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A kick-off is used to start each half of play, and each period of extra time where applicable. The kick-off to start a game is awarded to the team that lost the pre-game coin toss (the team that won the coin-toss chooses which direction they wish to play). The kick-off begins when the referee blows the whistle. The kick-off to start the second half is taken by the other team. If extra time is played another coin-toss is used at the beginning of this period.
A kick-off is also used to restart play after a goal is scored, and is taken by the team that conceded the goal.
The kick-off is taken from the centre spot. All players, except for the kicker, must be in their own half of the field of play, and all opposing players must remain at least 10 yards (9.16m) from the ball (a distance marked on the pitch by the centre circle), until the ball is in play.
The ball is initially stationary until it is put into play by being kicked. The player who has first kicked the ball may not touch it again until it has been touched by another player.
A stipulation that this kick must be towards the opponents' goal existed in the rules from 1883 until 2016. This resulted in kick-offs typically involving two people (as pictured), with one tapping the ball forward and the other passing it back to the rest of the team. Now a team may kick the ball backwards explaining why the kicker may be in the other half of the field when kicking the ball.
A goal may be scored directly from a kick-off against the opponent.
If a player moves from their required position as detailed above the kick is retaken. Failure to maintain position may constitute misconduct and be punished by a caution (yellow card).
It is an offence for the kicker 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 defending 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.
One of the few things we know about the rules of English traditional football is the means by which the matches were started: it appears to have been the custom in several places for the game to start with the ball being "thrown up" in the middle of the field of play by a neutral official. The players would then contest for possession of the ball as it descended. The rules of Surrey Football Club, published in 1849, likewise specify that the game is started by the ball being "tossed up in the centre of the ground".
A game played on Christmas Day 1841 is recorded as having been started with the ball placed in the middle of the field of play, with each team attempting to play the ball as soon as possible after the firing of a pistol.
The oldest published laws of football (Rugby School, 1845) specify that the game is to be started with a "kick off" from the middle of the field of play, which must be a place-kick. Most codes of laws from this era provide for a similar "kick off" from the centre of the ground; these include the Cambridge rules of 1856, the Sheffield rules of 1858, and the rules for Harrow football of 1858. One exception is the laws for the Eton field game (1862), which specify instead a "bully" in the middle of the field (similar to a scrummage in rugby union).
[H]as'nt old Brooke won the toss, with his lucky halfpenny, and got choice of goals, and kick-off? The new ball you may see lie there quite by itself, in the middle, pointing towards the school or island goal; in another minute it will be well on its way there [...] [O]ld Brooke takes a half-a-dozen quick steps, and away goes the ball spinning towards the School goal; seventy yards before it touches ground, and at no point above twelve or fifteen feet high, a model kick-off; and the School-house cheer and rush on; the ball is returned, and they meet it and drive it back amongst the masses of the School already in motion.
The passage above suggests that the winner of the toss, in the Rugby game, was awarded both kick-off and choice of goals. This was also the case in the Cambridge Rules of 1863, while in the Melbourne FC Rules of 1859 and 1860 the winner of the toss chose goals, while the loser kicked off.
The original FA laws of 1863 specify that "[t]he winner of the toss shall have the choice of goals. The game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side losing the toss, the other side shall not approach within 10 yards of the ball until it is kicked off". A "place kick" is further defined as "a kick at the ball while on the ground, in any position in which the kicker may choose to place it". Another law states that "[a]fter a goal is won the losing side shall kick off and the goals shall be changed."
The original laws of 1863 specified that the initial kick-off should be taken by the side losing the toss. In 1873, the team winning the toss was given the option of whether to choose ends or to take the initial kick-off. In 1997, the law was changed back, so that the initial kick-off was once again taken by the team losing the toss.
The original laws of 1863 made no provision for half-time. In 1870, based on a proposal by Wanderers F.C., a change of ends was introduced at half-time, but only if no goals had been scored in the first half; the law did not specify the means by which play should be started in the second half. In 1874, a change in the laws proposed by Harrow Chequers specified that a kick-off should occur at the start of the second half, provided no goal had been scored up to that point; this kick-off was taken by same side as originally kicked off the game. In 1875 a further change proposed by Queen's Park F.C. was accepted; there is always a break and change of ends at half-time, and the kick-off for the second half is taken by the opposite team to that which kicked off the first half.
