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Question Number: 31671

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 8/2/2017

Petr of Prague, Czech Republic Czech Republic asks...

I have one general situation. The ball touches the player's leg (head, chest) and then his hand. When is it the offense and when not? (Is it the intent?) Thanks!

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Petr
The action of the player must be deliberate for the offence of handling. Many times the ball can hit the players hand / arm unintentionally and that is not deliberate handling. As a rough rule of thumb the referee will look for the player moving his hand toward the ball or allowing the ball to hit his arm for deliberate handling to be called. In situation say where the ball hits a players knee and take a quick unexpected bounce towards the players arm we can be pretty sure in many situations that the player did not do that deliberately. However and there is always a however. Let us say that a player makes a star jump with his arm out wide and the ball hits his knee and rears up to hit the outstretched arm then in that situation the action is deliberate and handling would be called.
Now we know that handling has become one of the most difficult calls a referee can make. Sometimes it is an easy call where the player clearly moves his hand to clearly move the ball. An example of which was Suarez of Uruguay pushing the ball away from goal with his arm in the game v Ghana in the 2010 WC. At the other end of the scale is where the ball bounces say up unexpectedly and unbeknownst to the player hits his hand. That is also an easy call of no offence.
Then in the middle of all that is the grey ones where a player allows the ball to hit when he could have been able to avoid the ball or the player raises his arm instinctively for protection. Those are much more difficult as the player while reacting somewhat instinctively may have intentionally allowed his arms to play the ball
My association UEFA had advised it refs on handling as follows
**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 players 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 players 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 they must then punish fully in accordance with the Laws of the Game.**

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Petr,
In all cases where there is contact between hand and ball, according to the words of Law 12 it is only an offence if it was ''a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.'' So whether it came off another body part first or not, the referee must still make the same basic judgement call.

Having said that, the law provides several factors to be considered when trying to decide if the handling was deliberate. One of these talks about an ''unexpected ball'' and in the case of a deflection such as you describe, it is highly likely that the deflection will cause the ball to take an unexpected path that the player could not have predicted and which means they will not have enough time to adjust their body and avoid the ball contacting the arm.

So if the referee decides that because of the deflection, the handling was not a deliberate act then there is no offence. If on the other hand the referee judges that despite the deflection, it was still a deliberate act then an offence has occurred. I would say in general (though there are always exceptions) that when there is a deflection off the player's own body onto the player's arm or hand, it leads more often than not to an unintentional contact which would therefore not be an offence.

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