has touched another player once it is in play. The proper restart for this infringement is an indirect free kick.


Stoke City's Rory Delap delivering a long throw.

The optimal release angle for attaining maximum distance is about 30 degrees, according to researchers at Brunel University.[9] This angle balances the objectives of maximising height, which allows the ball more time to travel horizontally, while minimising air resistance, which slows the ball thus reducing its horizontal distance.

Delivering the ball into the penalty area from a long distance with a throw-in can be a great attacking skill, similar to a corner kick or an indirect free kick. This is a difficult distance to reach with a throw-in, and the ability to do so is a valuable skill. An early exponent of the skill was Bill Shankly when playing for Carlisle United and Preston North End in the 1930s. Shankly's dedication was such that he used to practise long throws during his summer breaks when he returned to his home village. He would throw balls over a row of houses and get the small boys of the village to fetch them back for him.[10]

Rory Delap, a midfielder for Burton Albion is known for his long-throw abilities having resulted in many goals for Stoke. In fact, the danger factor of Delap's long throw-ins for Stoke have resulted in opponents preferring to put the ball out for a corner rather than for a throw-in.

Historical origins of the throw-in[edit]

The modern throw-in comes from the nineteenth century English public school football games. In these codes of football a variety of methods of returning the ball into play from touch were used. The modern throw-in draws upon various aspects of a number early English school games. For example, returning the ball by throwing it out was part of the Rugby and Cheltenham football rules. Like the modern throw-in the direction was not specified. The Sheffield rules instigated the throw in of the ball at right angles by the opposite side to the one that played it into touch.[11] The two handed throw in—called line-out—is part of rugby union football. That the first side reaching the ball must throw it out (at right angles, in this case) was part of the Football Association rules and the Rossall rules.


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