The below 30-second clip shows a potential handling offense in the penalty box during one of my recent U17G games. Watch this first before reading on – would you have let this go or whistled for a handling infraction?
Obvious handball, right? Well, NOT according to the Laws of the Game so I did not give a penalty kick for the white team.
It is probably fair the say that pretty much everyone associated with the white team disagreed with me and that everyone associated with the blue team was pleasantly surprised.
The easiest decision would have been to blow the whistle for a penalty kick – it almost certainly would have been accepted by pretty much everyone present. But it would also have been the wrong decision.
Here’s why this wasn’t an infraction (confirmed through slow-motion review of this clip):
- The ball was kicked hard and from very close range – probably a yard or so. The defender had no time to react. She could not have avoided the contact.
- The defender shows no deliberate attempt to deflect the flight of the ball or otherwise deliberately gain an advantage after the ball makes contact with the arm.
- The arm flops backwards on impact which typically strongly supports the notion that there was no deliberate attempt to control the ball. The arm would have been rigid and shown some forward movement or leaning into the ball if this was a deliberate attempt to control the ball.
- The arms were moving in a natural position given the movement of the player. Watch the couple of seconds before impact when the blue defender runs toward the attacker and even changes direction. She uses her arms to balance her body in a natural way. Keep in mind that the rules don’t say ‘straight down the side of her body’ but rather ‘natural position’. This natural position depends on the specific moment and context.
Please note that the location of this incident has no bearing on the decision. In other words, the fact that this happened in the penalty box doesn’t change how we apply the rules.
In fact, this would NOT have been an infraction even if the blue defender had been standing on the goal line and the arm contact had prevented a goal.
For additional background you might want to read one of my earlier posts on the ‘handling’ rule.
I hope this helps clarify a tricky part of the game.