Cookies on

The Premier League website employs cookies to improve your user experience. We have updated our cookie policy to reflect changes in the law on cookies and tracking technologies used on websites. If you continue on this website, you will be providing your consent to our use of cookies. Find out more.

Glossary: M-R

View a glossary of related terms. This page features terms beginning with the letters M-R.

Man of the match
The best player in a match, the one who is deemed to have had the biggest impact on it, will often be named ‘Man of the Match’. In major tournament football, for example the World Cup, this is often an official announcement, but some clubs let their sponsors decide and some don’t do it at all.

The most important non-playing member of staff at a football club, and some would argue the most important full stop. The manager of a football club is the one who traditionally picks the team and formation and decides on the team’s ‘tactics’, and also has the final say in buying and selling players. Managers take much of the glory when their team is doing well, but can be sacked if their team is in a bad run of form.

The same as ‘contest’ or ‘fixture’, match simply refers to the event of two teams playing each other, ie a football match. Football matches last 90 minutes, though cup matches can go into an extra-time period of 30 minutes and a penalty shootout if the scores are level.

This is the term used to describe whether a player is ready to play in a competitive match of football. A player who is ‘match-fit’ is fit and ready for the rigours of a match. If a player is lacking ‘match fitness’, he might be fit generally but he could be on the way back from an injury and needs to play in a match to get his sharpness back.

A key area of the football pitch is the midfield, and the group of players who comprise a club’s midfield are called ‘midfielders’. These are the players in the middle of the pitch who have responsibilities in both attack and defence, and their fitness must be superb in order to cover as much of the pitch as possible. In a formation, the midfield is the middle number – so in a 4-4-2, that team would be playing with four midfielders. Some midfielders are more adept at defending and so play a deeper role in their team, while others may be of more use in the opposition’s half, so they may have license to get forward.

Near post
If a ball is played in from a wide position towards the goalpost nearest to the player crossing the ball, he can be said to be crossing to the ‘near post’. Often times, especially from ‘dead balls’ like corners, players will use signals to tell their team-mates whether they are going to send the ball to the near or far post. See also ‘Far post’.

A net, or ‘goal net’, is hooked on to and placed behind each goal. Often when a goal is scored the goalscorer is said to have ‘hit the back of the net’, or made the net ‘bulge’ if it was a particularly impressive strike. Nets make it easier to tell when there has been a goal, too.

Neutral venue
This does not happen in the Barclays Premier League, where teams play either home or away, but is designed for matches so neither side has the advantage of being at home, and both teams are allowed the same number of supporters. So, the FA Cup final is held at Wembley, which is a neutral venue, and usually both finalists sell roughly the same number of tickets. Sometimes a neutral venue is needed because of security reasons, ie if a place has become too dangerous to stage a match.

Non-league football

This is what football played below the Football League is called. So the Barclays Premier League is the top division in England and then there are three divisions which make up the Football League, and below the Football League there are several divisions which fall under the non-league umbrella. The division directly underneath the Football League is called the ‘Blue Square Bet Premier Division’, which used to be the ‘Conference’.

A nutmeg is a skill where one player puts the ball through another player’s legs, either retrieving the ball himself or letting it go to a team-mate. It is seen as being particularly skilful on the part of the executer, and embarrassing for the player who has been ‘nutmegged’.

See ‘Own Goal’

When you prevent a player on the opposing team from getting to the ball and are not in control of the ball yourself, this is called ‘obstruction’. This is a foul and will lead to an ‘indirect free-kick’.

Off the ball
These refer to things happening in the match of football that take place without the ball. There are two situations in which the phrase ‘off the ball’ is generally used: firstly, when there has been a clash between two players who were not near the ball; and secondly, to describe a player’s movement on the pitch, for example, ‘his movement off the ball was outstanding’, say, if a player had got into a good position to receive the ball.

This is the third team involved in a football match and the one charged with making sure the match is played to the letter of the law. The referee is the man in the middle, and he has two assistant referees on the touchline, as well as a fourth official off the pitch, to help him make decisions. The officials must wear different colours to the players so they are easily recognisable. Black is usually the preferred colour for referees.

Generally considered to be the most complicated law in football, and one that changes slightly every few years as if to cloud the issue further. A player is offside if he is closer to the opponents’ goalline than both the ball and the second-to-last defender (usually an outfield player, but on occasion can be the goalkeeper) when the ball is played to him, though he also has to be in the opponents’ half of the pitch. The assistant referees are usually the officials who give offside decisions as they are in line with play and have a better view than the referee. They usually put their flag up to signal an offside.

Offside trap
The ‘offside trap’ is a defensive tactic employed by teams to try to catch opposing players offside. This usually involves the defenders in a team all moving up the field as one, in a bid to leave the opposition’s player in an offside position when the ball is played to him. It is a risky tactic, and one that can go badly wrong if one player fails to move up with his team-mates.

Also known as a ‘give and go’, this is a move between two players on the same team where one passes to another and immediately looks for the return pass, receiving the ball back off his team-mate. One player touches the ball once and the other twice, hence ‘one-two’.

The opposition is the 11 players a team are playing against.

Outfield players
This is what every player on a team is called apart from the goalkeeper. So each team starts with 10 outfield players, made up of defenders, midfielders and strikers.

