The penalty area or 18-yard box (also known less formally as "the penalty box" or simply "the box") is an area of an association football pitch. It is rectangular and extends 16.5m (18 yd) to each side of the goal and 16.5m (18 yd) in front of it. Within the penalty area is the penalty spot (or penalty mark), which is 11 metres (36 ft) or 12 yards from the goal line, directly in-line with the centre of the goal. A penalty arc adjoins the penalty area, and encloses the area within 9.15m (10 yd) from the penalty spot; it does not form part of the penalty area and is only of relevance during the taking of a penalty kick.
Previously, penalty areas extended the width of the field, but were reduced to their current dimensions in 1901.
Fouls punishable by a direct free kick (i.e. handling the ball and most physical fouls), committed by the defensive team within the penalty area, may be penalised by a penalty kick. A penalty kick is taken from the penalty spot. The penalty spot is located 12 yards (10.97m) away from the goal line.
The penalty area has other functions, including:
In a typical game, for the majority of time the penalty area is only occupied by the goalkeeper. The attacking team generally aims to get the ball and their own players into the defending team's penalty area, and a high percentage of goals in professional football are scored from within the penalty area. Usually during attacking set pieces, including corners, a large number of both attacking and defending players are in the penalty area and, although illegal, grappling between players is frequently observed.