To the spectator, ladies and men’s football may seem the same. This also seems to be the case for many coaches and players. However, to the referee they are very different sports.

Here are 10 differences that you might be interested in. There are many more though!

The Kickout

MENS: Any technical foul on the k/o is a throw ball on the 20m line. An exception is the new pass back to the keeper rule  which is a free. K/o must be off the ground.

LAIDIES: Any such foul is a free in so you are probably giving away an easy score by fouling. Take note! K/o may be from the hand.

The Sin Bin

In Ladies´, the sin bin clock stops for any stoppages in play. It does not stop in men’s. If watching recent commentary from the Championships in Ireland, you may be aware of the time wasting that goes on when a team has a player in the bin. The GAA should have followed the LGFA when introducing this new rule, in my view.

Position of Free Kicks

Ladies are allowed up to 4m from the location of the foul to take the free kick, including sideline kicks, but at the discretion of the referee. This is not the case in men’s. Therefore, It is fine to cross the line in a sideline kick in ladies but not in men’s.


I suppose this is the big one. There is no deliberate contact allowed in Ladies´ Football. Shoulder to shoulder tackles are allowed in men’s.  This could be a red card in Ladies in certain circumstances!

The Knees

Lifting the ball off the ground with the knees is not a foul in ladies. Not so in men’s.

The Handpass

In men’s there must be a clear underhand striking action. There is no requirement in ladies for it to be underhand. Underhand – referees look at the movement of the elbow.

The “Square Ball” Rule

I’ve put it in inverted commas because we all know already that it isn’t actually a square but let’s not bother with such technicalities.

The ladies´ rule is simpler to understand than the men’s. In men’s, there is a distinction between set play (lineball or free kick) and open play. In a set play, the player cannot enter the small rectangle before the ball enters. In open play, the player cannot enter before the ball is played.

Do you see the difference?

That is for men’s but in ladies, there is no distinction. The player cannot be in the square before the ball enters. There are other nuances, but we won’t go into them here. You are more likely to see a “square ball in ladies´ than men’s”. Wouldn’t it be great if all our small rectangles were actually marked!

Use of foul or improper language

Regardless of who it is directed at, this is always at least a free kick in ladies and is a penalty if it occurs inside the penalty area. I’ll bet you didn’t know that one!  In men’s, it needs to be directed at someone.


With the exception of a wedding ring, which must be taped, no jewellery can be worn in ladies´ football. This is a big issue in GGE. In one game recently there were 7 ladies from one team wearing various types of jewellery. They must be removed – no exceptions. There is no such rule in men’s.

There are also restrictions in ladies for undergarments – they can’t exceed the length of the shorts. However, the goalkeeper may wear a tracksuit bottoms.

Playing the ball while PLAYER is on the ground

In men’s, a player may play the ball away from him whilst the ball is on the ground (yes, he can touch it on the ground!), but only if he had possession of it before he went to ground. In ladies´s,  there is no requirement for the player to have been in possession. Btw, in both codes the player may score in these circumstances.

That’s it. I hope you found this useful and hopefully referees won’t be getting any moreadvice from the sidelines when applying ladies´rules to ladies´games! Points 3 & 4 are where people seem to get confused most when offering such advice!

Feel free to share this link!

If you want to know more about the tackle in ladies’ football, then I suggest you watch this session run by the LGFA for GGE when we were all locked down.

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