The original laws of 1863 placed no restriction (other than offside) on the players' position during the kick-off, except that opponents could not approach within 10 yards of the ball. In 1874, a new restriction was added that all players had to be in their own half of the field. As of 2016, the kicker is allowed to be in the opponents' half (within 10 yards of the ball when the whistle is blown is assumed).
In 1875, it was forbidden for the player taking the kick-off to play the ball again until it had been kicked by another player. 
In 1875, it was forbidden to score a goal directly from the kick-off. This restriction was reversed in 1997, when it was permitted once again to score a goal directly from the kick-off. In 2016, at the same time the backwards kick-off was legalized, the possibility of scoring an own goal directly from the kick-off (an extremely unlikely situation) was removed, with a corner kick being awarded to the opponents instead.
In 1891, internal pitch-markings were introduced. These included a "suitable mark" at the centre of the pitch and a "circle of radius 10 yards" to mark the area within which opponents were forbidden.
|Date||Awarded at beginning of match||Awarded after goal scored||Awarded at start of second half||Opponents may approach within 10 yards||Players may be in opponents' half||Ball may be kicked backwards||Kicker may play ball again before it is touched by another player||Attacking goal may be scored||Own goal may be scored|
|1863||Yes; to the side losing the toss||Yes; to the side conceding the goal||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1873||Yes; the side winning the toss may choose to take the kickoff or to have choice of goals|
|1874||Only if no goals were scored in the first half; awarded to the same team as kicked off the match||No|
|1875||Yes; to the opposite side to that which kicked off the match||No||No||No|
|1997||Yes; to the side losing the toss||Yes||Yes|
|2016||Yes; kicker only||Yes||No|
A kick-off starts both halves of a match, both halves of extra time and restarts play after a goal has been scored. Free kicks (direct or indirect), penalty kicks, throw-ins, goal kicks and corner kicks are other restarts (see Laws 13–17).
The ball was thrown up between the parties by the Duke of Buccleuch
On beginning a second time, two of the gentlemen of opposite parties met together at the ball with such violence, the one of them had his leg broke, and the other his shoulder dislocated
Through the interference of the authorities at Market Rasen, the annual nuisance of foot-ball playing in the streets of that town on Shrove Tuesday has been discontinued [...] This year, although several groups of men and boys were observed in various parts of the town, no attempt was made to throw up the ball
the ball was placed in the middle of the field, and both parties, at the fire of the pistol, started for the game, the Fearnoughts getting the first kick
At the commencement of the play the ball shall be kicked off from the middle of the ground: after every goal there shall be a kick-off in the same way– via
Kick off from middle must be a place kick– via
The Ball must be kicked off from the middle of the ground, halfway between the two Bases– via
The game lasts an hour, and is commenced by a "bully" in the middle of the field– via
The choice of goals and kick off shall be determined by tossing– via
The winners of the toss shall have the option of kick off or choice of goals.– via
A coin is tossed and the team which wins the toss decides which goal it will attack in the first half of the match. The other team takes the kick-off to start the match
In the event, however, of no goal having fallen to either party at the lapse of half the allotted time, ends shall then be changed.– via
In the event, however, of no goal having fallen to either side at the lapse of half the allotted time, ends shall then be changed. [...] After the change of ends at half-time the same side as originally kicked off shall kick off as provided in the second part of Rule II.– via
[A]fter the change of ends at half-time the ball shall be kicked off by the opposite side from that which originally did so– via
nor shall any player on either side pass the centre of the ground in the direction of his opponents' goal until the ball is kicked off.– via
...all players, except the player taking the kick-off, must be in their own half of the field of play.
The game shall be commenced by a place-kick from the centre of the ground in the direction of the opposite goal-line– via
In no case shall a goal be scored from any free kick, nor shall the ball be again played by the kicker until it has been played by another player. The kick-off and corner-flag kick shall be free kicks within the meaning of this rule.– via
A goal may be scored directly from the kick-off
A goal may be scored directly against the opponents from the kick-off