Handball before goal is scored: a case study

Handball before goal is scored. A new situation in the Laws of the Game, explained with text and video in this blog post. Make sure that you know how to handle from the 2019-2020 season onwards.

Because of the recent law changes, you need to make a different decision as referee compared to previous seasons. The scenes are from the game between Manchester City and Tottenham. Referee Michael Oliver allows the goal, but then VAR tells him to wait.

Handball before goal? Referee Michael Oliver waits for the video referee.

Have a look and make a decision.

The video

Explanation of handball before goal

What was your call?

A quick recap. The score is 2-2 and there is a corner kick for the Citizens. The cross comes in and touches and touches Laporte’s arm, but it seems not deliberate by the City player. His teammate Gabriel Jesus receives the ball and scores.

Referee Michael Oliver disallows the goal after VAR intervention. But isn’t the handball accidental?

Yes, I’d say so.

Why does the referee and VAR then make the call to disallow the call? Check out the explanation below about the LOTG changes.

Laws on handball before goal

It’s an offence if a player: gains possession/control of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm and then:

  • scores in the opponents’ goal
  • creates a goal-scoring opportunity
  • scores in the opponents’ goal directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper

The second bullet is crucial here, as a teammate of Laporte gets a goal-scoring opportunity (he scores actually).

The reasoning behind this law change? IFAB explains in the Laws of the Game book: “Football expects a player to be penalised for handball if they gain possession/ control of the ball from their hand/arm and gain a major advantage e.g. score or create a goal-scoring opportunity.

NB: it is the second goal from Gabriel Jesus that is disallowed by the video referee. The previous goal was the first in history in the English Premier League.

Question for you

In this situation VAR tells referee Michael Oliver that there is handball before the goal. Do you prefer the referee to do an on-field review (OFR) or is it fine for you if the VAR tells the referee what to decide? (please reply)

Joe Fletcher: a top assistant referee from Canada

Joe Fletcher was only 14 years old when he started as a referee. An easy way to get some money. After climbing the ranks receiving money was not that important when it costs you eight hours of travel. “Then achievement becomes more important, the level of football is then more relevant.”

I’m very glad he took the time for this long interview with Dutch Referee Blog. Much appreciated and a lot of tips and lessons to learn in his story.

For referees it’s a great experience to be active at top level, like Joe Fletcher was at the 2014 and 2018 World Cup. And many other tournaments. He has stopped at his top. “2018 was my best season”, Fletcher says. “I then asked myself: do I want to end with a World Cup or in a normal year?” He says he also doesn’t want to see himself go down, although he “can still pass a fitness test tomorrow”. 

No guarantees

The fact he is so many days from home as international and MLS referee also plays a huge role. Especially with a wife and two kids at home. “Is continuing worth another six months from home? And there’s no guarantee I would even be selected for the World Cup in 2022.” There might not be a place for him. “Or you can do only one game because something happens. People will remember what happens last and now they’ll see a World Cup experience, not an assistant referee that can barely run”.

Never assume you’ll get a next big game

A big lesson for every referee is: don’t expect to get things easily. “You should never assume you’ll be at the big next tournament automatically”, he says. MLS referee Jair Marrufo was a candidate for the 2010 world cup cycle, not a candidate for the 2014 world cup cycle, and went from being a potential VAR to officiating a match at the 2018 World Cup. “Or think about a European referee like Martin Hansson. After the handball incident in France vs Ireland he didn’t get a big game any more.” 

Tip: view the documentary Rättskiparen about Martin Hansson (English subtitles)

Work hard

“I am very passionate about the work rate of the assistant referee. You need to work hard and always be there.” He knows the chance a goalkeeper slips is small with a backpass, but there is a chance. “You need the habit of sprinting as eventually it is going to happen. Then you are the one who is expected to make the call. Don’t jog. Nobody will ever find a video I don’t work hard.” 

Choose your role, but get to know both

For a long period Joe Fletcher acts as both referee and assistant. “It conflicted and I was Elite at neither, because I did both.” From the moment he made the decision to specialize in AR, it turns out very well. But he doesn’t have regrets to have done both before becoming a FIFA referee. “I need to know the ref’s job inside, outside and backwards. Otherwise: how do I need to help him? You need to gain experience. Teamwork is a big part of what I do.”