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

Overhead kick

See ‘Bicycle kick’

Own goal
An own goal is what happens when a player unintentionally puts the ball into his own net, scoring a goal for the opposing team. This can be through an attempt to clear the ball that goes wrong, or by deflecting the ball into the goal. If the ball was already going in, the goal will usually be credited to the attacking player instead.

A pass is when one player gives the ball to one of his team-mates. This is a key facet of the match as good passing helps to keep possession for a team and get them into good positions on the field. A short pass is usually considered to be anything under 10 yards, while a long pass can be anything over about 30 yards.

A penalty is awarded when a foul is given against the defending team in their own penalty area (18-yard box), though it also has to be a direct free-kick given by the officials. The ball is placed on the penalty spot 12 yards away from the goal, and a chosen player will take the kick, with none of the other players allowed inside the penalty area until he has taken the penalty. The goalkeeper must stay on the goalline until the ball has been kicked, though he is allowed to move from side to side before the kick.

Penalty area
This is the 18-yard box, which starts 18 yards along the goalline away from each post and ends 18 yards away on the field. If a foul is committed on an attacking player inside the defending team’s penalty area, the attacking side wins a penalty. See also ‘Box’.

Penalty kick
The process of taking a penalty is called a penalty kick.

Penalty shootout

This only happens in cup competitions, so will never take place in the Barclays Premier League. When two teams are drawing in a cup match after 90 minutes, they play 30 minutes of extra-time to try to determine a winner. If the scores are still level, they will then have a penalty shootout. Both teams must choose five penalty takers, and each must try to score past the opposition’s goalkeeper. Whoever has scored the most penalties after five will win – if they are still level, then it goes to sudden death, which means if one team scores their sixth and the other team misses, the team who scored wins.

Penalty spot
This is where penalties are taken from, on a marked circular spot 12 yards away from the goalline inside the penalty area.

This is the playing surface for a match of football, also known as football ‘field’. The pitch is rectangular, with the long sides called ‘touchlines’ and the short sides ‘goallines’. There is a minimum and maximum length of the pitch, with a football field expected to be at least 50 yards wide and 90 yards long and no greater than 100 yards wide and 130 yards long. The average pitch is about 75 yards wide and 115 yards long.

Pitch condition
This refers to the state of the pitch. Most in the Barclays Premier League are in superb condition, but many football pitches, especially when you go down a division or two, suffer from a lack of grass and muddy patches. Many years ago, a lot of pitches in England resembled nothing more than a quagmire.

Anyone who takes part in a match of football for either of the two teams on the field is called a ‘player’.

Not something that would happen in the Barclays Premier League, but does in the Football League. A play-off is a match played after a regular league season to determine the final team from that division to win promotion. So, in the Championship (the division below the Premier League), the top two teams are promoted automatically, and the teams that finish 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th enter the end of season play-offs. The semi-finals are played over two legs, with the winners meeting in the final at Wembley in May. The winners of the final gain the last place in the Barclays Premier League for the next season.

Where a player plays on the pitch is determined by his position. Every player in a starting XI will have a different position – whether they are the goalkeeper, left-back, right-midfielder, striker or so on. A team’s position in the league, meanwhile, is where they rank in that league.

Premier League

The Barclays Premier League is England’s primary football competition, where the best 20 teams in the country meet in a league that runs from August until May. Teams play each other twice, once at home and once away, meaning each team plays 38 matches in a season and there are 380 matches in total. Whoever finishes 1st wins the Barclays Premier League and there are rewards of European competition for other teams near the top. The bottom three are relegated to the Championship, which is part of the Football League. Three clubs from the Championship replace them.


The top two clubs in the Championship, which is the division below the Barclays Premier League, are promoted every year, along with the team that wins in the end-of-season ‘play-offs’. They replace the three clubs that finished at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League.

A rebound can either occur off a player or the frame of the goal and is usually referring to something that happens when a shot has taken place. If a player shoots towards goal and the ball hits either the post or crossbar or a defender, and then falls to another player to shoot, then he might score ‘on the rebound’.

Red card
A player who is shown the red card by the referee is not allowed to take any further part in that match. A red card is only shown for a serious offence, for example violent conduct, or a professional foul, but a player is also shown a red card when he picks up two yellow cards in the same match. Players who are shown the red card, or ‘sent off’, must not remain in the vicinity of the playing area, so are usually led away down the tunnel into the dressing-room.

The individual who takes charge of a football match, enforcing the Laws of the Games with the help of two assistant referees on the touchline and a fourth official off the pitch.

Referee's whistle

Referees use whistles to signify the starting and stopping of a match. So, the referee will blow his whistle for kick-off,  half-time and full-time, but will also blow when he awards a free-kick, both at the time he makes the decision and then to signal that play is back under way.


The bottom three teams in the Barclays Premier League at the end of every season are relegated and replaced by three teams from the Championship, which is the next league down. Also known as being ‘demoted’.


A ‘result’ is either a win, draw or defeat, the three possible outcomes for a team in any football match. At the end of a match, the result will be given as the scoreline. Though colloquially, if a manager or player says ‘We really need a result today’, they mean win or draw.

Share this page