Let’s take ‘deliberately’ out of the handball law

November 25, 2008

I have a suggestion on how to clear up inconsistencies with handballs.

Law 12 states that “a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player…handles the ball deliberately”.                                                                  

In reality, we all know this rule isn’t always applied correctly. When the ball strikes a hand or an arm which is well away from the body and all the stadium can see it, the referee will invariably give a foul whether it was deliberate or not (we can also argue whether the player is being naive by having his arms flailing about).

I think we should take ‘deliberately’ out of the law and replace it with “…gains an advantage from handling the ball”.

A perfect example was Sunday’s 2-2 draw between Torino and AC Milan. Hosts Torino scored a late equaliser from the spot after the ball hit Milan defender Kakha Kaladze on the thigh before striking his outstretched arm. 

Milan were furious but Torino would have been as well had the penalty not been given. If the ball had not struck Kaladze’s arm it would have flown across the face of goal and given the home side a chance to score.

If the ball had bounced down off Kaladze’s arm into the path of a Torino attacker, then there would have been no advantage to Milan and therefore it should not be a foul.

Defenders don’t deliberately score own goals but they count. Forwards don’t deliberately run offside but they are still penalised. What’s the difference with handball?

I know controversies make football so enjoyable but if we sorted out the handball rule, we’d still have tackles, offsides, red cards and goalline technology to argue about…


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That sounds a decent idea, Mark. ‘Deliberate’ is a pretty hard word to judge in any case.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

I am not sure that I agree with you. There can be situations, when a handball occurs only to protect yourself or when your arm is not stretch out away from the body. Defenders will always cover their heads and ‘family jewels’ during freekicks, and is allowed.

Thanks for your observations Juan. In the cases you describe above, where the ball would have gone on to hit the face or body if the hands weren’t there, I dont think you can say the player gained an advantage from handling it as the ball would deflect away in the same manner as it would have done anyway.
In this case under my new rule it would not be a foul, yet currently it would be a foul if the player lifted their hands to quite understandably shield their face.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

It’s a long time since I heard the euphemism “family jewels” so special thanks for that, juan!

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

>> In this case under my new rule it would not be a foul, yet currently it would be a foul if the player lifted their hands to quite understandably shield their face.

What’s the ruling if an offensive player in the wall has the free kick go off his hands while he’s protecting the jewels and it subsequently rebounds to a teammate who shoots it into the goal?

Posted by BravesWin | Report as abusive

Thanks Braveswin. In the case you describe it would not be a foul because if the hands had not been there, the ball would have struck the ‘family jewels’ and rebounded away anyway.
In the unlikely case where the ball would have deflected in a different way by striking the hands than the body behind them, it would be a tough judgement call and so the ref should err on the side of caution and not give a penalty.
The idea isnt perfect but neither is the current situation

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

the problem with your suggestion is that “advantage” could play out over the course of seconds or even minutes, leading to the necessity of retroactive calls. the example you gave shows the flaw in your own premise. IF the ball had gone to the feet of a torino attacker, then there would have been no foul under your ruling. but what if it hadn’t? then the ref would have to call a retroactive foul, something abhorrent to and essentially unheardof in football. let the ruling stand, i say.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive