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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 35346

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 2/8/2024

RE: Competitive Under 19

Max of Boise, Idaho United States asks...

Can someone reference what specific LOTG state that kicking the ball into your own arm (even if it is above your head) isn't a handball? Thanks

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Max .
Law 5 is your best bet and some common sense! .
The LOTG have been tweaked these past several years with added nuances as to what will be called or must be called when arm and ball meet up. I am beginning to doubt if referees even comprehend what discretion means? Frankly despite the efforts to dumb it down they created even more cries of handball ANY time the ball even gets near a portion of the arm
Back in 2017 here was a version of the LOTG on handling which likely still apply but are no longer included in a description
Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.
The following must be considered:
# the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
# the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
# the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence
# touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) is an offence
# hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) is an offence

Back in Mar 4th 2021 Clarification of the handball Law a main concern of the of the 135th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of The International Football Association Board (The IFAB), came up with the following.

Various changes and clarifications to the Laws of the Game were agreed at the AGM, with a particular focus on Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct.

As the interpretation of handball incidents has not always been consistent due to incorrect applications of the Law, the members confirmed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence. In terms of the criterion of the hand/arm making a player’s body “unnaturally bigger”, it was confirmed that referees should continue to use their judgment in determining the validity of the hand/arm’s position in relation to the player’s movement in that specific situation.

Following this clarification, it is a handball 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 or scores in the opponents’ goal:
directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper or
immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental.

Accidental handball that leads to a team-mate scoring a goal or having a goal-scoring opportunity will no longer be considered an offence.

Unless a player is chicken winging or flapping the arms like an albatross, cut some slack if they are clearing it and it rolls up the arm or some dude redirects into them from close range

There is STILL that accidental aspect to be considered and hopefully you recognize the new changes which removed the shoulder from the arm when it comes to evaluating the physical part of the definition of a handball. Note the pictures in the LOTG delineating the area of the arm to consider. I thought there might be a Q & A answer from the IFAB or FIFA or UEFA as to some thoughts on how to determine what to ignore in cases like you mention

In my opinion handling is called FAR too often possibly because it is easier to acquiesce then stand on principle .

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Max
Thanks for the question.
Handball continues to be one of the most difficult decisions for referees to make. The only one that is relatively easy now is that if the ball touches a players arm in the process of scoring even accidentally the goal is ruled out.
For the rest of the time it is a judgement call.

Referee Dawson has given the detailed explanation of the last few years of advice from IFAB.
In the Season 2019/20 the following advice was given
**It is not usually an offence if the ball touches a player’s hand/arm:
# directly from the player’s own head or body (including the foot)
# directly from the head or body (including the foot) of another player who is close if the hand/arm is close to the body and does not make the body unnaturally bigger
# when a player falls and the hand/arm is between the body and the ground to support the body, but not extended laterally or vertically away from the body.**

That was removed the following year and replaced with what we have now **the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation.**
One can surmise that the previous thinking as espoused in the 19/20 adviçe is still part of referee thinking although it may not be universally applied.

Now the reality is that any ball contact with an arm or hand will attract howls of handball. I watch a great deal of games and I see many handlings being called that are not deliberate nor was there an attempt for the player to make themselves bigger.
Have a look at this video
Rojo heads the ball on to his arm which the referee deemed it as not deliberate which was in line with the thinking. Try to tell Nigerians that it was not handling and without VAR they could be a chance that another referee might call it as handling.

So not every contact between the hand/arm and the ball is a handball offence. Referees must judge the ‘validity’ of the hand/arm’s position in relation to
What the player is doing in that particular situation.

At to the Rojo call my take on it that it was not deliberate handling as the player played the ball on to himself which made it accidental. Perhaps in a situation where a player plays the ball and it hits the players arm in a position say high above the players head a referee may consider that not to be a justifiable position and call the handling.

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