Penalty area

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The penalty , commonly known because of its dimensions often referred to as "sixteen" is, in football one marked by lines area of the playing field before the two gates. In the penalty area, different rules of the game apply to many details than to the rest of the field.

Inside the penalty area are the goal area and the penalty spot . The lines around the penalty area belong to the penalty area, as is regulated in other cases (in football). The partial circle at the penalty area does not belong to the penalty area, but only indicates the prescribed distance (9.15 meters) of the uninvolved players from the penalty spot for penalty kicks.

The term penalty area is derived from the fact that special rules apply within this area, some of which are punished differently and more severely than in the rest of the playing field, in particular with a penalty kick instead of a direct free kick .


The following special rules apply in the penalty area:

  • A violation of the rules by a defender against an attacker within the defender's penalty area that would be punished with a direct free kick according to the rules is sanctioned with a penalty kick .
  • In his own penalty area, the goalkeeper may touch or hold the ball with his hand, unless he has received it from a back pass .
  • In the event of a goal kick or a free kick in one's own penalty area, the ball is only "in play" again when it has left it. Until then, the ball may not be accepted by any player, opposing players may not be in the penalty area or enter it until then. If the ball gets over the goal line - regardless of whether it goes into the goal or next to it - the goal kick or free kick must be repeated.

Dimensions / geometry

Construction of a soccer field

The penalty areas are each 40.32 meters wide (2 x 16.50 meters on the left and right from the inside edge of the goal posts plus the inside width of the goal 7.32 meters) and extend 16.50 meters at right angles into the playing field. These dimensions are derived from the original English dimensions and are rounded up: Depth and lateral extent from goal post = 18 yards = 16.4592 m; Gate width = 8 yards = 7.3152 m; Total width = 44 yards = 40.2336 m. These dimensions are specified in rule 1 of the football rules.

Penalty area with goal area and penalty spot

The exact measurement and marking of the goal area and penalty area lines can be checked using the following geometric construction (see graphic): If the side goal area lines are extended parallel to the sideline (= at right angles to the goal line), then this imaginary line intersects the penalty area border. From this point of intersection, a line is drawn diagonally to the opposite corner of the goal area. Executed from both sides, the two diagonals intersect at the penalty mark . If the line is correctly marked, this point is exactly between the transverse goal area and penalty area lines, exactly 11 meters from the goal line and in the middle of the goal width.

The inconsistent size of playing fields in practice (according to the rules: length between 90 and 120 meters, width between 45 and 90 meters) has no effect on the size of the penalty area; so the spaces between the outer penalty area lines and the outer line may have different widths. In contrast, when playing on small pitches (e.g. in the lower youth area), the penalty areas are also smaller. In addition, there are usually smaller goals and an adjustment to the other markings in the penalty area (goal area, penalty mark); sometimes the goal area is completely omitted, so that the penalty area is also the goal area.


Until 1896, the penalty area was in the shape of a semicircle. Since 1903, goalkeepers have only been allowed to play handball in their own penalty area, previously in their own half of the game.

See also: rule chronology

Web links

Wiktionary: penalty area  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Official Rules of the DFB 2012 (PDF; 2.7 MB)