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Question Number: 33629

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/7/2019

RE: Red Adult

Russell of Sydney, Australia asks...

The new Handball ruling 'is what it is' " however, the Germany penalty in the recent Euro qualifier, is as good an example as can be that the end result is not inline with the intension of the law makers.

Could we apply the 'in the spirit of the game' here and wave it away?

Surely this is a perfect example where FIBA need to accept they need to rethink this. Imagine a WC final being decided by a 'gift' like this.

Not that I know the answer to the issue.

The often mentioned IDFK in instances like this might be a way, although, that would have to have a healthy dose of 'in the opinion of the Referee' in what is unintentional, and deliberate. But that would be completely opposite to what they have tried to do here.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Russell,
no matter WHAT LAWS IFAB/FIFA put in place any decision by the referee is simply an opinion based on their understanding of these instructions. In real time, the referee's perception of truth, often has zero to do with intent of the player. The LOTG are not totally at fault here, the eyesight and understanding by those making this decision are! Actually I can imagine a WC final having by a 'gift' like this, there was the PK on the incoming corner of the last one. You know its coming lol His match. His decision. His reputation.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Russell
Not deliberate handling in my opinion and there is nothing in Law 12 that requires that this must be called as an offence.
If it was an attacker then accidental contact has to be called if it leads to a goal or goal scoring opportunity.
Now the referee here has used the following in Law 12 and this is still in the opinion of the referee.
** 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)**
Now for what it is worth a referee does not have to use a *spirit of the game* interpretation here as he can opine it is not deliberate ad it does not meet either of the two conditions, . As I mentioned he has no choice on attacking accidental handling in a goal situation yet the referee has ample scope to wave this away.
I am still of the view that the punishment does not fit the offence here and the best way is to call these as IDFKs and to make them direct when a card is used.
For me the only change that brought any real clarity was the decision to call accidental handling on a goal or goal scoring opportunity. My only concern so far has been to *see* the ball even hit the arm even accidentally in some situations where there has been an appeal.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Russell,
I'd advise against trying to be too creative with the 'in the spirit of the game' clause and treating it as a loophole to get out of applying laws we don't like (or as a loophole to make up laws!). There are some things that may be permissible to ignore - such as, playing the game without corner flags if abandonment (or unsafe flags) is the only other option. Aside from that, it's mostly there to guide us towards understanding what the intent of a law is. With the handball laws, for instance - there are a number of things that are a foul now that weren't before. While these may feel unfair to us (for instance, disallowing a goal from completely accidental handling), the outcome is still clearly what's intended - so we have to put aside our personal disagreement with the laws.
As for the incident in question - new or old laws, I simply cannot see that an offence has been committed.
Trying to work out what could apply - 'deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm' - clearly not the case here; he has no idea where the ball even is.
The only other thing I could see as possible is 'touches the ball with their hand/arm when the hand/arm has made the body bigger'.
Now, this is where we need to think about the spirit of the game - what is the purpose of this law?
I believe it's there to deal with players having their arms out from their side when facing an oncoming attacker, which often blocks the kick. I'd say the other concern may be when players are sliding with their arms up in the air or dragging behind them, or lunging across to block a kick with wild arms, or going up for a header with flailing arms our horizontal blocking the path of the opponent's header (bear in mind that the LOTG states it's usually an offence when the player handles the ball when their arm is above their shoulder level).
In short, I think the main intent of that clause is players making their body bigger in a manner which is likely to block the ball - or where the arms are clearly far out from the body for no good reason.

In this case, the arm is fairly close to the body, in a reasonably natural position (I still think there is some use in thinking along those lines, even though it's not a part of the laws any more), only slightly forwards. Sure, if the arm was straight down by the side it wouldn't have been struck by the ball - but the arm is only slightly in front of the body with a player who clearly has no idea the ball is there - he appears to think the ball has gone out of play. I'd say the arm is in a pretty natural position given he was struck by the ball only a moment after he stood up - I don't see this as 'making the body bigger'.

Also, don't forget the law says 'usually an offence...' preceding this clause. So, the laws allow that there may be times when the player is making his body bigger, handles the ball but an offence isn't warranted. So, even if you want to argue this player made himself bigger, I still claim the laws don't require a foul.

There is a clause that it isn't usually an offence if the ball comes directly off another player who is close - though I think that's more 'straight line' directly - not a looping ball like this.

All things considered, I don't see the new laws at blame for this because I think Law 12 itself simply doesn't require a foul here. We don't apply the 'spirit of the game' to state it's an unintended consequence; we apply it to understand what the laws are trying to accomplish. We haven't had to twist the meaning of anything - or ignore anything - to conclude 'no foul'. Personally, I think this was simply a poor decision - and I think the text of Law 12 more strongly supports no foul than a foul here. I see very little, if any, justification for a foul.

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