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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.

Update: Below I’ve added a clip from German Bundesliga as well.

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 reason for the law change

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.

Match situation in Germany

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)


  • Ref

    While I agree with you on tbe second bullet point being critical, I’d say the phrase before the bullet points is just as critical “It’s an offence if a player: gains possession/control of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm and then:” with emphasis on the player who touched the ball with hand/arm gaining posession/control. This was never the case in the incident and if laws of the game were applied correctly, the goal should have stood.

  • Marlon

    Interesting, but I see it becoming trouble for lower leagues with only one ref. If he goes back to let’s say an accidental handball which was a minute ago resulting in a goal and he calls it off, it’d really be hard for all the players to understand.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      But then you’re talking about a minute ago. If you don’t get the goal or goal-scoring opportunity right away, then don’t call it. It’s not a rule you will fall back on untill ball possession changes or so.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Alex, after the LOTG change I’ve heard many people – also refs – say that every touch of the hand is now a handball. That is not correct.

  • Nyondo Shem.

    it’s just clarification on wether it is a handball or not for the defending team inside hopefully u want understand the penalty area

  • magdy rezk

    Jan applies the principle of FIFA “teach the teacher”
    Here in this blog we learn
    The text of the new law is clear
    A goal can not be calculated by touching the ball by hand from an attacker  before scoring the goal even if it is not intentional
    In precise and difficult cases where the referee does not see the handball, Unscoring a goal by a referee is a difficult decision, especially if it is the only goal of the game So the referee must make a review in the field of play in order to be reassured and confident in his decision.

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