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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34342

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/20/2021

RE: Competitive Adult

Caleb of Natick, MA United States asks...

My question is about the recent changes to Law 12 related to handballs.

If I read the summary of the changes, it appears that the primary material change is the "Removal from the accidental attacking handball offense of the references to a ‘team-mate’ and ‘creating a goal-scoring opportunity". And the clarification about "A player’s hand/arm position should be judged in relation to their body movement in that particular situation". That is all well and good and makes sense to me.

But I also notice the removal of the following phrase, "unless the player deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm". Whether you agree with this or not, I always thought it was clear. And there were some great videos that made it even more clear. But I'm not sure how to interpret this situation now that the phrase is removed.

Am I to assume that the new phrase, "touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalized" is meant to replace the former phrasing?

Am I to assume that it is now up to my judgment to determine if the arm is making the body "unnaturally bigger" or is "justified" even when the ball comes off the player's own body? Am I right to assume that it COULD be a handball if it comes off the player's body whereas prior to the change it could NOT be?

I am specifically interested in how to interpret some of the great video examples provided by IFAB when the language was added such as this one.

Again, this video makes it really clear what they wanted. But now that they removed the wording, I wish they would have included more video examples of how they want it interpreted. Specifically, under the new language, I would interpret this video example as a handball because the hand raised far above the head does not seem "justified". But I liked the former phrasing because there is no advantage to having your arm raised like that when you are the one playing the ball so I liked that it was not penalized.


Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Caleb,
while essentially the concept of what is deliberate is still an OPINION, I disagree that the video example you cite would now be a foul, it is accidental and is not a foul.
My suggestion is treat both teams equally with the decisons you believe are correct.
The LOTG can not itemize every nuance but there is certainly a leaning to not allowing an individual to benifit from ANY handling that results in an immeadiate goal be it accidental or not but not punish if the handling has no benifit Prior we were extending this time frame a bit too liberally were someting outside the PA could translate into a scoring chance later.
I think you are looking at this to find a foul! There are times when for balance and momentume the arm CAN be up and away from the body with no thought to being bigger! The LOTG always allowed a ball to deflect off a bodypart into the arm. The key was you still can not, nor were you ever, allowed to swat at the ball to control it, you were just exempt if the ball hit you then deflected into a free arm. I tend to belive the only change in thinking is in the timing of events where accidental handling is ignored unless it creates an immedate goal or a very real opportunity to do so !

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Caleb
The great handling debate will be around for a very long time.
I believe IFAB felt that the previous advice went too far and has tried to roll back on that with more discretion.
IFAB has told us that
# Not every contact of the ball with the hand/arm is an offence
# A player’s hand/arm position should be judged in relation to their body movement in that particular situation. This language asks the officials to make their own subjective judgement around what arm positionings appears “acceptable” or “justifiable “ based on their view of the players’ actions.
# Removal from the accidental attacking handball offence of the references to a ‘team-mate’ and ‘creating a goal-scoring opportunity’

The law no longer specifies that particular positionings are inherently unnatural for example the language of “the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level,” or that particular movements are always not an offence such as the removal of the words specifying that it should not be an offence if “when a player falls and the hand/arm is between the body and the ground to support the body, but not extended laterally or vertically away from the body”.

In the video you show in my opinion it is accidental in that the player has to raise his arms to get his leg up that high and he kicks the ball accidentally on to his arm which for me is not an offence. You opine differently in that you see no reason for the raised arm and therein is the great debate as a straw poll of referees will not be unanimous on that. My way of thinking is that IFAB felt that a player playing the ball on to himself was not an offence in general last season and that is still the case today as far as I'm concerned. The player cannot react quickly by moving the arm away and most times the player will not position the arms for it to be a deliberate action particularly when the ball direction is uncontrolled from the player.
I remember watching a seminar of referees conducted by US Soccer where a series of handball situations were shown. A show of hands showed that there was no uniformity and that is still the case today based on the law. There is more discretion now than there was last season.

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