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Question Number: 34634

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 6/30/2022

RE: Amateur Adult

Nicholas Broderick of Lewis Lake, Nova Scotia Canada asks...

This is a hypothetical that has never happened to me (yet).

A ball rebounds accidentally off the arm of an attacker near the opponent's goal. A defender immediately and deliberately handles the ball in attempt to stop it entering his/her team's goal, but fails: the ball enters anyway.

Goal, penalty kick, for direct free kick for the defending team? And what sanction for the defender?

I originally thought this would result in a penalty and yellow card. If the ball enters the goal immediately from the attacker's arm, he/she would commit an offence after the defender (which means we can't award a goal). And because a goal could never be legally scored, we can't send off the defender for DOGSO-H.

However, I posted this same question to an online group of referees, and most believed the *attacker* committed the first offence and insisted the defending team should be awarded the free kick (and no card for the defender).

And when I posed this question in-person to a FIFA Futuro instructor, he insisted that the ball did *not* immediately or directly enter the goal from the attacker's arm, and so he/she does not commit an offence at all and we can award a goal!

Finally, I asked The IFAB about it via their Twitter account, but got no response.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Nickolas
Thanks for the question.

My answer is to play advantage and award the goal. The defender is not cautioned for trying to deny a goal as no goal is possible .

As to the online group their replies rely on the fact that a goal cannot be scored by accidental handling. A goal was not scored by the attacker yet by the defender through deliberate handling which is a deliberate play. The offence happens when the goal is scored immediately from the accidental handling and therein is the debate. Did the defender's action negate the accidental handling.

Now the reason why some believe that the defender should not be sanctioned is that the attacker cannot score from an accidental handling yet that did not happen. It is akin to a defender failing to stop a throw in entering the goal. The deliberate handling changes the outcome.
We know from other laws such as Law 11 that a deliberate handball resets offside when the ball goes to a PIOP. So we know that a failed swot away by a defender using his hand that goes to a PIOP who scores is good.

Now what might happen in a match situation may not be in compliance with the Laws. A referee may see the attacker handling as an offence that has to be called and perhaps even signal before the defender's handling. In addition a referee may opine that the attacker's handling was in their opinion deliberate and call that offence which happened first. It is easy on paper to say accidental handling yet we know how difficult handling calls are in match situations.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Nicholas,

So, let' assume the defender's handling was a deliberate one - the arm moved out to swat the ball away.

The defender handling is a bit of a red herring here. For the moment, let's say he didn't handle it. Instead, he stuck a leg out to kick it, but he was too close and the ball skimmed off his leg into the goal.

Now, are we still disallowing the goal for the attacker's handling? I would say so - the LOTG state

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

While the defender's touch means it is not directly, we need to look at the word 'immediately'. I see no reason to presume that a defending touch is not part of 'immediately', therefore this would be a disallowed goal for me.

So, we go back to your question - the defender's handling. Doesn't change anything. Still no goal and a FK to the defence.

The only remaining question is whether we caution the defender for handball in an attempt to stop a goal. I would argue that such a caution is incorrect in law - because the goal was never possible, there's no 'attempt to stop' it. Essentially, the ball was put out of play when the attacker handled it - we just didn't realise it until a later event (the goal). You can't argue the attempt to score the goal was unsuccessful - because the goal wasn't scored. Sure, it's not because of the handling, but if the goal wasn't scored - and due to something that took place before handling - then how can you say the handling was an unsuccessful attempt to score a goal?

So, DFK out, no card is, what I believe, the only correct option.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Nick,
nice to hear from you again,
the LOTG address this distinction that to avoid the specter of impropriety (appearance of unfairness), a goal can no longer be awarded for a direct redirect off an accidental attacking handling via the attacking team either into the goal or creates the immediate attacking opportunity to score one after!

We can still allow play to continue as long as this incident did not create an immediate follow up goal for the attackers.

Is an immediate own goal by the opposition a continuation of this thinking?

No DOGSO is possible given the fact the ball could not directly enter into the goal.

Did the goal result from the accidental handling immediately as Ref Wright would have you believe or can we apply advantage and award the goal for the failed effort to use the hands deliberately given a goal did score after?

In the LOTG 17 it does state for example that on a throw in the ball cannot directly enter the goal but if a 2nd touch occurs accidently or on purpose and the ball enters the goal advantage could apply as that is subsequent play & removes the direct entry prohibition.

In the past as an accidental rebound off a body part there would be no doubt that advantage would apply. The goal would be awarded and a caution to the defender.

However this desire by FIFA/IFAB to stay away from perceived unfairness this accidental rebound off an arm by an attacker can not result in a direct goal or an immediate follow up even if accidental sounds a bit fishy in that the attacker did NOTHING wrong. The defender chose an illegal action to play the ball, if the accidentally deflected ball off the attacker had accidently hit the defenders arm and went into the goal I could agree a DFK out! If the defender tried to kick the ball and it deflected in again I could agree to a DFK out as part of the immediate goal created by the accidental handling

Once the defender deliberately handled the ball I apply advantage and award the goal.
If the action had prevented the goal a PK and a caution. I admittedly struggled with JUST awarding a PK taking away the goal knowing a handling goal by the opposition could never count but the illegal actions of the 2nd handling was in my opinion a reset of circumstances.

I mean lets face it the LOTG tried to give the defenders a super break the attackers did nothing against the LOTG why should the defenders reap any rewards award for a PK DFK LOTG 12 violation far more serious than the lets not count an accidental goal from an involuntary arm redirect?

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:
• scores in the opponents’ goal:
• directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the
• immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental


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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Nicholas,

This is a tricky one and I can see some possibly conflicting and/or overlapping arguments - such as the ones you yourself have outlined - and indeed, the opinions offered by my esteemed colleagues.

However as I see it, I think a logical answer is presented by the laws themselves, as follows.

Law 12 tells us it is only an offence for a player to score a goal after accidentally handling the ball if the ball goes into the net directly off their hand, or the player themselves scores a goal immediately after handling. Neither of those things happened here, so the attacking player has not committed an offence.

The defender has then handled the ball in an unsuccessful attempt to stop a goal being scored. This is an offence - but the ball has gone in the goal anyway and Law 5 says that the referee "allows play to continue when an offence occurs and the non-offending team will benefit from the advantage." Since a goal is more advantageous than a penalty, the goal should therefore be allowed.

The defender should be cautioned for the unsporting behaviour of handling the ball to prevent a goal being scored.

This is all just my view on the laws and as you can see from my colleagues' answers not all referees would agree.

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