“I refereed on a level below MLS. By the time I switched, I had a good understanding of what pressure was like. I know when it’s the time to be quiet, when to be assisting.”

The year 2018

2018 was special for Joe Fletcher. Not only did he act at the World Cup, but he was also able to coach others with the video referee. “I could give input as experienced AR and I was wanting to help. I was was a compliment to be asked, as respect from fellow referees is the best you can get.”

“A tournament like the World Cup is a real animal. Normally there are three camera’s. There are still spots things go unnoticed. With the World Cup everything finds ou. Even if broadcasters don’t see you, there are fans in the stadium who record things. It multiplies the exposure with 100%. 

Officiating in Estadio Azteca

Officiating in Estadio Azteca was one of the best stadiums Fletcher officiated in. It gives a huge atmosphere with a crowd of 100.000 people. Two days before the game the refereeing team arrives, also to get used to the high altitude. “You can still sprint there, but need a longer recovery.”

My top speed is really quick. Last official test in Duby my fastest 30m sprint was 3.87 seconds and the average 3.91s.” (age 41). They have to complete it in 5.1 seconds to pass the test.

Mentors in your career

The most-experienced FIFA assistant referee is Hector Vergara, also from Canada. “But before FIFA I never interacted with him actually”, Joe Fletcher says. “We were both at the u20 World Cup in Canada”. Fletcher says his mentor at lower levels in Canada was Michael Lambert,  a former national referee. “For every hurdle you take as referee there is someone you run into. Don’t forget the mentors at the very beginning of your career.”

Every game is a big game

“You constantly need to be ready for a big game. And treat every game as a big game. You can’t give sixty to seventy percent in the matches without assessor and a hundred percent when there is someone observing. That is not possible, because you’re not used to it.”

“Doing matches is not similar as training, as it’s physically and mentally different. During a game you have to literally give everything. You can’t conserve energy. It’s also muscle memory, you can’t go from gear two to ten. 

Match preparation

Before every game with a new referee Joe Fletcher tries to have lunch or a call with the referee before they meet in the locker room. “Especially when we use radio”. It’s his way to get to know the person he’ll be working with. This contact before the game gives Fletcher the opportunity for better teamwork during the game. It gives him a better impression who he’s going to work with. “Some referees want silence, some want to know everything. As AR you have to morph, change based on the wishes of the referee. Once in the dressing room there is not as much time to talk about how you want to communicate as a team.”

During transit to the stadium he listens to music. That’s when he gets into focus. “I’ll accommodate in the dressing room. But I loved working with Mark. He wants info. I am a personality myself, so not always calm.” They worked together along with other assistant referee Sean Hurd and the u20 World Cup in Columbia was their first big tournament together. 

Kind enough to be a Canadian

He speaks highly of working with Mark Geiger, a US referee that “is a kind enough person to be a Canadian”. He laughs. But then serious. “If we both see something, in 95% of the cases we think the same.” They share clips in group chats to see how they think of match situations. “We create a common understanding and our teamwork will benefit from it. Our friendship works and my view is never ignored. We communicate clearly and in the end Mark has the final say. In the dressing room we can openly say we had a different view.”

For the 2018 World Cup Mark Geiger and Joe Fletcher worked with Frank Anderson. That gave it a different dimension, as he only joined them late in 2017. “We already had a 4 year headstart in our friendship and working with Sean was perfect for Mark. He should not have two big personalities as ARs. It’s then always different when someone joins your team. But I am happy Frank is also a fantastic guy and I hope he’ll be at the next World Cup as well.”

For the 2018 World Cup two US referees were chosen, but it doesn’t automatically mean all ARs go as well. There is no guarantee. You always need to work hard.”

Joe Fletcher during on field session for Ontario Soccer

Helping other referees

“Now I’ve quit, I want to help other referees as well. Hopefully I’ll get to attend the Futuro courses by FIFA. Someone helped me on the way, i want to do somethin as well. I’ll stick with my speciality as AR and hopefully there will be a place for me to help.

