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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 35466

Other 4/23/2024

RE: Other

Larry of Danville, California United States asks...

What do you think about the changes to The Laws of the Game updated April 9, 2024 in regards to Law 12 and its use of the phrase “non-deliberate handball offense”. For instance, it states cautions are required if a player “handles the ball to interfere with or stop a promising attack, except where the referee awards a penalty kick for a non-deliberate handball offense”. My confusion is that if the contact was non-deliberate, then I thought it was not handling. They provide an explanation that “non-deliberate handball offenses are usually the result of a player attempting to play fairly”, which I did not find helpful. I am thinking that they are differentiating between the player that purposely reaches out hitting the ball, and the player who makes their body unnaturally bigger - say slide tackles and the ball hits their upper arm. I had considered the slide tackle was handling as the player took a risk by deliberately making themselves bigger, but they must be considering that to be this new phrase called “non-deliberate handball”. What is it when a player makes themselves bigger by sticking out his arms – like an airplane - and the ball coincidently hits it? Is that deliberate or non-deliberate?

This seems to open up more confusion in a situation that is already confusing. Take Law 11, Offside “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately played the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage….”. Does this now mean that a player in an offside position who receives the ball after a “non-deliberate handball” by a defender is now offside, but since there was a non-deliberate handball first we restart with an IDFK for the attacking team?

No matter how we are supposed to interpret this, apparently I cannot yell out “not deliberate” any more for accidental handling.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Larry,

Non-deliberate handling has been included in the LOTG for some time now.

I don't think the new word changes anything at all. I'd say 'accidental' is still a reasonable response to a handball shout. I suppose you could yell out 'accidental, natural position!'.

I have heard a few referees concerned about the wording, but I think some people are overthinking it.

The handball law currently reads:

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

Deliberately handles the ball is only one offence. Scoring a goal immediately after requires no intent (this one is a simple factual decision - either it touched the hand/arm or it didn't). The clause about unnaturally bigger isn't deliberate handling either.

So, the word 'non-deliberate handling' doesn't change anything. It's just a word that encompasses all the clauses in the handball law other than 'deliberately handles the ball'.

Nothing changes with offside. That clause that you reference only applies to deliberate handling. That doesn't change with or without the new wording.

If a defender jumps up to punch the ball away and it falls to the player in an offside position, the offside is nullified due to the deliberate action.

Bear in mind that 'played' in reference to Law 11 is when they've had reasonably opportunity to control the ball, given the movement, position and visibility. If that's the case, and the ball is handled, it's probably deliberate anyway.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Larry
Good to hear from you again and Thanks for the question.
The IFAB has never been great with the use of language so this adds to that.

Back in 2020/21 we were told for the purposes of determining handball offences, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.
It went on to say that 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.

The first one listed above which is the rare handling offence is termed deliberate while the latter two of unnaturally bigger and scoring on opponents are termed non deliberate. All are handling offences punished by a direct free kick or penalty.
All other contact on an arm / hand not considered by the referee to be one of the three is still NOT an offence.

The term non deliberate is unhelpful given where referees have come from as it suggest perhaps accidental handling which is still not an offence. That is not the intention of the term.
So handling hasn’t changed. As to the shout it is a matter of personal preference. I prefer * Nothing there* if one wants to stay away from using deliberate. Accidental will also work as would *not handball* or for that matter just blank it or use the grass cutting arm sweep of ruling something out.

On Offside Law 11 nothing has changed there either.
If the ball is handled either as deliberate or non deliberate the referee has to determine if advantage should be played so the receiver is then NOT deemed offside should advantage be played. Both deliberate and non deliberate are considered deliberate play of the ball by an opponent.
If the contact on the arm is considered not an offence neither deliberate or non deliberate and it is a deflection only then offside consideration will continue to apply. If you think about it where there is no advantage being played on contact on the arm it is going to be a deflection as a deliberate play by the arm makes it handling.
An example would be where an attacker shoots, hits a defender on the arm who has his arm at his side which is not called then that is a deflection and offside will apply if the goal goes to a PIOP.
If on the other hand the defender does a star jump and the ball hits his raised outstretched arm that is considered handling (non deliberate) and it can be called handling or advantage can be played if that is the better option. Offside does not apply in that case on advantage.

Handling continues to plague the game and with the exception of the direct goal from a handling it is still very much subjective in the opinion of the referee.
At the weekend in the English Premier League there were three handball penalty situations involving Young of Everton, Grealish of Man City and Wan Bissaka of Man Utd. One penalty out of the three was given in the Utd game and the other two ignored. To my way of looking at them all three looked somewhat the same, all possible non deliberate offences and could have been given or not given. Yes it is three different referees and VAR officials yet at this level they should be all on the same one page.
Now players, managers complain that they don't know what is going to be given and it depends on the referees’ attitude to handling on the day. Cue the complaint by Nottm Forest.
All three were in my opinion were ball to hand rather than attempts by players to make themselves bigger. Arms have to go somewhere and now we have this unnatural arms behind the back defending which only works with time and being somewhat static. In open dynamic play it is difficult to do and many players just don't do it.

That is going to be the way until further changes are made.
One thought I had was to make the all the non deliberate ones, technical offences punished by an indirect free kick and the deliberate ones continuing to be direct free kicks most likely involving a card. If that was the case I would say all three would have been given as IDFKs!
The lesson learned from the goal scoring handball proves that when certainty is brought to a law it gets accepted and easily implemented. The only test there is whether it hit the arm or not which at VAR is easily dealt with.
The same could apply to the ball to hand non deliberate handling much like ball to foot in hockey which is penalised most of the time and gets accepted.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Larry,
my colleagues address the fantasy/reality of players & managers complaining that depending on the referees’ attitude to handling on the day, they don't know what is going to be given. When it comes to the idiosyncrasies of this beautiful game, the semantics and language directed through the LOTG on handing and offside generates a confusing metamorphosis of indecision and vulnerability.

Also the reality of a game or match situation, be it top flight or Grassroots! No spectator, no player, no coach, no parent, no pundit, is not going to cry, "HAND BALL! "each and every time ball and hand or hand and ball meet whether it is 100% deliberate or 100% accidental!
The concept of offside is as ridiculous as the concept of handling, even though we UNDERSTAND the reason these laws are in place.

OFFSIDE to stop the seagull poaching antics of the long ball.
Instead we claim it as a CLEAR CUT yes or no decision to where we MUST freeze frame, apply massive tech to determine a thousandth of an inch yet at the grassroots we still hold onto the AR maximum. When in doubt? Do not wave it about! knowing there is no way on gods green earth are we going to get it right 100% of the time.

In cases where offside issues are tied in with the handling you can apply advantage if you as the referee determined that offside restrictions are now lifted as the Handling was a FOUL that REQUIRED a DFK restart or PK as the correct restart. If the ball is simply a rebound or deflection off the arm then there is NO change in the offside status restrictions and you award the offside!

HANDLING by deliberately reaching out to hit the ball to stop the attack or stop a goal . Instead we get controversy EVERY TIME the hand and the ball meet, even if it is accidental or deliberate and as to what part of the arm is deemed as handling in the event of contact seems to be top of shoulder ok so you can pop the ball, just as if it is headed, however if it hits the side shoulder spot much like a shoulder barge when you challenge a player in a fair chare and lean in, it seems to be not ok?

Perhaps you feel yelling, "NOT deliberate" has no meaning? I tend to think that is an over simplification . When I am not seeing the ball/arm contact as unfair or as a reason to stop I NEVER call out Play ON! that is only for advantage applied to a foul requiring a restart!
Instead I often call out such phrases as NO! NOTHING there! Accidental! Not Deliberate! Keep going! To assure those watching, I did see the contact of hand to ball or ball to hand , I did not miss it, I am just NOT going to stop play for it, because I do NOT see it as a foul! It is NOT an advantage and thus no need to retaliate or get upset

The LOTG claim that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence. It makes no distinction if it was deliberate or accidental because if you deliberately put a hand to the face to stop a ball from smacking you it CAN be overlooked. We do this more at youth simply because reaction times, poor techniques and fear play a greater part to the technical skill set that adults have but youth do not.

It specifically states it is an offence if a player deliberately touches the ball by moving the hand/arm towards the ball without stating if the action is to deny the opposition control or an attack or a goal or ward off evil, it simply implies if it is deemed unfair, it is an offence.

The real boondoggle is this making the body bigger issue.
As mentioned a side tackle where your arms are out dragging behind is the same as being upright and jumping straight up with arms raised knocking down balls traveling over or above the head. I would say the same if you became a T symbol with arms extended as wide as you are being crucified to cut down the passing or shooting angles. These are Exaggerated arm positions that clearly are deliberate, clearly unfair, if the ball contacts them 3 feet away from their body!

However it is a reduction of either extreme but to what or whose opinion must we then determine is the arms are making the body unnaturally bigger for that specific situation? Again it does not say accidental or deliberate only that it is a RISK! Is this then not an arbitrary standard of referee discretion granted under Law 5?

I ALWAYS tell my players when coaching, that a referee is a MATCH condition and we adapt to the standard of judgment as long as it extends to both teams we can at least have uniformity in that match if another referee in another match is less or more forgiving.

The ONLY clear outcome is a direct or immediate goal that results off ANY hand to ball or ball to hand contact, deliberate or accidental is NOT permitted and we nullify the goal & restart with a FK out!

Arms are attached to the body so they tend to be there wherever that is! Players try hard to defend by standing with arms behind their backs terrified they might get called for handling, This is, in my opinion garbage defending, even as I grasp our officiating guidelines forces their compliance to do so. This unnatural arms behind the back defending could be a standard static pose on a free kick but balderdash in open play.

