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Question Number: 32031

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/18/2017

RE: Competitive Under 19

Salvador Flores of Indianapolis, Indiana United States asks...

So I have a question on a deliberate handball, if a player tries to stop the ball with his/her thigh or even chest but it rebounds back to his or her hand, is that consider a deliberate handball?
So, how do you consider a deliberate handball?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Salvador
This is what the Laws tell us
** Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm. The following must be considered:
# the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
# the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
# the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence
# touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) is an offence
# hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) is an offence.
The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. Inside their penalty area, the goalkeeper cannot be guilty of a handling offence incurring a direct free kick or any related sanction but can be guilty of handling offences that incur an indirect free kick.**
Generally when the ball bounces off say a knee and hits an arm that is not deliberate handling as it is unintentional and unexpected. However a player could have his arms in a position where it made the player significantly bigger and should the ball unexpectedly comes off the player he can still stop the ball with his arm which is deliberate handling.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

In High School Play, the infraction is called handling. The definition of handling as indicated in NFHS Rule 18-1-r is: Deliberately playing the ball with one's hand or arm. The hand or arm must move toward the ball or the hand or arm must be carried in an unnatural position before an infraction of the rule can be charged.

Thus, in your situation, was the arm or hand being carried in an unnatural position or did the hand or arm move toward the ball. Those are what you must look for if you are working a high school game.

I hope that you have had a successful fall season.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Salvador,
this foul is possibly the most incorrectly understood or misdiagnosed call given we confuse the word deliberate with intentional. There will be plenty of deliberate handing fouls where the player had NO intention to handle it . YET we will JUDGE the action initiated to play the ball AS a deliberate action INTENDED to play the ball rather like we judge a defender when he plays a ball and the attackers who WERE offside are granted permission to rejoin play because the playing action was a deliberate effort and the former PIOPs can take advantage of a mistake!

The comparison is in how a referee determines when a deliberate action is actually a mistake in the ball is not WELL controlled but bounces up and away into the arms for what will be a referee opinion of a deliberate handing as to where the arms were in a natural position verses deliberately spread away from the body or a deliberate slide tackle when a player knowingly gives up his balance & goes to ground thus surrendering control of the arms by not being able to respond to the ball coming towards them.

It is not ok for a player to jump up with arms overhead or run in towards or defend an opponent with arms spread wide as the deliberate action of those challenges adds a dimension of trying to cut down space with a body part NOT allowed to play the ball.

By the same token when a player goes to ground and GIVES up a balanced position he is placing the arms in a path of a pass be it his intention to do so or not where he has no real control to pull them out of the way.

A key point here it is the defender initiating a deliberate action which even though he had not intended to play the ball with his arms he put those arms in a position that could unfairly affect play thus is RESPONSIBLE for that deliberate action.

The opposite side of this coin is a player who was knocked to the ground unless he reached out to grab the ball, is not held to the same deliberate standard as a player challenging for ball possession. Thus if a pass was to strike his arm no foul is present as he did not initiate a deliberate action unlike the player who was challenging for the ball.

Now as to standing upright and tackling deliberately but the ball takes a weird hop or bounce and catches the arm . Again no foul is present because in the opinion of the official there was no unusual deliberate arm movement that was a designed to cut down space the arms attached to the body are used for balance and as long as we are not waving them like a pair of seagull wings there should be no foul UNLESS we react instinctively to swat or grab the ball.

A fast moving ball or a sudden change in direction of ball flight can create some interesting ball/arm contact moments but one must strive to grasp the difference between being unable to get out of the way , a protective flinch, a random spinning of a quick moving ball that is not controllable and a true definitive definite deliberate action designed to stop the ball from progressing. Plus there are times to see handling as trifling or doubtful. Unless I am 100% convinced it WAS handling the ball deliberately incident I make no call although at youth or recreational levels I often say 'Nothing there, accidental! to show those I DID see it. Just did not see it as a foul.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Salvador,
Handling is one of the most subjective areas of the law and this is no doubt partly because it is one of the few offences where the referee must make a judgement on what the player intended to do, rather than simply what happened. Since no-one can truly say what was in another person's mind the referee has to make a decision based on their own personal opinion while bearing in mind the considerations that the Laws of the Game provide.

In the case of a ball coming off one part of a player's body onto the hand or arm, the first two factors the law mentions - ball to hand/hand to ball and unexpected ball are particularly pertinent. For me, in most such cases, the way the ball deflects from the thigh, knee etc. will be more or less unexpected and so I would say it will usually be a ball to hand situation rather than the other way round.

Having said that, there could be times when the referee might feel the player should have been able to move the arm out of the way but has deliberately chosen not to.

So once again it's a matter of each referee's personal opinion as to whether the handling was a deliberate act or an unfortunate accident. In my view the vast majority of times when there is contact between ball and hand, it is accidental. This is summed up in the old truism that if a referee never called a single handling offence, they'd probably be right more than 90% of the time.

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