3 tips for referees

  1. From a personal standpoint it is the greatest compliment to get if a referee says: I want you on my team. And you need to know your role then, as I did from the frist match as FIAF refree. You have to accept you are the bass player, most people won’t know you. 
  2. If you want to be a good AR, you need the technical understanding of Law 12 about Fouls and Misconduct. And probably, not far away, your watch says it’s offside. You then still need to know how and when to help. You need understanding of refereeing. 
  3. Never leave anything to chance. You should never think: I should have put in more. You may not always be right, but you need to feel good about yourself.

Michelle O’Neill: top AR from Ireland

Michelle O’Neill will be involved in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final. She’s the assistant referee of Stéphanie Frappart. They first worked together at O’Neil’s first main Uefa tournament, the u19 Euro’s. “Where I was very succesfull and got all the way the final.”

Seven years later they will add another pinnacle to their cooperation with the World Cup final in France.  A story about Michelle O’Neil, a top level assistant referee from Ireland.

Michelle O'Neill

In a video from FAI Ireland (embedded below) she tells a lot about her career as referee. A few lessons for you.

Be passionate

The woman from Ireland is very passionate about her job as referee. She smiles when talking about it, excitement everywhere when being asked about going to France for the World Cup. 

It’s just over ten years ago that she started as a referee in 2008. After her succesfull u19 Uefa Euro’s in 2012, she has been to Papua New Guinea for the under 20’s World Cup, 2015 Women’s World Cup in France, Uefa Euro 2017 in The Netherlands, the u20 France World Cup last year. In the latter she again worked with Stéphanie Frappart from France and  “got all the way to the final again”.

She calls her career “unbelievable”. 

Always try to get better

As a player Michelle O’Neill was succesfull, but she was not always with the referee decisions. “I always was frustrated about, you know, the decisions in the matches”, she says to FAI. She always thought: “Hey guys, you can do better here.” That’s why she went into refereeing herself after finishing her career. 

And getting better and better is something you’ll see throughout her career. She wants to be the best. “Four years ago there was 300 of us on the list for this tournament and that’s when the campaign started”, she says. “Now there is 47 of us going to the World Cup out of that huge amount.”

That means for her that she wants to give all to be “very fast, very strong, very fit”. 

She made the final cut and is proud to be representing Ireland. “And in terms of my results I would be in the top 5% of the World Cup this year. So I am very very happy with that stats.”

Work hard for good games at national level too

Michelle O’Neill wants to officiate as many good games as possible. Not just in Europe, but also at national level.  She is an assistant referee in the highest men’s league since 2013.  What helped her getting ready for the 2019 Women’s World Cup is “getting the opportunities to have so much high quality matches here in Ireland”, she says. “That is a huge boost for me.”

In 2017 Esther Staubli officiated a game at FIFA’s u17 tournament in India, but did you know Michelle O’Neill was involved in the u19 men’s Youth League in 2014-2015? She assisted referee Robert Rogers in the game between Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund

Gain experience as much as you can

“I’ts so exciting to come back to a World Cup”, Michelle O’Neill says. Because she has been at a World Cup before, she felt much better before the tournament.  Call it “more mature if you want to say that”. And the experience she gained helps her a lot. Less stress. “I am a lot more relaxed, as I know the work I’ve done over the last four years.

For her it’s a huge honour to be present in France. To FAI she tells that it’s amazing to be “standing in the middle of it all officiating it in front of 64.000 live spectators and then millions across the world. I mean it’s a huge, huge stage of Women’s football.”

Michelle O’Neill video

The smoothest handshake for referees

The smoothest handshake for referees in the player tunnel is by Joe Fletcher. The Canadian assistant referee is – at least amongst referees – known for this.

PS: next week a full interview with this Canadian top AR.

Joe Fletcher and goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

It all happens during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The 18th of June in Estádio Maracanã. The referees are ready and all players line up in the tunnel for the group stage game between Spain and Chili. Someone shakes hands with Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Assistant referee Joe Fletcher is next … 

And then this happens.

Video of the handshake

People remember him about this situation a lot, Fletcher says. “Even when there was a new clip about goalkeepers from FIFA, they highlighted Casillas.” And of all the footage they got from this experienced Spanish goalkeeper, they pick the footage from the World Cup. “And again, that handshake shows up. Yeah it’s funny now”. 

Fletcher was happy the game went really smooth, so he could have a laugh about this afterwards. “And when we were leaving the stadium we talked about it. Sean Hurd says: It had to be you and I am happy it was you and not me”. 

Check out the story about Mark Geiger.

Single Double Single High Intensity Interval Test

The Single Double Single High Intensity Interval Test is a new way to test the fitness level of referees. Besides the regular FIFA Fitness test for referees and assistant referees this is an extra option. It will officially be used at the highest levels, but you might want to give it a try.

In this blog post you can download the audio files to practice, watch referees perform the test and see requirements for both men and women.

Explanation of the test

Below you see a picture of the test. The idea of the test is that you run from A to D. Then you’ll have a rest of 6 seconds. Then you run to the pole and back (DPD). Again six seconds rest. And then from D to A.

Total time is 76 seconds for one lap, including 24s rest. Below more about repetition.

Both men and women run the test in the same time. The only difference is that women run 3x 17m from A to D, which is 9m (3×3) less than male referees.

Single Double Single High Intensity Interval Test

Repeating the test

The total test consists of 3 parts for both men and women. After 5 repetitions (one part), there is a rest period of 60 seconds. So in total you do 15 repetitions.

Downloads Single Double Single High Intensity Interval Test

Download the audio files for the Single Double Single High Intensity Interval Test.

Good luck with practising. And check out the video below to see how other referees do the test.

I advice you to put down cones for B and C as well, as the beeps in the audio files give you a signal of these positions as referrence.

Goalkeepers and penalty kicks

Goalkeepers and penalty kicks: the 2019 Women’s World Cup has shown us something new. The use of VAR during this tournament changes a lot. Where goalkeepers usually take a step forward with penalty kicks, the video referee interferes at this final tournament in Paris.

But is the VAR correct to do so?

Yes, he is.

The penalty in France vs Nigeria

It all starts with a penalty kick in the game between France and Nigeria. VAR Danny Makkelie asks the referee to go the screen, after which she awards a penalty kick. Wendie Renard from France misses it, but the VAR intervenes. Goalkeepre Chiamaka Nnadozie from Cameroon is not touching the line with at least one foot.

In the 2019-2020 Laws of the Game the following sentice is added.

“When the ball is kicked, the defending goalkeeper must have at least part of one foot touching, or in line with, the goal line.”

Video highlights of that game

Interesting is what the commentator in the clip says. “In fairness to referee Melissa Borjas” she has told the goalkeeper she needs to stay with two feet on the goal-line.

The referee then warns the referee for the second kick and asks her if she understood the rules.

Similar situations

In the game between Scotland and Argentina a similar situation appeared. The Argentinian penalty kick is saved, but the referee orders a retake. 

And have we seen this before?

Yes, during a men’s game when Dutch referee Björn Kuipers was active at the 2016 European Championships. “Unfortunately, that goalkeeper moved forward, it was not spotted by the referee’s team”, Collina said then. Check out the situation.

VAR Protocol

The VAR protocol is very clear on this matter. So FIFA wants video referees to intervene if needed. The protocol says: “The referee can initiate a review for an offence by the goalkeeper or kicker which directly affects the outcome of the penalty kick and thus whether a goal is scored. If an offence is
clearly identified, the necessary disciplinary action must also be taken.”

But what about players that enter the penalty area too early?

“Encroachment can only be reviewed if

  • an attacker who encroached scores or is directly involved in a goal being scored
  • a defender who encroached prevents an attacker playing or being able to play the ball
    in a situation where a goal might be scored

Other encroachment offences and other infringements which do not directly affect whether a goal is scored cannot be reviewed.” See a case study about encroachment by players.

Read the full VAR protocol

How it changes things

Because the 1/8 final game between Norway and Australia went to kicks from the penalty mark, referee Riem Hussein had to deal with a unique situation. IFAB has given dispensation to not book goalkeepers (more about that below), but as referee you don’t want 10 out of 10 kicks being retaken.

