Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 34640

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/16/2022

RE: Travel Under 16

Ward Weber of Grove City, OH United States asks...

Has a handball always been awarded a direct free kick?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Ward,
We have a very astute historically accurate law guy on the panel our esteemed colleague referee Grove who could likely ferret out the exact reasonings and rationales and dates of these particular situations, but it is safe to say, the LOTG evolved over the years!

It used to irritate me to no end the use of the term "handball" was synonymous with a foul when in fact it was not! For me the foul of handles the ball deliberately was based on the intentional use or manipulation of the hands arms to unfairly play the ball . The fact the ball could rebound accidentally off the arms & hands was treated the same as any deflection off anybody part. Play on, unless of course a serious injury! Face head blast 0r lower mid extremity!

This putrid wokeness of society wants us to eliminate any potential feelings of unfairness
cursing the game with laws that exacerbate the presumption of referees with no integrity as not factoring into a decision but rather taking it to a needless foul. Perception of fair play created this latest batch of legislators of the game to eventually degree that ANY attacking goal scored directly AFTER or because it hit the hand /arm is now an automatic DFK out even if completely unintentional. This desire to eliminate any potential of conflict with the very real need to develop consistency has created subtle shifts in tactical and observational distinctions.

In the good old days a defender could smash the ball into the face of a attacker, that ball would flatten his nose, before deflecting into the goal for a perfectly good goal . The VERY same result of a good goal if the ball was blasted into the arm of that attacker and deflected exactly the same into the goal through NO fault of the attacker except being in the way it was again a goal as the attacker neither deliberately or intentionally played either ball.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ward
The modern game as we know it always had deliberate handling as an offence with a direct free kick or penalty kick restart.

Going back to the very early days of the game in the 1800s handling was allowed under certain rules which were not codified until 1863 and as the game evolved so did the rules. Part of the laws at that time allowed a fair catch by a player but the ball could not be ran with. In 1870 all handling of the ball was outlawed and the following year the specific position of goalkeeper was introduced who was allowed to handle the ball "for the protection of the goal". At that time there was no penalty area so the goalkeepers could handle the ball in their own half. In 1872 the indirect free kick was introduced as a punishment for handling the ball, the first mention of a punitive action for contravening the rules. That was changed in 19o3 to a direct free kick so we could say that since then deliberate handling has been a penal offence punished by a direct free kick.

As to the modern game handling is probably the most difficult decision to make as the referee has to opine the difference between a deliberate action including players making themselves bigger and the accidental handling where the ball hits the player on the arm or hand which is not an offence,

In this video a penalty kick is awarded and the player sent off for a 2nd caution

Personally I think it was harsh and in my opinion the ball hits the ball who was turned away from the ball. I see no deliberate attempt to handle the ball or for the player to make herself bigger. Others will disagree and therein is the dilemma for the game.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Ward,

In actual fact, no it has not. To begin with, in the very early days of the game, some forms of handling were not penalised at all. In the first edition of the laws in 1863 for example, the only restrictions on handling were that a player could not run with the ball in the hands, throw the ball, pass it to another with the hands, or take the ball from the ground with the hands. The laws also specified that a goal could not be scored by use of the hands. By inference, other types of handling were allowed, such as stopping the ball with the hands, or catching the ball out of the air.

There was even one kind of handling, called a "fair catch" where the player was in fact rewarded with a free kick in their favour, rather than penalised, as follows:

"If a player makes a fair catch he shall be entitled to a free kick, provided he claims it by making a mark with his heel at once ..." (The same rule still exists in modern day rugby, which is perhaps not so surprising since rugby and association football were more or less considered as the same sport back then and the first FA laws were an attempt to unify the handling and kicking forms of the game).

Even when handling was outlawed in 1870, at first the punishment was not specified. And, as ref McHugh points out, when a sanction was first specified in 1872, it resulted in an indirect free kick, before it finally changed to a direct free kick in 1903. Although it should probably be pointed out that there were no direct free kicks for any offence before 1903 anyway - everything was indirect.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34640
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.