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Question Number: 31516

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/8/2017

RE: Competitive Under 19

Daniel Sugar of Sharon, Massachusetts United States asks...

A player is in his own penalty area and slides to the ground. While sliding, and after he's on the ground, his arm is extended away from his body. His arm blocks a ball that is coming toward him and his own goal. He started moving his arm out as he was sliding, and kept his arm in an un-natural position. Given a very high level U18 match, is this a deliberate handling offense?
This happened in such a game I did the middle for yesterday, and I gave a penalty kick. It was seen as highly controversial, but I still stand by that decision.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Daniel
The great deliberate handling question. The site receives many questions on this topic and it is now probably one of the most difficult decisions for referees to make.
Handling can be graded into differing degrees with at one end of the scale definite deliberate where the player uses his hand to move the ball intentionally (rare) and then at the other end of the scale where the ball hits the player on the hand / arm totally unintentionally which is not deliberate. The difficult ones are the situations in the middle ground where the referee has to opine whether the player made himself bigger and placed his arms in a position to assist in stopping, playing the ball or made no effort to avoid the ball with his arm from distance. The web is littered with examples of these types of handling that were given , not given based on the opinion of the referee on the day.
Here is one from the weekend which was not given
So in your example it is what you opined as handling in that the player used his arm in a way that played the ball deliberately. Perhaps another referee could see it differently hence the reason that such calls can be controversial
My federation UEFA advises referees that although football is a game in which players constantly move their arms and hands as a natural part of their movement, in deciding if a player is handling the ball deliberately , it is essential to consider the following points:
# Was it a hand to ball situation or ball to hand?
# Are the player’s hands or arms in a “natural” position?
# Does the player want to “make himself bigger” by using his arms?
# Does the player try to avoid the ball striking his hand?
# Distance the ball travelled before striking the player’s hand
# Is the player able to avoid the ball striking his hand?
# Does he use his hand or arm to intentionally touch the ball?
Referees should also consider possible additional circumstances and consequences, e.g. how and where did the offence occur (stopped a promising attack? denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity?) and and they must then punish fully in accordance with the Laws of the Game.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Daniel,
as highly controversial? Hmm by who, the team and their supporters? Wa the team awarded the PK upset? Did they complain? lol As in any call 50% disagree with, it is just that the handling calls generate the worst dissent if at all ambiguous. !

The offence of handles the ball deliberately exacts a large piece of extrapolation on the part of a referee because the intent of the player is not a consideration. This means the player can accidentally handle a ball but it will STILL be classified as a deliberate action that CAUSED it to occur!

A player deliberately sliding on the ground has put himself at risk because he has much less control. Now the arms can be placed in any number of positions including away from his body but if the AIM of the slide was to challenge for the ball then that forward motion is a deliberate action and likely to draw a DFK \PK rather than see the impact as ball to hand and play on.

Each incident is judged on its own merit. A quick redirect of the ball in close quarters where the ball luckily strikes the arm instead of the face or another body part you ask yourself was it the deliberate action of the player that caused the arm to hit he ball or was it simply a ball contacting the arm rather than something else? The arms are connected to the body so to PUNISH ball to arm contact because the arms are away from the body is not fair. The arms must be used in such a way as to leave no doubt in the mind of the referee that they were used to deny the passing lane. I consider the foul f handles the ball deliberately the same a I do when deciding offside I make NO call UNLESS I AM 100% SURE it is an infraction.

You were satisfied that the arm was extended to make themselves larger that the arm did contact the ball that it did not try to avoid the ball, that the arm did not shy away or try to withdraw once contact occurred or that the ball was not travelling too quickly or coming in a direction from a line of sight out of his vision or such a close distance there was no time to react?
Your Match Your Decision Your Reputation

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Daniel,
When judging potential handling offences, I think it's important to start with the primary consideration as contained in the Laws. This is that, to be an offence, it must be ''a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.''

Other things, like arm position, are somewhat secondary to this. You must first be convinced that the player has committed a deliberate act. When it comes to arm position, while it can be used as as a clue or pointer as to the intention of the player, it is at best an equivocal indication. In fact, the Laws tell us specifically that, ''the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement.'' Without having seen the incident you describe I obviously cannot judge it but for what it's worth I would say that when a player slides on the ground in the way you have described, having the arm away from the body could well be a perfectly natural position, with the arm extended for balance and to control the player's body movement.

So I would say, don't get too hung up on arm position (especially when the law tells us it is not definitive) but concentrate on whether this was really, truly a case of a player making hand or arm contact with the ball in a considered and deliberate manner. More important than arm position for me (and certainly based on what the law says about it, as mentioned earlier) are the 'ball to hand' and 'unexpected ball' considerations. Again, I'm working blind here but if his arm was already out as he started the slide and then the ball was hit towards him, you need to be sure this wasn't ball to hand rather than hand to ball. The distance between the opponents when the ball was struck (which you don't specify) is also a consideration.

Sometimes I think some referees seem to fall into the trap of judging deliberate handling solely on the basis of arm position, which I think can be a mistake. To take an extreme example, let's say a player is involved in a clash of heads and rendered unconscious. As he falls, his arms go into an 'unnatural position' and strike the ball. Is this an offence? Obviously not, yet if you take the view that an unnatural arm position automatically means an offence, no matter whether it is the result of a deliberate decision or not then a clearly incorrect decision could be justified. So to me, the arms being in an unnatural position (whatever that means) is not dispositive and must be judged in the context of whether the player has put (or maintained) the arms in a certain position as part of a deliberate decision to make his hand or arm contact the ball.

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