If you were defending while pursuing an attacker & tripped, placing your hands out in from to break your fall, should the ball connect with the arms, designed to cushion your fall or pick yourself up there should be NO action taken if that ball was redirected away from goal & missed. Your arms were in a natural reaction to falling, not extended trailing behind you creating a larger target However if the ball went in the goal it could still count! Just no free kick. Slide tackles where your arms are trailing your body, is the same as jumping up into the air reaching for the sky Thus if a pass or shot attempt makes contact you could truly feel or say I never intended to do that BUT that ball hitting those trailing or raised arms did occur and that action was a deliberate slide tackle action or a jumping action creating the arm positions.

The discretionary powers of LAW 5 are supposed to protect us from the ravings of the disillusioned. A pass back TO the keeper was it a deliberate kick TO the keeper or simply a deliberate kick gone wrong? We can choose not to punish if we hold the opinion it was not the intent of the kicker to do that. Handling, if we hold the opinion it was not the intent of the player but rather an instinctive reaction to stop a ball hitting the face. We can choose not to punish, if we hold the opinion, it was not the intent of the kicker to do anything except to protect themselves.

The change in the LOTG by which it was decided to NOT permit a direct or immediate goal to be allowed if the hand/arm is involved in ANY way and just award a free kick was, in my opinion, a mistake. If the goal is NOT permitted, then a DB to the keeper is a FAR better solution for an inadvertent stoppage where quite possibly absolutely NOTHING illegal occurs! I say this for two reasons: -accepting such an action as deliberate and a DFK out that SHOULD be a caution for USB and the player shown a yellow card - if we can not determine intent NOR is there a need to as a rebound with no intention, the ball in the Keepers' hand allows for a much more controlled restart no cards/caution is even under consideration.

What the powers that be have done trying to give those who play some reasonable consistency is to say those who referee are incapable of deciding for themselves what action is or is not fair so lets make it a non sequitur decision that takes ANY judgement out of the equation other than yes or no, much like offside in terms of stoppage if we allow or stop to award a free kick. If the ball and hand arm make contact then no direct or immediate goal can occur. However, since PLAY can continue if that in fact does NOT occur, we must again choose whether the player intentionally handled or unintentionally handled but did he or she in fact do so unfairly to award a DFK free kick out?

You can never discount the perspective of injustice because it exists in a world contaminated by doubt, deceit and idiotic ideologies! The price of victory at ANY cost is unfortunately not absent from the beautiful game. Look how easy and often we point and say, he dived, to players who COULD be trying to sell a call by not doing their utmost to avoid unfair play or simply clipped their own ankle or how when a referee makes a decision that we do not agree with suddenly we are in conspiracy mode because we lose the ability to agree to disagree and move on!

Referees be it grassroots or pro, is paid a paltry sum compared to the elite athletes or the responsibility thrust upon their shoulders even in a home town recreational match. A neutral official is by definition unconcerned with outcomes other than safe and fair! For the players and managers, parents even the nations or supporters there is so much concern and outrage over the importance of results, it overwhelms sensibilities. Referees can be perceived to over react to inconsequential doubtful or trifling occurrences yet not react strongly enough to blatant transgressions. Those watching can react disproportionately to either choice.

A referee with integrity calls what he sees from the angle of view he has at that split second of time. Even if I disagree with an on field decision and offer a critique like, too far away, poor position, could have done this or that to get a better view. The reality of an instantaneous decision is FAR diffrent than the armchair types who suffer confirmation biases after constant, stop, start, rewind, freeze frame, viewed from multiple angles analysis.

Integrity counts, honour and courage count, accountability and responsibility accepted as part of reasonable action count but so many disregard character. Humanity has a built in desire to achieve, to do well, but when it becomes a need, at what cost do you pursue the dream? Money, power, prestige, politics, national pride, personal egos, perception and looking for outcome, selecting blame piling on the pressure to achieve an outcome that you in theory should not be concerned about but suddenly everything becomes your fault even if those playing attempt to trick or deceive you to gain opportunity or even victory! Jobs hinge on it, livelihoods, to advance and make greater impacts, more money, fame and notoriety.

If I apply advantage on a handling that IS a foul and a DFK restart would be the correct restart. I call out "Advantage!' and signal with open palm arm(s) down at a diagonal. Only after I am ok that the advantage did in fact materialize, do I drop the arms & Yell out PLAY ON! this indicates it is a done deal, we are not going to stop and restart with the free kick.
If a caution is warranted, it waits until the next reason for stoppage. But one should generally make that known to ARS and to those watching. I say out loud to indicate Player team number #?? "You are in the book!' as we continue to ensure my ARs recall and hopefully let the player/team fouled I got this and not to get upset or retaliate.

I am sure the screams for handball will continually echo across every pitch be it grassroots or pro at every hand ball contact! Players, coaches, managers, spectators, parents, pundits sigh Youth issues are much different in they will actually STOP playing if the ball and arm make contact, no matter you did not see it as deliberate. PLUS they react to the adults and coaches & parents screaming for the foul and again just stop, even without a whistle by the referee.
Remember your opinion, is the one that counts just apply the same scale of justice to each team in the same way. Your match, Your decision, Your Reputation!

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