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Question Number: 22113

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/30/2009

RE: Competitive League (Travel) Under 13

Peter Simcox of Long Valley, NJ United States asks...

Is it a hand-ball infringement when a player crosses their arms across their chest to control a ball (e.g. from a throw-in), instead of playing the ball on their chest?

Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

If, in the opinion of the referee, the player's actions were to deliberately handle the ball, then yes. It COULD be considered handling. The wording of your question describes a seemingly deliberate act. I wasn't there, didn't see it so don't really know exactly what happened. But based on your description it seems most reasonable that the player could have chosen to play the ball without crossing their arms across their chest.

I am also making an assumption that this was probably a girls match? If crossing one's arms across the chest is done in a reflexive/protective action, then there is also that possibility that it is NOT handling. Again, this really needs to be decided case by case.

Many would see this as being 'inconsistent.' I don't see it that way at all. What remains constant is how the action is determined: either deliberately handles, or nothing at all.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

There is no problem with this if:
- the arms are in position before the ball is thrown or kicked (e.g. a wall situation)
- or the move is for instinctive protection
---- as long as there is no further motion of the hand/arm to direct the ball after contact.

Regarding protection, I tell players that somewhere along the line from U-little magnet-ball soccer to the pros, players pretty much stop using their hands/arms at all for instinctive protection, because they learn better ways to play the ball. I also tell them that they can protect themselves from a hard shot, but that **I** am the one who will be deciding what is a hard shot and what is not.

A long lobbing kick or most throw-ins, you have time to think of a better way to play the ball or to get out of the way. A line-drive blast suddenly coming your way, maybe not.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Generally speaking, it would be considered deliberately handling the ball in such a case.

As my colleagues pointed out, if this action is done in a purely reflexive, protective manner then it should be permitted by the referee.
We also need to consider if the player had ample opportunity to do something else - we're less likely to consider the 'reflexive protection' approach if the ball has come gently from some distance.

This also applies for the example offered by Ref Voshol where the arms are in position before the ball is played - while we take that into consideration, it doesn't necessarily mean a foul won't be called. Again, we need to consider if the player had ample opportunity to react in a different fashion. A direct free kick from 10 yards away is quite a bit different to a throw in; the latter has little force in comparison, and I see no reason for a player to stand there with their arms over their chest waiting for the throw to come. If a player does this and the ball strikes their arms, I would be very likely to penalise that player.

We do also take into consideration the relative skill of the players - we'll probably give U/13 players more benefit of the doubt than adults.

We also need to consider if the player saw the ball coming - in a throw-in it's quite possible for a ball to get a last minute deflection, or for the player to be unsighted until the last moment. In these cases we'll give the player greater benefit of the doubt.

Deliberate handling is highly subjective and it really boils down to the opinion of the referee on the day - but if you've seen, or you're thinking about coaching your players to stand there with their arms over their chest while waiting for the throw in, then I would say that this should, in most cases, result in a free kick if that player handles the ball with these arms.

Additionally, we need to consider if the arms are tight to the body or out in front, or move out towards the ball.

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Answer provided by Referee Gene Nagy

Peter, the action you describe 'crossing arms to control the ball' is a hand ball. Females sometimes use arms to protect the upper body and males the midriff. But what you describe suggests that the hands or arms were NOT used for that purpose but for controlling the ball. If this is the opinion of the referee, then it is a hand ball.
For both males and females the referee can usually determine whether the arms were used for protection or control.

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