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Question Number: 31924

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 10/22/2017

RE: Select Under 13

Chris of Stratford, CT usa asks...

I had a tackle at the edge of the penalty area and the defender falls over with her arm outstretched over her head like supergirl. The ball is rolling away from her and she lands on the ball with her arm and stops it. An attacker is near the ball and stops, as do other players yelling for handling. The ball is under the player's arm. what is the call?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Chris
Every chance it can be viewed as deliberate handling. The player had no need for her arms to be raised about her head as you describe it as super girl and as she falls making contact with the ball IMO she has to take the consequences of having her arms starting in an unnatural position.
You might recall the Boateng deliberate handling in the Germany V France game
The player raised his arms in an unnatural position, the ball hit the arm and the call was a penalty kick. Not sure what the player was doing or thinking yet making unnatural movements / positions with the arm/s in strange position can result in deliberate handling should the ball be stopped, moved etc by the arm.
Maybe if the player falls and the contact on the ball is accidental in a natural way on an arm such as to break a fall then the referee can deem that to be not deliberate and allow play to continue.
As we have said many times deliberate handling is one of the most difficult calls for referees to make. These calls can go either way and that is the compaint that many level against referees. One referee can see it as deliberate whereas another can opine differently in these grey area.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Chris,

Handling must be deliberate for it to be a foul. One way which you can look at this is - can the player reasonably have been expected to avoid the contact?

It's very unlikely they had much control over their arms when they were falling. Arms straight up is a little unusual, but probably completely unavoidable. Assuming that's the case, the fact that they fall on the ball is not a foul.

However, the player has the obligation to avoid contact between ball and arm where possible. So if you believe they've had a reasonable opportunity to move the arm off the ball and they've failed to do so, then that warrants a DFK/PK for deliberately handles the ball (and a potential card, depending on the attacking situation).

As a referee, when an incident like this occurs I strongly recommend showing that you've made a quick decision. A quick shout of 'No! Accidental!' gets the players to keep going with it.

I've seen too many referees penalise players for falling onto the ball and striking it with their arms on the way down. Falling over is not a free kick - never has been. If you're falling and have no control over the arms and arms land on the ball, that's not a free kick. Remember, most players and spectators will expect a free kick here because they don't know the laws - and don't really know the concept of 'accidental handling'. So you'll need to make sure you sell the decision.

Of course, it might be possible for the fall to, say, be in slow motion and the player to have deliberately moved his arms above his head to land on the ball. Sounds unlikely.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Chris,
a falling down with arms outstretched may or may not be thought of a normal depending on how it occurred. I will say though if the falling is a result of a slide tackle or a challenge then the deliberator meter goes way up! I recall a challenge where the defender threw himself backwards hoping to block the opponent path to the ball as the ball was bouncing in behind and once on the ground his arm contacted the ball The referee awarded a PK many claim no way it was accidental but the deliberate action of tossing yourself backwards to smother the opposition opportunity was a desperate challenge and to this day I believe it was the correct call. I had issues with other calls but one that one despite the timing and result of calling it was correct. Panama Mexico Gold Cup semi a few years back.

Subconsciously even if a player falls accidently on top of the ball or close to the ball they react with a clutching grabbing motion rather than a warding away. Unfortunately the deliberate action although perhaps involuntary is enough to draw the foul.

As my Colleague ref Wright suggests if it looks as if it is accidental & THAT IS your decision, yelling out, ' Nothing there! Accidental!', at least shows all you SAW it but are choosing to disregard it rather than a nothing response where many will choose to believe you missed seeing it. They might still disagree but I think they rather you acknowledge it then not!

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Chris,
As I think the replies from my colleagues have indicated, the decisive factor here is the individual opinion of the referee judging the incident on whether it was the deliberate action of a player using the arms to contact the ball, or an accidental occurrence.

There is one 'category' of deliberate handling that I use, that I think may be applicable here, which I describe as deliberately prolonging an initially accidental contact. Even if you think that the fall was involuntary and led to an accidental initial contact with the ball, if the player then had the time to remove the arms from contact with the ball but chose not to, then I think a referee could be entitled to decide that this constitutes a deliberate act. In this scenario quite a lot would depend on how long the player leaves the arms in contact with the ball before moving them away.

In the end though, it's purely up to you to decide - your match, your decision, your reputation.

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