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Rules of Handball Explained

Handball is a fast-paced indoor team game. It is all about passing and dribbling a ball with your hands to score goals and win the game.

The information in this section explains the basic fundamentals for playing handball, the rules for the court, and how player roles differ.

How to Play Team and Olympic Handball?

Playing the basic rules of handball provides you with an energetic workout. It helps to keep your body fit and healthy.

UK handball rules and regulations allow two teams of seven players (7) with an option to use up to seven ‘rolling substitutes’.

Players rush around the court with the aim of scoring the most goals. They achieve this by throwing the ball into the opponent’s goal.

The International Handball Federation formed in 1946 and has governed the sport since. But in fact Denmark and Germany created the origins and codified rules of the modern game in 1906.

The England Handball Association rules popularized the indoor game around the United Kingdom. It also remains hugely popular in parts of continental Europe.

For example:

Around 20 million sporting participants enjoy playing this free flowing, high-speed, pacey team sport around the world today.

The simple rules and standardized regulations apply to both indoor, and outdoor, variations. They are otherwise called field handball and beach handball – or sometimes sandball.

Rules of Handball Game

Aim of the Handball Game

The aim and basic rules for handball is to score more points than your opponent. Players must achieve this within an allocated time frame.

Handball Court Playing Field

The field of play (court) must have two goals in the center of each end and a ball. The IHF court rules determine handball pitch dimensions, which should measure 40 meters by 20 meters (131 by 66 feet).

The goal line at each end (6 meter line) divides an area between the goalkeeper and the rest of the outfield players.

Each defending goalkeeper is the only player allowed to stand on the floor in the goal zone.

Handball Basic Rules of Equipment

A semi-circle area, marked off outside each goal area, is often called the crease – or zone. A semi-circle with dashed markings is the free throw line (9 meters from goal).

The ball must be a size which fits inside players’ hands. Handball balls are usually made from leather or synthetic material. The full handball equipment list includes three regulation sizes of balls.

  • A ball for children 8 years and over (circumference of 50-52 cm).
  • Balls for women and males aged 12 to 16 years (circumference of 54-56cm).
  • Balls for males aged 16 years and over (circumference of 58-60cm).

Note: Players should use only one of these different ball specifications when playing the basic rules in handball:

Handball Players Rules

The standard handball game rules feature two teams with seven (7) players on each side. There can be no more than seven ‘rolling substitutes’ per team. This means there is no requirement for players to consult the referee when making substitutions.

The rules and regulations of handball player positions allow six (6) outfielders and one goalkeeper. Furthermore, all team members would need to wear appropriate attire for official games and tournament competitions.

General UK Handball Regulations

  • According to the basic handball rules and regulations list a game lasts for 60 minutes. It gets divided into two periods of 30 minutes each (reduced to 20 minutes for younger players).
  • There should be a 15 minute interval between the two halves.
  • Handball rules allow outfield players to touch the ball with any part of their body (above the knee).
  • Kicking is not allowed in handball because players cannot legally kick the ball.
  • Players can pass, hold possession, dribble, or shoot once they are in possession of the ball.
  • Handball dribbling rules allow a player to dribble the ball. They can also take three steps for up to three seconds without dribbling.
  • Taking more than 3 steps, or longer than 3 seconds, is one of the handball terms called ‘walking’. In this case the player would lose possession of the ball.
  • Double dribble is against the rules and regulations in handball UK. It means a player cannot receive the ball, bounce it, and then hold the ball and bounce it again.
  • The goalkeeper is the only player permitted to come into contact with the floor inside the 6 meter zone (goal area).
  • Exceptions occur when a player jumps into the area and shoots the ball before landing in the goal area. This might take place while having a shot on goal.
  • Goalkeepers can go outside of the goal area. But they must not keep possession of the ball while they are outside the goal area.
  • The fast-flowing game permits some body contact. In most cases, it occurs when defenders try to stop attackers from approaching toward the goal area.
  • Handball fouls include:
    • Tripping
    • Pushing
    • Hitting
    • Clinching
    • Charging
    • Holding
  • Free-throws get awarded for slight infringements of the rules and regulations of handball UK. All defenders must stay 3 meters (9.84 feet) away from the person taking the free-throw.
  • Penalty-throws get awarded for any rules’ infringement that denies a clear scoring opportunity.
  • Throw-ins get awarded after the ball crosses a side line. They get taken by the handball team which did not touch it last.
  • Corners get taken by the attacking side when a defender knocks the ball over the goal line. Unless it goes in the goal net to score a point. The player puts one foot on the corner of the side line and the goal line, and then passes the ball back in to play.
  • Goal-throws occur when the ball comes off a goalkeeper and crosses the goal line. In this case the goalkeeper takes the throw from within their own area.

Scoring in Handball

You score a goal by throwing the ball from outside the zone into the goal (or while ‘jumping’). As a rule, a lot of goals get scored. Handball teams often score between 20 and 35 goals each.

Handball Umpires and Officials

Handball rules and regulations get officiated by referees. They can award players with either a yellow card (for a warning), suspension (for 2 minutes sitting out), or a red card (for a dismissal). It depends on the seriousness of the infringement or offense committed.

Winning a Game of Handball

Winning a game in the rules of handball means you have scored more goals than your opponent. Extra periods of overtime will get played if the game ends in a draw (a maximum of two 5 minute periods).

Note: A shoot-out gets used to determine the result of the game if the scores are still level after extra time.

Advanced Handball Rules

A to Z Sports Rules and Regulations: A list of popular indoor and outdoor sport categories.
Basic Handball Rules: A guide for beginners explaining 10 simple rules of playing handball.
Handball Court Dimensions: Check out the standard court size and goal line markings.
Handball Equipment List: A concise list of equipment needed to play team handball.
Handball Questions FAQ: Find answers to all the common questions asked about handball.
Handball Positions: Check the 7 court positions with player roles and responsibilities.
Handball Terms and Definitions: An extensive list of handball terms and phrases from A-Z.
Zany Sports Rules: A concise list of weird and wonderful sports games around the world.
Handball Rules and Regulations PDF: [Free Download Option]

Handball Regulations for the United Kingdom