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: 34987

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/21/2023

RE: Select Under 13

Chester of Fairfield, CT USA asks...

In a youth cup match yesterday the defender made a clearance within their penalty area. It hit her teammate's arm which was well away from the body. This would been have been a handling offense if it was in the middle of the pitch as this was an "unnatural position and not a consequence of the player's body movement for that specific situation." The question is whether during a clearance in the penalty area this changes the call. As a side note, during the course of the match many balls that struck the arm were not called, only deliberate arm movements toward the ball or making the body unnaturally bigger were called, much to the dismay of the coaches and spectators.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Chester,
Usually a secondary defending player who is targeted by the ball off a clearance by their own team mate is generally not attempting to handle the ball to prevent that effort. It was likely an accident, thus in my humble opinion, the referee was fully justified in not making something out of nothing. Why would an official award a PK to the opposition for what is an unfortunate accident , especially when they had done exactly nothing to earn it? Now if that clearance had been a shot at the goal instead we might be looking at this differently.

I am concerned your description that the arms are in an unnatural position as being away from her body are not considering she is doing nothing to play the ball UNTIL a teammate sends it hurtling at her likely at pace, with perhaps her being unaware and from a short distance.

My personal opinion is too many expect a free kick for the ball hitting the arm. Given an attacker can not benefit from the good fortune of an accidental handling with a direct or immediate goal that concept seems to increase the demand that defenders bear a similar fate in being guilty of nothing. I should also point out we are prone to greater leniency at the youth level when it comes to trifling or doubtful antics.

Based on your side note explanation I am impressed with the officials by realizing the many balls that struck the arms were in fact not given as fouls BECAUSE they recognized only deliberate arm movements toward the ball or making the body unnaturally bigger needed to be called! As for the dismay of the coaches and spectators they need to realize a referee is a match condition much like the sun, wind or rain. You can agree to disagree but you adapt and play. Why would you argue with the weather?

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Chester
The deliberate handling debate is alive and well. There is not a game anywhere in the world where the ball making contact with an arm that does not raise howls of HANDBALL.
Despite IFABs recent efforts to assist in bringing clarity to deliberate handling it has only been of real assistance in the immediate goal scoring opportunity where any contact on the arm must be called. For the rest it is still a judgement call for the referee.
I was at a game recently where a cross came into the penalty area and a defender went to the ball which bounced in front of him rearing up and hitting his arm at his side. The referee awarded a penalty which I felt was harsh. It for such a reason that we now have those silly arms behind the back positioning of defenders which is totally unnatural. Uncertainty of the call has encouraged this as players no longer know what is going to be called .

As a referee I do not see the truly intentional handling of the ball regularly where a player intentionally raises a hand to redirect / move the ball. Most common of those are saves with an arm to stop the ball entering the goal or stopping a ball going to an opponent in a very favourable position. Those are easy calls with the player knowingly and deliberately moving the ball with a raised hand. The infamous Suarez handling against Ghana in the 2010 WC springs to mind.

For the rest where the ball makes contact with an arm referees has to consider whether 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

If you think about it from a playing perspective why would a team mate try to stop a clearance by a team mate by making themselves bigger so that the ball strikes them. Doing it to try to thwart an opponent is one thing but against an opponent makes no sense.
Without even seeing it I would support no call in the circumstance as described.

Now I watch a lot of games and I regularly see referee calling questionable handling in benign location yet somewhat more reluctantly in penalty situations. Penalty decisions were always big calls for me and I always had to 110% certain of the decision. I never ever heard the words *soft penalty* when officiating in a game.

So I would probably dismay coaches and spectators too as I would only call deliberate arm movements toward the ball or making the body unnaturally bigger in an action that is an attempt to charge down or stop a ball. The rest would attract a shout of NOT DELIBERATE from me.

Here are four DHB that were not called

Could they have been called?

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34987
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.