What Hussien did was a long talk with both goalkeepers to prevent that from going to happen.

Referee Riem Hussein talking with the Norwegian and Australian goalkeeper

IFAB explanation of the idea behind the rule change

The IFAB has put it this way in the 2019-2020 Laws of the Game pdfs.

“Goalkeepers are not permitted to stand in front of or behind the line. Allowing the goalkeeper to have only one foot touching the goal line (or, if jumping, in line with the goal line) when the penalty kick is taken is a more practical approach as it is easier to identify than if both feet are not on the line. As the kicker can ‘stutter’ in the run, it is reasonable that the goalkeeper can take one step in anticipation of the kick.”

To be clear: that a goalkeeper has to be on his or her line is not new. It’s just clarified.

No yellow cards during kicks from the penalty mark

During the 2019 Women’s World Cup there will be no yellow cards for goalkeepers for leaving the goal-line during kicks from the penalty mark. During the 90 minutes of the game or in extra time the goalkeeper will be booked.

Mellissa Borjas shows goalkeeper a yellow card

The IFAB, who decide about the laws of the game, has explained the main reasons for this in a statement.

  • the presence of VARs acts as a far greater deterrent than the caution
  • the presence of VARs greatly increases the likelihood of any offence being detected and, as goalkeepers are likely to face a number of kicks during KFPM, there is a higher risk that a goalkeeper will be sent off for receiving a second caution if already cautioned in normal time, or two cautions during the KFPM
  • unlike during ‘normal time’, when a sent-off goalkeeper can usually be ‘replaced’ by the team substituting an outfield player for a specialist reserve goalkeeper, substitutions are not allowed in KFPM so an outfield player would have to become the goalkeeper

So far this is a temporary dispensation and it will be applied in all other competitions.

Also new on goalkeepers and penalty kicks

“The referee must not signal for the penalty kick to be taken if the goalkeeper is touching the goalposts, crossbar or net, or if they are moving e.g. the goalkeeper has kicked/shaken them.”

Refereeeing Assistance Programme

Uefa launches a Refereeing Assistance Programme twice a year. It contains clips of recent match situations. You can install this on your pc or mac and train your refereeing knowledge. In case you missed it, it’s quite interesting material to develop yourself.

Refereeing Assistance Programme 2019:1

Refereeing Assistance Programme 2018:2

Thanks to my readers I got the 2018:2 Refereeing Assistance Programme 2018:2

Refereeing Assistance Programme 2018-1

Refereeing Assistance Programme 2018:1

Thanks to readers of my blog I can present you Refereeing Assistance Programme 2018-1. Please be aware the files are huge (10GB), so download via wifi.

Some experience problems with installing MAC versions. This document might help you.

Refereeing Assistance Programme 2017-2

Thanks to readers of my blog I can present you Refereeing Assistance Programme 2017-2.

New situations from the last six months. Quite interesting for us all. Download the files and practice at home.

Some experience problems with installing MAC versions. This document might help you.

Refereeing Assistance Programme 2017-2

RAP Women’s Euro 2017

A great download with match situations from the Women’s Euro in 2017.

Refereeing Assistance Programme Women's Euro

Referee Assistance Programme 2017-1

I am trying to get the 2017-2 version for you, but can already share the first edition of 2017 with you. In a few days I hopefully also have the Women’s Euro version.

Download Refereeing Assistance Programme 2017-1.

(below you’ll also find older versions)

Refereeing Programme Euro 2016 in France

Refereeing Assistance Programme Uefa

Download the Refereeing Assistance Programme files

Please note the files are links to WeTransfer files. Because the size is about 5 GB, make sure you have your wifi on. I personally have not tested the MAC-link, because I have a PC.

RAP Euro 2016 for PC

RAP 2016 (edition 2)

Download for PC
Download for MAC

I got these links via Arbiter Café on Twitter. Much appreciated!

How the RAP works

You can watch video’s in different categories, but will not see the correct call immediately. Make sure you think for yourself what decision you will make. Then you can click at the right bottom text, which gives you an explanation.

Good luck and enjoy!

Explanation RAP2016