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Question Number: 34584

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/4/2022

Petr of Prague, Czech Republic Czech Republic asks...


two 'handball' situations, please.

Situation 1:

'First' part of the arm (f.e. from the elbow to the fingers) makes the body unnaturally bigger. 'Second' part (f.e. from the elbow to the shoulder) is close to the body.

The ball hits the 'second' part. Is it legal? I think so, but I'm not sure. :-)

Situation 2:

This scenario is almost the same. But in the end, the ball bounces from the 'second' to the 'first'. I'm really groping here :-)

Thank you very much!

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Petr
always a pleasure to hear from you!

The LOTG show in a diagram what they consider as the foul portion of the arm. page 99

The fact a ball HITS the arm is in of itself NOT a deliberate act. A ball can also be played deliberately at the feet and have it bounce or roll up onto the arm accidentally and the LOTG do recognize that fact. I THINK?? you are trying to placate your reasoning with elbows tucked tight to the body but the forearms spread out with hands palms up? A ball impacts sleeve area but winds up rolling or deflecting into the forearm or hands? You flap your arms like a demented seagull chances are you will get unwanted attention. Referees should apply the Laws within the ‘spirit’ of the game to help produce fair and safe matches . No official should look for a way to gotcha a player with a terrible interpretation that simply does not service the match in any productive way. Was the reaction a reasonable effort to avoid something or deliberately created to do something?

Me thinks you look too hard to find fault. The arms attached to the body from fingers to that cut off point up near the shoulder is looked at as a single entity. What does the player do DELIBERATELY to play the ball and is he reacting from self preservation or instinct with or without time to truly consider his actions? No matter the letter of law or in the spirit that law was intended it still is IN THE OPINION OF THE REFEREE! (INTOOTR) to decide if the conduct or contact is fair or foul.

2021 FIFA LOTG manual about deliberate handling violations show a picture 0n page 99 detailing clearly what we are to consider when looking at the impact area. No handball
Handball Laws of the Game 2021/22 | Law 12 | Fouls and Misconduct 99

Laws of the Game 2021/22 | Law 12 | Fouls and Misconduct
Fouls and Misconduct
Handling the ball
For the purposes of determining handball offences, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit. Not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence.
It is an offence if a player:
# deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball
# 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 penalised
# scores in the opponents’ goal:
directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper
immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental
The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Petr,
I think maybe you are over-analyzing this, and descending into unnecessarily small levels of distinction. The law doesn't subdivide the arm into two different parts so for me, it should be considered as a whole.

Also, unnatural position on its own it's no longer what the law really focuses on, it's whether, in the words of the law:

"the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation."

So rather than looking at different parts of the arm as separate components, I believe you should be looking at the arm position as a whole, and judging whether that overall arm position is a reasonable consequence of the players movement in the actual context of the game situation they are involved in.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Petr
Thanks for the question.

The age old problem of deliberate handling which has caused untold problems for the game and even with recent changes it continues to do so.
The recent change of not allowing a goal from an accidental handling has helped somewhat in that there is no debate about it even if was totally accidental. The only issue I have with that is that a player can accidentally handle the ball before he scores for it to be disallowed yet if the ball was to be played after the handling almost immediately to a team mate the same accidental consideration can be ignored and the goal can be allowed. Now many referees may decide that the handling was deliberate yet others may decide otherwise.
Here is an example
Had the forward scored himself it had to be disallowed yet not so when he passed to a team mate. For what it is worth I believe it should have been called as handling in its own right. His arm is up and away from his body which has made himself bigger. The referee on the day decided it was not DHB and VAR did not see that as an obvious error.

I watched the Champion's League semi final last night and there were a number of handling decisions late on. First one was a handling decision called on Sterling just outside the Real Madrid penalty area and he had his arm reasonably close to his side in what looked like a normal position and he was not attempting to make himself bigger. Ball hit his arm and it was called as DHB
At the other end there was a ball headed on by a Real Madrid forward in the air which made contact with a Man City defender who was on the ground behind him inside the penalty area. It was not given as a penalty yet not much different from the one that was given earlier. In my opinion neither were deliberate handling yet shows how circumstances influence decisions. Easy to give the free kick out yet difficult to give the penalty.

For what its worth I rarely see real deliberate handling where the player intentionally moves the ball with a hand or arm. Those are rare. Most that are given are to do with the ball hitting the player and the referee opining that the position of the arm was not justifiable. That is very subjective and on a straw poll of referees in any forum will not have uniformity on those. Players have to move their arms and should a player be penalised for the ball hitting as player as he runs into challenge with arms in a regular position. it does not sit well with me this arms behind the back defending for fear of the ball hitting an arm and a DFK being called.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Petr,

Thanks for asking - there is a lot of misinformation about what actually forms part of the arm.
You may have heard of the 'shirt sleeve' rule? doesn't exist. No such rule.

There is a picture in the LOTG showing what part of the arm forms...well...the arm, but I actually think picture causes confusion and should be removed. The Premier League, for some reason, use a different picture which is more misleading because it shows most of the upper arm as 'green' (ie able to use to control the ball).

Put your arms down by your side. Make a line directly outwards from your armpit. Everything below that is arm and can be considered for a handball foul. Everything above that is shoulder (if the ball strikes on that point...well, I think 'on' the line is really below it).

In answer to your question - I'm only worried about the position of the part of the arm that is struck. Say a defender turns to block a shot, and from a poorly controlled reflex the tuck their arms in but leave their forearms out (this is actually quite common) as they turn to the side. Hits the forearms? It's a foul - no reason for them to be sticking out from the body, blocking the shooting/crossing lane. Hits the arm just above the elbow, that's tucked into the body? I'm probably fine from that.

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