Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

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
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
Panel Login

Question Number: 25169

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/5/2011

RE: Select Adult

H. Jab of Detroit, MI USA asks...

At the recertification class we were told that USSF wanted handballs to be called handling if the player unfortunately making contact with the arm gained an advantage. In the penalty area we were told to use more discretion.

Obviously we were all dismayed, but when told by your superiors that is the way it is we've been calling it that way all this year so far.

Personally I don't like it.

I am surprised to hear that USSF doesn't want it called that way.

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The USSF Advice To Referees is clear:

'The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement.' (ATR 12.9)

What has confused some referees is that the USSF Referee Directive on handling the ball includes 'tactical advantage' as a secondary factor in considering whether contact was accidental or not. If there is a tactical advantage to a player placing an arm is a certain way, the player placed the arm there, and the player realized that tactical advantage, the contact probably wasn't accidental. The focus of the directive, IMO, was to permit a more sophisticated analysis than simply 'ball hits arm/arm hits ball.'

Read other questions answered by Referee Dennis Wickham

View Referee Dennis Wickham profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

The sole decision the referee has to make is whether the handling of the ball was deliberate or not. What happens to the ball subsequently is not relevant.
To give an example. The ball is blasted at a player from two yards. Hits his hand at his side in a natural position. The ball falls close to him and he kicks it away. That is not deliberate handling no matter where it happens.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

I am hoping that what you heard was a misunderstanding, as the application of 'deliberately handles the ball' has NOT changed in any shape, form or fashion.

The more skilled the players, the less the chance that any contact with the arm/hand is accidental. But if a player gets a benefit from a ball that accidentally contacts an arm that does NOT, never has, still doesn't, convert accidental into deliberate.

If what you report is what they said, they are wrong, and they need to contact USSF and/or Jim Allen's official site at Ask A Soccer Referee for a definitive answer.

We have way too many handling calls as it is, where referees call any contact with the hand/arm as a foul. This edict, if in fact that is what is being taught in your state, will make it worse not better, especially since it is wrong.

Read other questions answered by Referee Michelle Maloney

View Referee Michelle Maloney profile

Answer provided by Referee Nathan Lacy

Bravo that you were wise enough to seek further guidance on a matter that seemed to you to be in error. Would that more would ask such questions rather than just blindly accepting and then implementing erroneous advice - even when it comes from 'superiors'. I also hope that this was a simple misunderstanding because these sorts of matters are how we create issues for other referees who come along later and 'call it right'. Ref Wickham is on the mark when he refers to the 'bigger picture' regarding the tactical result and so is Ref Maloney's comment regarding the skill levels of players and the likelihood of contact being accidental. We can use all of these 'pieces of the puzzle' in judging the situation and reaching a decision. There isn't space to reconstruct it here (and I don't have it with me at the moment) but there was a heirarchy to the elements presented regarding those items to consider when evaluating handling. Perhaps you can track that information down and share it with your group. All the best,

Read other questions answered by Referee Nathan Lacy

View Referee Nathan Lacy profile

Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

Ref Lacy's post jogged my memory, and I looked up the 2009 Directive on Handling. I'll not copy it verbatim here, but this is the essence - there are 5 criteria. Personally, I think #5 should be first, as it is the tell all - the others contribute to making the best decision, except for #3 which, in my opinion, totally muddies the picture for many referees ( as for those who taught your clinic) because #3 never should enter the picture unless the referee already has decided this looks deliberate - all #3 should do is confirm it - thus the wording 'to determine if an offence has been committed.'

1) Making oneself bigger by:
a) Use of hand as a barrier
b) Use of hand to take away space or passing lane
c) Use of hand to occupy more space by extending arm/hand creating benefit
2) Unnatural position of arm for task at hand (haha, bet they didn't realize that was punny)
3) Did the player benefit ? i.e. what was the result of the above signs. "The referee needs to be able to quickly calculate the result of the player's action to determine whether an offence has been committed.'
4) Should none of the above solve the puzzle, we consider reaction time. Less time to react = less likelihood that a deliberate handling has occurred. The further away the ball is, the less likely it was accidental contact (considering of course age and skill level).
5) Hand to arm ? did the player move his arm to the ball and initiate the contact, or deliberately readjust his body position to allow himself to block the ball? Yes? DFK and perhaps a caution, depending. No or not sure? NO CALL.

Read other questions answered by Referee Michelle Maloney

View Referee Michelle Maloney profile

Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Ref Maloney brings up a point that has bothered us all since 2009. While it is clear to USSF and anyone that has read Jim Allen's many answers to this question that #3 ONLY is considered AFTER the referee has decided the handling WAS deliberate, it's anything BUT clear to the rest of the world including your instructors.

The concept of deliberate has not changed. Either the handling was deliberate or not. What happens afterwards is immaterial. An accidental meeting of the ball with the hand does not magically become deliberate just because the ball subsequently lands at the players feet.

I, and I think a lot of other referees, would like to see #3 taken out of the Directive.

Read other questions answered by Referee Keith Contarino

View Referee Keith Contarino profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 25169
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.