HANDBALL IN FOOTBALL: FIFA handball rule governs the intentional or the deliberate ball handling and accidental ball touching offences.
Handball rules and regulations in football are the most controversial laws for English Premier League referees and linesmen to handle.
Determining the difference between ‘handball ball‘ and ‘ball to hand in football‘ is a tricky job for all FA officials. They must decide whether the offence was actually intended or accidental.
You can find other rulings on fouls and misconduct in the FA handball rules of football. They play their hand in most matches around the country.
So how do soccer officials differentiate between deliberate handball and accidentally handling the ball? The simple answer comes from the codified handball rules that all soccer players must follow.
What is the Handball Rule in Football?
FIFA Laws cover football fouls and misconduct. The rules state that a free-kick or penalty will be awarded against the offending player if he or she handles the ball deliberately.
Note: *An exception exists on the penalty rule in football for the goalie. A goalkeeper handling the ball in their own penalty area is not committing an offence.
It may not sound like a game changer – but it usually is! We are talking about 20 Premier League football teams here. Questionable soccer handball rules stir enraged passion and anger like no other regulation in the game.
The reaction gets worse:
Players, managers, and raucous soccer fans rarely dispute FIFA football handball rules in a quiet manner. A dodgy penalty decision never results in a calm and noiseless reaction from the stands.
When it happens, the match referee must make an instant decision about the offence. First of all, the official has to decide whether in fact the ball hit the footballer’s hand, arm or shoulder.
What happens if the referee determines that it did? They will question whether it happened because the player was in the path as the ball got played. Or, did the defender spread his arms intentionally to block the shot or the pass.
FIFA Handball Rule Football
Law 12 in the FIFA Official Rules Book PDF explains the regulations and procedures. It provides the definition and the punishment for a deliberate handball in football.
Here’s an extract of that regulation:
Players would get sent off for denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences:
- Handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within their penalty area).
- Throws an object at the ball, at an opponent, or at a match official.
- Makes contact with the ball using a held object (e.g. a boot, clothing, or a shin guard).
There is one simple explanation of the handball foul in football. Did the player’s hand or arm, from the tips of the fingers to the shoulder, play the ball? And if so, was it done with intent?
A ball which is first kicked, and then hits a player’s hand or arm, is rarely ruled as ball handling. The referee must use good judgment to decide whether the handball ball was accidental contact.
Football hand ball rule governs any purposeful attempt to gain advantage such as:
- Ball to Hand: Legal in soccer football rules and regulations.
- Hand to Ball: Illegal and penalized in football handball rules.
- Goalkeeper Back-pass: Rule Infraction (*see below).
Ball Handling by Goalkeepers
There is a situation in football which does not allow the goalkeeper to use their hands. Of course, we are referring to the ‘back-pass rule’.
Goalkeepers must not handle a pass, with either of their hands, if it came directly from one of their teammates.
Instead, the goalie must use their feet to pass the ball to one of their players, or boot it forwards. An indirect kick from the point of the infraction will occur if the keeper breaches the soccer back-pass rule.
Football Handball Rules: Direct or Indirect Kick?
As a rule, a direct free kick results from a contact foul or a handling misconduct. Most of the other football rules’ infringements result in indirect free kicks. In soccer, a football penalty kick gets awarded if an outfield player from the defending team handles it within their own goal area.
Referees use direct and indirect kicks to restart play following an infraction. When play gets restarted, the ball must be stationary before a player kicks it. The opposing players should be at least 10 yards away from the ball.
Following football referee rules, the ref will hold one arm straight up in the air for an indirect free kick. Their arm remains upright until the ball gets passed to a second player.
- Direct Free Kick: You can score by kicking the ball ‘directly’ into the goal.
- Indirect Free Kick: You cannot score ‘directly’ from the first kick. So, an indirect free kick must make contact with another player before it can pass over the goal line.
Note: You will recognize a direct free kick because there is no arm raised in the air by the match official.
Moments of match-deciding controversy such as these are common in most games. If the referee spots a player intentionally moving his hand to the ball, the punishment is often severe and game changing.
There are few footballing moments and officiating decisions that rouse the crowd, and the teams, like a disputable penalty or sending off.
Deliberate Handball in Football
Does handball in football have to be deliberate? If a player ‘handles the ball deliberately’ the opposing team gets a free kick or a penalty (if the offense happened inside the penalty box). The rule does not apply to a goalkeeper* handling it inside his own area.
There are extra directives reminding referees about this rule infringement. It does not always mean a caution card or dismissal for a player deliberately handling the ball. The tricky part of determining the intention rests ‘squarely’ on the referee’s shoulders.
What do top referees say?
Match referees often consult their assistants on FIFA handball rule decisions. A top class soccer referee described his interpretation of the rules. He said the decision results from whether the player’s hand or arm contacts the ball in an ‘unnatural’ position.
They said they would try to ascertain if the hand moved ‘unnaturally’ towards the ball. Or, was it an unintentional block. So, was the path blocked because the upper limb was where it would ‘naturally’ be for that interception.
The official’s decision becomes even more challenging if the player extends or fans out upper limbs. Attempting to become a bigger block for the shot happens often.
As a rule, raising your arms to protect yourself from a speeding ball is not classed as intentional handball. Making that instant distinction is a crucial part of good soccer refereeing.
It does not matter how many years of experience you have in FIFA football rules as a Premiership or International referee. There is likely to be one team – and thousands of devoted supporters – who disagree with the decision.