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Question Number: 34800

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 12/8/2022

RE: Amateur Other

Mühenned ELSEYHO of Onikisubat, Kahramanmara Turkey asks...

A single player with the goalkeeper in the penalty area, and while he was trying to shoot, the defender slipped next to him. The player did not shoot, but dribbled. During dribbling, the ball touched the defender's hand and missed the opportunity. Does the referee award a penalty kick in this case? How can you understand the touches of the hand more deeply!

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mühenned
The question of what constitutes deliberate handling has been a difficult question for the game for many years and it continues to be one of the most difficult decisions a referee has to make.

When the ball hits a player's hand / arm it will attract howls of “HANDBALL” and the referee will have to decide if the action is deliberate or not.

I have in the past described a sliding scale of handling where on one end the scale the ball hits a player’s hand in a natural position with no knowledge of the ball direction and at the other end of the scale is where a player intentionally and deliberately moves the ball with a hand /arm which is clearly deliberate handling. In the middle of the scale is the grey area which poses difficult calls for the referee to make.

Rarely do referees see the deliberate handling where a player intentionally moves the ball with the hand / arm. These tend to be to stop the ball entering the goal where the defender acts like a goalkeeper. Those are easy calls where a player raises a hand to deliberately play the ball.

The difficult ones are where a player makes contact with the ball on a hand / arm such as what you have described.

If you saw the Portugal v Uruguay game there was a penalty award much like what you describe. The Portuguese player dribbled past a Uruguay defender who fell and as he put his hand down to break his fall the ball hit his hand. The referee with VAR involvement awarded a penalty kick for deliberate handling .

Now in my opinion this was not deliberate handling as the player had limited idea of where the ball was behind him and it was a natural reaction to put a hand down to break a fall. Other can argue that the action made the player bigger, that he knew the ball had to be close and that the action involved a movement of the arm towards the ball. Most comments I have seen reflect that the opinion that the handling was not deliberate and it should not have been called. If I was the referee or VAR official I would not have called yet two senior FIFA referees thought it was ! Others have agreed with that and that is why it is a difficult call for the game.
Therein is the problem for the game

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Mühenned,
As ref McHugh points out, judging what is and isn't a handling offence remains one of the more fraught decisions a referee has to make. I'm not sure that all the changes made by the IFAB in recent years have really clarified matters that much in the final analysis.

Still, when it comes to those instances where it's not an egregious and clearly deliberate movement of the hand to the ball (so probably the majority of decisions) the current instructions are in a way relatively simple. The referee simply has to decide whether "the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation."

However it seems to me, that despite that comparatively uncomplicated guideline, a lot more handling offences are being given, than should be.

I agree with ref McHugh for example that in the Portugal vs Uruguay incident, this should not have been given as a handling offence and my reasoning is that for me, the player's hand/arm position was entirely a consequence of, and justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi, Mühenned
the foul of deliberately handling the ball used to be subjective to the referees opinion as to whether it was intended or not. They removed the intention aspect from the LOTG because referees are not mind readers.

A player can deliberately choose to play the ball yet accidently handle it in that he had no intention of doing so but a bad bounce, a mistimed jump or going up in a crowd, it occurs because the arms are ATTACHED to the body which is reacting to how they might deliberately choose to challenge .

You often see players with their arms beside them or held behind their back rather then crouched with chicken wing spread as they are terrified of having the ball strike the arm so they actually unbalance themselves.

Players and coaches are often at odds at what one referees' discretion will allow for a handling and another might not. In theory the LOTG were amended to add mitigating circumstances & criteria for a referee to use to help with the consistency of making these calls

If you examine the 2nd bullet point in the FIFA quote the part about the arms moving in such away to be natural and not defined as deliberate. When players go to ground, that is leave their feet in a challenge for ball possession to defend or attack. I have very little sympathy if a ball strikes their extended arm on the way down as they no longer control their body parts once in free fall mode as it were .

Explain why the defender went to ground in front of the attacker?
I disagree that the player had no idea of where the ball was as he was obviously nutmegged. Is the arm in a natural position for falling back?
I tried it, I generally went off to the side not directly behind my butt, between my legs.

Still while I agree its a opinion of the referee on the FOP if it fits the criteria, I can see where, given how they include the bullet point it tends to exonerate the player a rather than condemn him.

Picking yourself up on the ground or when you are not actually challenging for the ball and a ball arrives out of now where that is accidental 100% of the time. In other words while no one here would have been outraged if that PK had not be given based on the excuse the arm for support had a right to be there! Here they went with the PK that was VAR and the CR consulting perhaps even the ARS chimed it KNOWING this would be replayed and analyzed later? It is why there will likely be controversy of some sort on any discretionary evaluation .

FIFA Quote
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
end quote


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