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: 31525

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/11/2017

Larry of Danville, CA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 31516

I know not all of you follow USSF guidance, but this very topic was covered by them in their Feb 15, 2017 you tube video. Here is the link.

The entire video is interesting, but a slide tackle with hand and ball contact is shown at the 2:50 minute mark. He doesn't get to describing why it is handling until the 9:00 minute mark, but basically since the player took the risk we should call handling. In my opinion this seems contrary to Law, but it does make our decision process easier and since I am a USSF referee it is what I will be following.

It is not addressed in this presentation, but I have a question. What do you do if a defender (say in a wall at a free kick, or near an attacker) jumps in the air with his arms tight to his body, and without anytime for the defender to react, the ball hits an arm? Based on this presentation, it would seem that since the defender took the risk to jump in the air and thereby made himself bigger, handling should be called.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Larry
Thanks for the video link.
It is an interesting presentation and for me it shows how difficult a call deliberate handling is. One of the most interesting part is how there were significant differences between referees in the group on some of the calls. On the second call 80% said no to deliberate handling which I think would be borne out globally. Now I suspect that the seminar by Referee Esfandiar "Esse" Baharmast was to a select group of referees and that it is an attempt to bring uniformity to that group. Given the number of referees in the US and the world the precentages are going to be similar which means many differing calls in similar situations hence the problem
Now for me I would probably have gone with handling on the first one as it looks more deliberate and none on the second. On the second one it looks to me that the player had his leg outstretched to play the ball with his arm on the ground to break his fall and the ball hits him on the arm. The players arm is planted to the ground with no way of avoiding the ball or for that matter knowing it is going to go where it it did.
I also believe that neither of the two sliding challenges included attempts by the players to make themselves bigger or that they had the opportunity to try to avoid the ball which then does not make them deliberate handlings. I believe that there are other considerations that can be made. For example let us say that players know this advice. Could a player deliberately target an opponents arm with the ball in all sliding tackle challenges? Factor in say the slightest touch off the tacklers boot, knee etc on to the arm and is that deliberate handling in similar circumstances? Also risk gas little if anything to do with deliberate. Players risk tackling inside the penalty when it can end up as a foul if the trackless goes wrong.
Many years ago I recall a penalty award in an important game that I was playing in. I had the ability to stop and to change directly unexpectedly and acutely. In a similar situation on the goal line I was able to pull the ball back just as the defender slid to intercept what he thought was a going to be a cross. The ball hit him on his arm as he slid past me and went over the goal line. I appealed for a penalty as everyone does when it hit the arm and it was given. I was totally surprised because the player had no hope of missing the ball, he was caught totally unaware by my acute movement and the ball hit him on his arm. I gladly accepted the penalty yet it was harsh IMO as in no way was it deliberate or could have avoided it. It has stayed with me for a long time. To expect him not to slide in these circumstances is somewhat naive and also to talk about taking benefit away from attacking play does not fully grasp players ability, circumstances, intent, the unexpected etc. Promoting attacking soccer by penalising doubtful not deliberate handling is not part of the Laws.

Now on your question about jumping in the defensive wall a similar argument can be made. The advice is that the jump makes the action deliberate and therefore handling whereas no jump does not. This is what USSF has said previously on this subject
** Before the taking of a free kick, the hands and/or arms must be in a set position. Any movement of the hand and/or arms once the free kick is taken, where there is contact with the hands and/or arm and ball, is to be considered deliberate and therefore an infraction. A hand that is set (position established) before the kick to protect the face and/or groin may not be moved in any direction. This includes, forward, to the side and/or above the head. If the player jumps, this shall be considered a deliberate movement and, therefore, the consequences of the movement must be penalized as handling. The static position of the player and the motionless positioning of the arms, only works when the player is in the set position. Any movement means that the player does not need to protect himself as he is able to move and therefore NOT able to use his hand or arm to address the ball. Any movement which initiates contact between the hand/arm and ball is a violation and must be considered a deliberate handball (“making yourself bigger”) which must be penalized by a direct free kick and a ceremonial restart. If this occurs in the penalty area, then a penalty kick must be awarded.**
Again let me pose this question. On the free kick the player has his hands in his groin area. He jumps expecting a high shot and the ball hits him in the arm in the groin area. Is that going to be called as deliberate handling. Compare that with the arm across the face and the player jumps with the ball hitting his elbow. Totally different situation in the player has deliberately made himself bigger through the use of his arm along with jumping up.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Larry,
thanks for that link it was very educational . It is not just a USSF guidance video although Esse is not on the FIFA referee committee with chairman Collina and the USA reps Sandra Hunt & Brian Hall this is FIFA/IFAB driven training program
It was by in large a decent presentation if a bit lax in the language & the ONE very important lapse in my opinion was in NOT discussing natural arm movements that are AWAY from the body. I certainly agree that slide tackles are a risky maneuver but running & jumping in normal play the arms are not beside the body for balance

