The Wokingham Paper

FROM THE MIDDLE: Handball- what’s all the fuss about?

Dick Sawdon Smith
Dick Sawdon Smith

Until a couple of seasons ago, deciding on handball by referees was simple. Perhaps deceptively so.
Handball was a direct free kick offence if a player deliberately handled the ball. (except goalkeepers in their own penalty area). This was described  as the movement of the hand towards the ball and not the ball to the hand.

The referee also had to take into consideration the distance between the player and the opponent for the unexpected ball and it said the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence.

I say deceptive because referees also penalised other handballs by players who held their hands and arms out sideways or jumped with their arms above their head, perhaps when in  a ‘wall’ at a free kick.

These offences are now covered as ‘making the body unnaturally bigger’.
But added is touching the ball, even unintentionally, if the hand or arm is above/beyond the shoulder level.

However, this is not penalised if the ball comes off the players own body. As before, a ball played by opponent at close range which hits the players arm is not penalised, but now only providing the player’s hand/arm is kept to the side of the body. 

This is where the fuss begins. Take Spurs defender Eric Dier, who jumped to head the ball in the game against Newcastle.

He didn’t make it, instead the ball was headed by the Newcastle player behind him. It then hit Dier on to the back of his arm which was above his shoulder.  He didn’t put his arms there to stop the ball, he didn’t know where it was it was going as he had his back to it. And yet he gave away a penalty.

That, to most people seems totally unfair but the new law says it is an offence if the hand/arm is above shoulder level so the referee had no choice.

The Premier League are apparently trying to get some softening of the Law but of course it has to be the same wherever the game is played.  

By Dick Sawdon Smith

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