Handball on the Goal Line?

Determining whether an instance of handball is considered a deliberate act can be one of the toughest decisions a referee will make during any game. There are a number of factors to consider and as with all decisions, must be considered in almost an instant. However, some decisions are made more crucial by the location of the incident.

This month one of our more experienced referees discussed an occurrence of handball by a defender on the goal line and between the goalposts.

The goalkeeper saved an initial shot, but parried the ball back into the penalty area. An attacker was placed 8 yards from the goal line and kicked the ball toward goal.

The presence of a defender on the goal line stopped the goal being scored. However, he did so with his arms; the defender had his arms in front of his body using his hands to protect his crotch.

It was discussed that 8 yards gave more than enough distance for the defender to move his hands out of the way of the ball, thus his decision to keep them there made the handball deliberate.

However, would this necessitate the defender being shown the red card for DOGSO? It was acknowledged that had his hands not been in the position they were the ball would have struck his body and not entered the goal. Therefore the position of his hands has not denied a goal, but a penalty would be awarded and the defender might be cautioned.

However, attention was drawn to the application of law:

Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration:

  • the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  • the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  • the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement

The general consensus was whilst the distance may have been enough for the defender to have moved his arms out of the way; he had no reason to do so. By keeping his hands where they were he has not made a deliberate movement toward the ball so an offence has not been committed.

Please comment; what would have been your decision and why?


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