The slide tackles clarifies to a greater understanding what I talk about when discussing how a player can unintentionaly create a deliberate handling by the movements initiated to challenge or attempt to play the ball as being seen as deliberate actions. The slide tackles were all 100% deliberate handling incidents in my opinion because they dove on the ground looking at the ball and opponent the entire time and had no control of being able to avoid the ball It was interesting how ALL the referees in the training video found the arms raised above the head in the jump had 100% foul but they did not twig into the arms being in similar positions while on the ground!

Take a lone defender trying to control a bouncing ball that deflects off his chest and out onto his arm under no duress just a bad hop. To see that as a reason to award a DFK or PK caution or send off is ludicrous. If we are going into a stand up tackle the ball could also flip up and catch our forward fist or side of the arm. I do not know about other players but I do not go into tackles with my arms crossed on my chest and I do HOPE that is not what FIFA is suggesting .

It appears FIFA is defining that just because a player does not have his arms tight to his body the handling could be called as an automatic to cut the dissent & reward the attack . I do not agree with that assumption even if I get the reasoning to make accidental handlings as deliberate actions. In a way it sort of ties into the offside criteria of involvement being reset by a defenders' deliberate action again another feather in the cap to attacking football.

In answer to your question!
Jumping up with arms tight is NOT a foul! If the arms are not moved outwards to increase the body size as in turn sideways or using the arm over the face elbow in line with the body as in up and down versus chicken wing which would increase the size of the body. Of course any pushing or warding action is again a deliberate handling. You will often see players jump with eyes closed which is why the arm positioning before the jump is what defines it as not a deliberate action. Movement of arms after a jump even a subtle turn of the wrist are likely to be seen as a deliberate action.

Reasonable playing actions should in my opinion, not be looked at as unnatural.

A slide tackle is the LAST resort of a BEATEN defender.

Jumping up to head a ball or to move forward to kick a ball or chest a ball is not in the high risk category they are discussing!


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Larry,
The question of handling offences seems to come up with great regularity on the site. This is understandable, as it is one of the more subjective and debatable parts of the Laws. Without wanting to get into everything in the video, I'll just reiterate what I said in another (very) recent question - for me the first thing to look at is, was this the deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with their hand or arm? Then, if it's not obvious (sometimes it is but usually less so) to help in deciding, use the criteria given in the law. If someone else gives advice that is not in accord with what the law says then I believe a referee may in good conscience, ignore such advice.

For instance, I see nothing in the law to support the view that if a player simply 'takes a risk,' that means they have necessarily, deliberately used their hand or arm to make contact with the ball.

As for following USSF advice, you will be aware that they no longer issue their 'Advice to Referees' document and so as far as I am aware, referees in the US should follow the IFAB/FIFA Laws, guidelines and interpretations.

I am a firm believer in the principles expressed in FIFA Circular No. 1224, issued 19 May, 2010 which states (in part):

''It has been noted that certain associations and confederations are unilaterally issuing their own instructions and recommendations to referees within their territories concerning the enforcement of the Laws of the Game, thus increasing the chances of differing interpretations around the world. We would like to reiterate that the International Football Association Board (or FIFA on its behalf) is the only body with the authority to issue such additional instructions concerning the Laws of the Game in order to ensure uniform application worldwide.''

Once again, my opinion (for what it's worth) is that if you believe that what you are being told conflicts with the IFAB/FIFA Laws then you are entitled to stick to the Laws (plus any additional instructions) since, as that memo states, only the IFAB & FIFA are authorised to issue additional instructions on how the Laws should be interpreted and applied.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 31525
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.