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: 34723

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 10/3/2022

RE: Under 13

Scott of Livermore, CA US asks...

More handling situations:
1. An attacker kicks the ball and it hits the hands of a nearby defender running at them with their arms outstretched or above their head who is attempting to block the kick. My understanding is that this is handling as they deliberately made themselves bigger in their attempt to block the kick. Correct?
2. A player plays the ball legally with their foot/leg/torso/head and the ball then accidentally hits their hand that is outstretched or above their head. While I cannot find anything to officially support this, I am fairly certain I attended a training session where this was described as not handling (as long as they do not attempt to direct the ball with their hand) since the act was not deliberate, nor were they deliberately making themselves bigger with the intent of contacting the ball. Correct?
3. Combining situation 1 and 2: An attacker kicks the ball with a defender running at them with their arms outstretched or above their head, but now the kicked ball legally hits the defenders foot/leg/torso/head, and then hits the hand of the defender. Not sure what the call should be hear. Does level of play affect your decision?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Scott
Thanks for the questions

1. As described this is deliberate handling as players who do this make themselves unnaturally bigger by their raised / outstretched arms. In cases where the arm is a consequence of a playing motion such as running and the ball is kicked at the player from short range it is unlikely to be deliberate handling.

2. During the 2019/20 season the advice in the Laws included what you mentioned yet that was subsequently removed the following year. The advice at that time was that if a player kicked the ball and it hit the kicker's outstretched arm / hand it was not considered handling. That was subsequently removed as it was seen to not allow referee discretion. It is still unlikely to be deliberate handling as I am off the opinion that a miskick by a player against his arm will generally be accidental yet if the player has his arm/s raised above his head that has made the player unnaturally bigger then that can be seen as deliberate handling. Now we have seen these given and not given depending on the circumstances and the view of the referee. The Laws tells us that having the hand/arm above shoulder height is rarely a ‘natural’ position and a player is ‘taking a risk’ by having the hand/arm in that position, including when sliding.

3, What you describe to me is likely to be called deliberate handling as players must understand that they ‘take a risk’ of being penalised when their hand/arm are raised above their head or away from the torso making themselves bigger particularly when it is not part of a playing motion. When the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation then there is every reason why contact on an arm or hand could be called as deliberate handling.

I watched straw polls of referees in a training session watching videos on deliberate handling. The room was divided on many calls and in my opinion that is still the case today with the one exception of handling on a goal or goal scoring opportunity by a player. In all cases that is called as handling.
Handling continues to be the most difficult call for referees and the game at the highest level is littered with awards and non awards, Outfield ones are rarely contested yet the penalty kick ones are mostly always challenged. In the recent Ireland V Armenia game two players were dismissed for protesting the award of a penalty kick. An Armenian had charged out to close down a shot that hit his arm at his side. It did not look like he deliberately made himself bigger and the ball hit his arm. The penalty was not given in real time yet on VAR review it was given.
It can be viewed on the attached video

Now I am unsure if the referee used VAR as a crutch to make the call or if VAR was not present would play have continued. Ireland believed it was stonewall penalty while Armenia disagreed.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Scott,
when charging down an opponent the arms are part of the body and as such they cannot ALWAYS avoid being struck on an outgoing clearance.

In the old days I awarded a goal off a clearance where a crossed arm on the chest, the ball ricocheted into the back of the goal off the back of the knuckles.

Nowadays such a goal would not be permitted! It would not matter the arms were not away from the body and as tight to the body as could be expected, it still is a DFK out!

I dislike awarding a free kick from an accidental handling off a miskick by a player where a ball then deflects into or off their arm as the arms flail for balance. Some will lose the 50/50 yes it was or no it is not depending on the opinion of the referee that day! It is just that the game has conditioned players to accept or expect to accept a DFK for handling as a matter of course instead of as a matter of opinion.

I can only lay claim that I call it the same for either team as to what I think was justified as accidental versus deliberate and verbal state on contact, "Nothing there, accidental" to quash the idea that I did not see the contact and let them know no call is going to be made!

I utterly despise the ludicrous calls where a player running beside an opponent, there is a cross into the pumping arms, a NATURAL running motion, can be seen as deliberate! Hands high in the hold up position or arms outstretched at full extension certainly unnatural but give a defender a break when guarding a opponent, a hard cross or fast kick creates a ball to hand moment as he is running! Mind you if a player leaves their feet and slide tackles dragging the arms along as they slide tackle, in my opinion, it's a likely a handling dfk foul if ball and arm contact occurs.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34723
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.