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Question Number: 33513

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/9/2019

Larry of Danville, CA US asks...

Two questions on the new change to Law 12 in regards to handling. I'll send them in two separate posts.

Even if accidental, it is now an offense if 'a player gains control/possession of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm and then scores in the opponents' goal, or creates a goal-scoring opportunity.' How do we interpret 'a goal-scoring opportunity'? If there is an accidental touch by a defender that results in a transition play with the previous attackers out-of-position, should that be considered a goal scoring opportunity? Or what about an attacker who has an accidental touch in their attacking third, and is able to maintain pressure on the defense? In both cases it might take several more touches to fully realize how advantageous the accidental touch really was. We would look pretty silly if we waited to make the call, and we would be open to legitimate criticism if we didn't call it and then a goal was scored during the continuation of play.

Thanks for your time.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Larry ,
lol I find it interesting you ask this just a we are having a bit of a discussion on the admin page about what we think of this very thing!

The oddity of this portion of the LOTG where we award a free kick for a non foul because the player or team gets a bonus from the contact is most likely to occur in the defending PA or attacking third. However, if there is a handling deemed to be accidental but the resulting rebound falls favorably to a team mate that results in a goal, even distance might not matter. Yet on feel, the spirit of the game would want only the most obvious of advantages to be called. I feel you should be able to define difference between a clearance or a continued attack that has time to develop versus a quick resulting goal in the same way we use 2 or 3 seconds to see if an advantage was realized.


Here is the excerpt from the LOTG detailing their wishes for how we are to form our opinions.

FIFA LOTG quote
Handling the ball
It is an offence if a player:
# deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, including moving the
hand/arm towards the ball
# gains possession/control of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm
and then:
# scores in the opponents'goal
# creates a goal-scoring opportunity
# scores in the opponents ' goal directly from their hand/arm, even if
accidental, including by the goalkeeper

It is usually an offence if a player:
# touches the ball with their hand/arm when:
# the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger
# the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level (unless the player
deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm)
The above offences apply even if the ball touches a player'
's hand/arm
directly from the head or body (including the foot) of another player who is
close.

Except for the above offences, it is not usually an offence if the ball touches
a player's hand/arm:
# directly from the player's own head or body (including the foot)
# directly from the head or body (including the foot) of another player who is close
# if the hand/arm is close to the body and does not make the body unnaturally
bigger
# when a player falls and the hand/arm is between the body and the ground to
support the body, but not extended laterally or vertically away from the body

Keep in mind the use of the term (usually) & the phrase (not usually) perhaps reflect they have realized they cannot imagine every possible scenario

A few years ago I watched an attacker while heading the ball, fall over, winding up flat on the ground just inside the 6 yard area. Said ball bounced hard off the crossbar and dropped neatly to another attacker just outside the PA who fired a shot at the goal. The attacker just getting up from inside the 6 yd area was struck on the arm & the ball rebounded back away from goal. This clearly denied the goal which no doubt upset his team who shot , but it was also clearly accidental & he was clearly not offside so there was no reason to stop play.

In point of fact the ball was NOT deliberately played, there was no movement of the
hand/arm towards the ball so by the wording of the LOTG back then it WOULD be play on.

Today? That would be play on, ONLY, if the attackers receive no advantage or benefit.
It is an offence if a player deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, including moving the hand/arm towards the ball

In point of fact if the ball had gone into directly into the goal after striking the arm by the wording of the LOTG back then it WOULD be a goal.

Today? That would be a DFK out, no goal because FIFA does not want a team to have any advantage or be able to benefit off even a completely accidental handling.
It is an offence if a player:It is an offence if a player: scores in the opponents' goal directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper

In point of fact if the ball was simply to come to a stop by the wording of the LOTG back then it WOULD be play on ! The player could swing around and kick that ball into the goal.

Today? That would be a DFK out, no goal because FIFA does not want a team to have any advantage or be able to benefit off even a completely accidental handling.
It is an offence if a player: gains possession/control of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm

In point of fact given the ball rebounded out and away by the LOTG back then it WOULD be play on ! His teammate would be allowed to shoot again & possibly score' Or the defenders clear and we have no reason to stop at all.

Today? The rebound of the ball off the arm back to a team mate would be a DFK out, no goal because FIFA does not want a team to have any advantage or be able to benefit off even a completely accidental handling. What is ironic is the attacker actually denied a goal in favor of his opponents lol a goal-scoring opportunity created by a denial?
It is an offence if a player: creates a goal-scoring opportunity



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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Larry
We have an understanding from other parts of Law 12 what is meant by a goal scoring opportunity so that gives us a fair interpretation of what is meant.
I certainly would not see a goal scoring opportunity where the ball is a long distance from goal and certainly not in the defenders own half.
In many way the new law is to prevent the goal being scored by a hand or the ball bouncing off a hand / arm that then falls to the attacker or a team mate to score.
I had one recently in a game where on a breakaway the forward took a shot, it was saved by the goalkeeper who then kicked the rebound which hit the attackers arm from close range. It was not deliberate handling yet it was a potential goal scoring opportunity so I called the DHB. The sane handling at half way might not be called and it is left to the referees discretion.




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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Larry,
I think it's fairly clear that what is meant by a goal scoring opportunity is just that - an actual chance to score a goal, and one that is pretty much immediately apparent - not for instance, an opportunity that might occur at some point in the future if things develop favorably for the team committing the potential offence. There is a principle inherent in the law, that whenever an offence takes place the referee calls it as and when it occurs (unless playing advantage, which does not apply here). You can't have a situation (again, absent advantage) where a referee sees an offence but then has to wait, maybe up to a couple of minutes, before deciding whether the offence should be penalised.

You could also look at other phrases the IFAB could have used but didn't. They could for example, have said an offence is to be called if a promising attack develops - but they didn't, they said ''a goal scoring opportunity.'' To take the scenarios you mention - if it is going to take several more touches before we can see whether a goal scoring opportunity actually occurs, then we don't have a goal scoring opportunity, we simply have a promising attack that might eventually lead to a goal scoring opportunity. That is not what the law intends, as far as I can tell based on the language used and the principle I mentioned earlier of punishing an offence when it occurs, not at some point in an indeterminate future.

Again, looking at what the IFAB could have said, they could have said, "If accidental handling occurs, leading to an advantageous situation for the offending team, the referee should wait around for a while to see whether a goal scoring opportunity develops. However that's not what the law says and I'm pretty sure that's not what it's supposed to mean.



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