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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000


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Question Number: 34717

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 10/1/2022

RE: Adult

Tony Thompson of St. Ives, NSW Australia asks...

Hi all,
My question is regarding hand ball and you you may have answered this question before.

If a player protects their face from the ball at close range is this a hand ball under the laws as they now stand.

The laws clearly state for hand ball regarding this situation and I paraphrase:

1.If the hand moves towards the ball.

2.If you make yourself bigger. Unless the hands are in a natural position.

I note there is no reference to protection which used to be in the laws regarding hand ball which seems to be no longer in place.

1 Moving hands to protect your face at close range is certainly moving your hand towards the ball. So Handball by definition.

2.Moving your hands in front of your face makes yourself bigger. So Handball by definition.

3.Not a handball if the hand is in a natural position.


Can you confirm that protecting your face from close range is a reflex action and therefore a natural position. So this trumps 1 and 2.

Been a question contributor for a long time

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Tony,
Good to hear from you!
In mini soccer they do not even allow the ball to be headed for fear of injury, So if a youth was to raise the arms to protect, my opinion, the lower the age and skill, the far greater likelihood of no call necessary on instinctive reactions where no advantage or no goal is obtained.

However the LOTG on handling have been kicked around for a long time! pun intended! lol It is no longer even possible to benefit from a ball accidently striking the hands. If a forward attacker was to take a clearance ball full onto the face, crush the nose and have it bounce back into the goal that would count as a legitimate goal with likely some first aid before kick off. However, if he instinctively raised an arm to protect and the ball was to catch any part of that arm no goal could result! Same as if his back was turned and the ball struck the point of his elbow, no idea, no intent but still no goal. Nor could that accidently touched ball be reacquired to take a shot or roll to a teammate to continue an attack.

To determine if it is an instinctive reflex turn away as long as they are not using the arms or hands redirecting the ball with some control in a blocking or redirecting sequence.
It will depend on the variables of such things as the awareness of the surrounding, ball flight is it consistent, swerving redirected, at what distance, speed of play, is there time to formulate options, are you affected by the proximity of other players in a group?

In a woman's match I had a lady with her fists on her forehead, both arms over face, elbows together claim she was protecting her breasts and face from injury so I should not award a free kick against her. I explained that if it was done instinctively at a close fast approaching shot, I might cut her some slack but you are lining up, NOT getting out of the way and often continued forward running with great deflection redirection. So, no, that is deliberate handling and a DFK for your opponent's. I suggest you alter your tactics in the future!

The thing is if an attacker did an instinctive or accidental handling in the opposition PA we still most likely award a free kick out if a defender did it, it should be play on! That would be the same out in the FOP for both teams. I use my voice to quell any cry outs of wailing for a handball "NO, nothing there, accidental keep going! Cheers



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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Tony
The great deliberate handling debate.

As you correctly point out 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

Now the referee will be faced with a judgement call when the arms are moved for protection purposes and in the adult game many referees will expect players not to be raising their arms towards the path of the ball even for protection. It is why we now see the arms behind the back movement which I don’t agree with as the ball accidentally hitting an arm at a players side is not deliberate handling.
In Underage a greater element of leniency will be used and rarely would I call handling on protection for young players. I recall in a game where a player who had came on as a substitute and when she saw the ball descending down on her from a distance she raised her arms to protect her head. Cue appeals for a penalty yet I waved it away. In an adult game it would have been called as deliberate handling.

To answer you final point let me pose this situation. A defender closes down an attacker who is about to shoot and expecting the shot the defender raises the arms which the ball strikes. Yes the arms are used for protection and perhaps reflexive yet the arms are used to assist in the charge down. It is deliberate handling without a doubt.
In the scenario where a player does not move to the ball and turns away with the ball hitting an arm at the player’s side in a natural position it may be ignored




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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Tony,

The laws, before the current changes, did not reference protection - rather, the laws simply stated 'deliberately handles the ball'. There were a number of considerations provided in additional advice - but the idea of the 'self protective reflex' was be because it couldn't really be considered deliberate.

So, nothing really changes here. Putting the arm up to the face with no reaction time isn't making the body unnaturally bigger, and it isn't deliberate, so doesn't really fall into any of the foul descriptions. Nothing has changed in the consideration here.

The referee needs to consider the age/grade/skill of the players and how much time the player had to react - the referee also needs to consider, not just a ball kicked at close range, but a ball at longer range for which the player was unsighted until the last second.

The referee also needs to consider the action itself. An arm moving out to the ball is different to the arm coming up to the face.

Another consideration is whether the ball is actually going for the face. Have you ever seen a player put an arm up over the face and a little above, out of fear, with the result that they handle the ball that was going over anyway? What about when a player puts the arm up in front of the face as they turn away, meaning the ball strikes the arm instead of going past their face? These are fouls for me - but I might be a little lenient in very young ages.

So, the referee does need to make a judgement call here - and at higher grades, if it's not going right at the face, it's likely to be a foul (we can include the body here, but face is usually what causes the reflex).

The key is a reflex. If the player is watching a ball approach and makes the choice to put their arms up to protect their body when they have plenty of time, this is a foul - because if they have time to make the choice, then the choice must be to not handle the ball. If they're afraid of the ball striking the body then this doesn't mean they get to intentionally handle it.



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