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Glossary: G-L

View a glossary of related terms. This page features terms beginning with the letters G-L.

The most important facet of football. A goal is scored when one team gets the ball into the other team’s net. It is a well-used cliché that scoring a goal is the hardest thing to do in football.

Goal difference
In a league standing, this is the difference between the number of goals a team has scored and the number of goals it has conceded. If Team A scores 40 goals and concedes 20 goals in one season, their goal difference is +20. If Team A scores 20 goals and concedes 40 goals, their goal difference is -20. Goal difference is a formula for separating teams in the league who have the same number of points.

The last line of defence in a team, sometimes also called the ‘keeper’, ‘goalie’ or ‘glovesman’ as all goalkeepers wear protective gloves. The primary role of a goalkeeper is to prevent the opposition from scoring and he is allowed to use his hands inside his 18-yard box, or penalty area. Keepers are also required to wear clothing that distinguishes them from their team-mates, the opposition and the match officials.

Goal kick
When an attacking player has the last touch and the ball goes behind over the byeline, the defending team wins a goal kick, which is usually taken by the goalkeeper from one of the corners of his six-yard box and is usually kicked forwards into the opposition’s half.

The entire line going across a goal from one corner to the other. The part of the line outside the posts is often called the ‘byeline’.

This is the area directly in front of the goal, inside the six-yard box and no wider than the width of the goal. If the ball is ricocheting around the goalmouth area, with neither defending team able to clear nor attacking team able to score, it is called a ‘goalmouth scramble’.

Goals against
The number of goals a team has conceded, usually said in the context of league standings.

Goals for
The number of goals a team has scored, usually said in the context of league standings.

A team’s ground is where they play their home matches. Also called a ‘stadium’.

Football matches are split into two 45-minute periods, each called a ‘half’. Also, football pitches are split into two ‘halves’, separated by a ‘halfway line’.

The end of the first half, the first 45 minutes, signals half-time, when the players and management head back to their dressing-room to rehydrate, talk tactics and have a rest. Half-time lasts for 15 minutes.

Halfway line
The line that goes across the entire width of the pitch at the halfway mark. The half a team is defending is usually described as ‘their half’, and all the teams players must be in their own half at kick-off. The other key note about the halfway line is that a player cannot be ‘offside’ if they are still in their own half.

A volley is a shot taken before the ball has bounced, ie on its path towards the ground, so a half-volley is a shot struck at the moment the ball bounces, or at least a split-second after it has hit the floor. This is a difficult skill to perfect.

A hat-trick is the feat of one player who scores three goals in one match and they are usually given the match ball by the referee as a reward for their achievement. A ‘perfect hat-trick’ is one completed by a player who has scored with his left foot, his right foot and his head. Goals in penalty shootouts do not count.

Making contact with the ball with your head, or ‘heading’, is a very important skill in football and is equally crucial for defenders and forwards. Heading the ball gives forwards another method of scoring goals, but it also enables defenders to get the ball away from their goal.

Often pre-fixed by the word ‘major’ to denote competitive football, this is the term used to describe how many trophies a team or a player has won. So, Team A has won 22 major honours in English football, or Player A has won seven major honours during his career. Another use of the word is in the phrase ‘honours even’, which can be used to describe a drawn match.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is the body responsible for the Laws of the Game, and is comprised of Fifa and the four British national associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), in recognition of their historical role in codifying the original laws. The Board discusses not only the existing wording of the Laws and possible amendments to them, but also experiments and new technologies. Each of the five parties has the right to put forward issues for the agenda. For a proposal to succeed, it must receive the support of at least 75% of those present and entitled to vote. FIFA has four votes on behalf of all its affiliated member associations. The other associations of the IFAB each have one vote.

Indirect free kick

When a free-kick is given by the referee for an infringement, it will either be ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’. In the case of an indirect free-kick – usually given for obstruction or infringing certain technical aspects of the law – a goal may not be directly scored from the kick. If an indirect free-kick is given against the defending team inside their own penalty area, it does not become a penalty, as a direct free-kick would, but continues to be an indirect free-kick. The opposition must be 10 yards away from the ball when the kick is taken.

A player who has been hurt is said to be ‘injured’, or have an ‘injury’. This generally occurs during a match because of a clash between two players, but can also happen when there is no-one near the player who gets injured. Injured players are often attended to on the pitch by the club’s physiotherapist. Some players will be able to ‘run off’ their injury, but for some it will signal the end of their participation in the match. It is increasingly rare, but many players have had to retire from football due to significant, long-term injuries.

Injury time

Also known as ‘stoppage time’ or ‘added time’, this is the period added on by the referee at the end of each half. He may make an allowance for time lost through substitutions, or injured players needing attention, or other stoppages during that half. The amount of injury time – usually between one minute and five minutes – is at the discretion of the referee, and is signalled to the crowd by the fourth official holding up an electronic board with the number of minutes on it.

If there is any doubt as to whether a fixture can be played because of adverse weather affecting the playing surface, the referee and his team of officials will carry out an ‘inspection’ of the pitch. Usually this will take place many hours before kick-off so a decision can be made before supporters set off for the ground, but some matches have been called off a matter of minutes before kick-off time because the weather has affected the surface so quickly.


A ball that is played into the defending team’s penalty area and curls towards their goal is called an inswinger. A ball that is played into the defending team’s penalty area and curls away from their goal is called an outswinger. Both can make a cross into the box more difficult to defend than simply a straight ball.


An international match is one played between two countries; if a player has played for his country, he can be described as being an ‘international’.

A ‘jersey’ is a term for a football shirt, though traditionally the term is supposed to refer to an item of knitted clothing in either wool or cotton and with sleeves. This is what football shirts were made of many years ago, but now football shirts are usually made of polyester mesh, which provides better ventilation. You might most hear the word when refereeing to a ‘goalkeeper’s jersey’. Sometimes people will talk about two players vying for one place in a team ‘fighting for the jersey’.

See ‘Goalkeeper’


This is the term used to describe the starting and re-starting of play in a football match. Kick-offs are used at the start of each half in normal and extra-time, as well as after each goal is scored, when the team that conceded kicks off.

Kick-off time
The time the match starts. Traditionally in England, matches used to always kick off at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon (1500 BST), but due to television and, occasionally, because of police advice for potentially troublesome matches, there are many alternatives.

What a player wears when he is playing football – usually referring to the shirt, shorts, socks and football boots. Most teams have a sponsor name on the front of their shirt and the club crest towards the top left, while players have their chosen name and number on the back.

Knockout competition
The FA Cup, for example, is a knockout competition – if you lose, you are out. Knockout competitions can be either one-legged (in which case the team playing at home is chosen by a random ‘draw’) or two-legged, in which case there is a home and away match for each team and, usually, the ‘away-goals rule’ applies.

See ‘Assistant referees’

The 11 players representing a team at the start of a match are often referred to as a ‘line-up’. Someone might ask you: ‘Who is in [Team]’s line-up today?’ Before Barclays Premier League matches, players also line up in a row and then shake the hands of the officials and their opponents in a bid to promote fair play and respect.

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