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Question Number: 29653

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/1/2015

Jason of Wylie, TX USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 29647

So what then is your take on a player unintentionally handling the ball, but also gaining an advantage because of it?
I generally dismiss unintentional handling no matter what happens next. But I have been chastised by several coaches and even a few refs for doing so. I've been told that even if the handling is unintintional, if the player or team gains an advantage from it, it should be called foul.

As an example, Blue A is a few yards away from Red A and Red A drills the ball directly at Blue A (not with intent). Blue A reacts defensively by covering their face or chest. Ball then hits Blue A's hand/arm and falls at their feet. Blue A passes the ball and play continues.
I say 'Unintintional' and let it go.

Your thoughts?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jason,
you are spot on!
If there is no foul of handles the ball deliberately then there is NO reason to stop play if the ball rebounds or deflects of ANY body part including the arms, nose, butt, back of calf and side of head, all of which I have scored with. lol

The FOUL is handles the ball deliberately. We do NOT judge intent. We do not read minds. The misuse of the word intentional is a false positive in the criteria of determining if a player is acting in a deliberate miner to plays the ball. There are plenty of accidental deliberate handlings, this is determined by how a referee judges the DELIBERATE actions of a player attempting to challenge or play the ball. Rather like offside judgement, if a ball is deliberately played to reset offside, we look to see what a player does!

The central issue is it is visibly bloody easy to see ball/hand arm contact and many want a call because of its obvious impact on the match . It is a call that the attacking team if they are responsible for the player who handles will USUALLY crab FAR less with the referee of a questionable foul for handles the ball that clearly was not a foul than the team that sees the ball handled and DESPITE it clearly not being deliberate will scream blue murder you must award the foul anyway as the advantage gained was unfair!. They will get bitter and sullen and think you are not paying close enough attention if you choose to allow play.. The other team will just be mad at their player for letting the ball and hand come into contact if you do award the foul. This changes if a defender is responsible for the PK that follows as many will go long and hard to proclaim innocence and to blunt they are often correct from my view|! I agree with you a quick utterance of. 'Nothing there or Accidental! Play! I hold a strong possibly biased opinion that this is the most often wrongly awarded foul in soccer!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jason
Context is important. The player charging the ball using his raised arms to assist in making the play is guilty of deliberate handling should the ball hit his arm. The ball at short range with the player turning away is not the same nor is the ball hitting the arm in a natural position from short range with no potential to get the arm out of the way.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Of course you'd be chastised by coaches. Coaches who have never read the laws of the game, nor attended a session on education on the laws.
I was AR on a match once, and there was a clearly accidental handling by a defender in the PA. You couldn't really argue that it was deliberate. The coach, complaining in the background, said that there's no such thing as accidental handling in the PA - it's always a PK. What confused me more wasn't so much his misunderstanding of the laws, but the fact that with his extensive experience he would have seen dozens of similar instances, so that made his viewpoint very strange!
The laws are crystal clear. It's a free kick if a player deliberately handles the ball. Nowhere in the LOTG does it say that it's a free kick if a player accidentally handles the ball in a manner that benefits him or his team. So, never worry about what coaches say - I'd be more surprised if a coach didn't complain about such a decision!
I'm also not surprised about referees disagreeing with you - I see too many referees penalising accidental handling, some even at a high level. I think it's just because it's often easier to give these free kicks than it is to make the right decision - especially as sometimes both teams are expecting the free kick.

Often, making the right decision takes courage. You know the right approach, so stick with it.

I once refereed a match where a striker, near the opposing goal, accidentally handled a ball (ricocheted and struck his arm down by his side, it was as accidental as it gets). The ball fell to his feet and he scored. I allowed the goal, which is the correct decision.
People will argue that it's unfair that he scored off the handling. Aside from the fact that the laws are clear on it needing to be deliberate, how would it be fair to penalise the player for something that was accidental and unavoidable? It wouldn't be - the ball striking his hand is just one of those things, and that's just soccer.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

The foul is deliberately handles the ball. That means all unintentional touches by the hand/arm are not fouls, even if it results in a benefit, even if it results in a goal.

That said, the higher the level of play, the more tricky the players can be about trying to make a touch look unintentional when it was actually a handling foul.

Also remember that if a player could have moved out of the way but deliberately leaves his hand/arm to be hit by the ball, it is deliberate handling. Again, this ability changes depending on the level of play.

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