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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33952

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 6/29/2020

RE: Adult

Referee of Aus, Aus Aus asks...

Can you clarify the new handball rule soon receiving the ball from own body or other player close too a outstretched arm unnaturally bigger?

Im all for new rule change for football not expecting a goal to be scored from handball even if accidental and gaining advantage but the rest should be left as to being judge if deliberate.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Handling despite some of the changes continues to be a challenge for referees.
Certainty has been brought to the handling that scores or creates a goal. It makes no difference if the contact is accidental even in a natural body position as it is now deemed an offence. A defender could kick a ball that hits an opponent on the arm at his side with his back turned and no idea of where the ball is and it scores a goal or creates a goal scoring opportunity that will be called. The same contact at half way or by a defender say in the penalty area would certainly not be called as handling.
On the other changes it is still left to the referees judgement as to what constitutes making the body unnaturally bigger and probably less debate about arms above and beyond shoulder level.
In many ways I believe that there is still some discretion given to referees handling and the advice really only confirms what referees are calling anyway.
For example a player with his arm raised above his shoulder will get called most times or the player has his arm well away from his body making his body bigger. There will be times when it is debate about it and it is up to referees to opine if it should be called or not

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

In the 2020/21 edition, Law 12 states that:

"It is an offence if a player: ... touches the ball with their hand/arm when:

the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger
the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level (unless the player deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm)

The above offences apply even if the ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from the head or body (including the foot) of another player who is close."

As I read this, the lawmakers are intending that a player who has made their body unnaturally bigger or has their hand/arm above the shoulder level should be penalised for handling the ball when the ball comes off another player who is close, but should not be penalised if the ball comes off their own body.

Please note that the new law differs from the current one in that it removes the word "usually" from the equation. To me, this appears to remove the small amount of discretion that referees still had to not penalise cases of handling, if they judged that the handling was really not something that deserved to be penalised. I think this is a retrograde step and an unnecessary erosion of the principle expressed in Law 5 that:

"Decisions will be made to the best of the referee's ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’ and will be based on the opinion of the referee, who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game."

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