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Deliberate handling or not (case study)

Deliberate handling or not? That is always an interesting discussion for tv pundits and players, but also for referees. What are the criteria for a deliberate handball?

KNVB has made an interesting video with lots of examples, but I’d like you to do some homework first.

Get a pen and paper. Write down as many things you know about deliberate handling, because that will help you discover the rules the best.

Difficult isn’t it? How many bullet points do you have?

Now check out the video of non-deliberate handling. Below the video you’ll get the explanation by the Laws of the Game.

Laws of the Game on deliberate handling

According to the KNVB all these examples are non-deliberate handling. But why? Check out what criteria are mentioned in the Laws of the Game on page 96.

“Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm. The following must be considered:

  • 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 offence
  • touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.)
    is an offence
  • hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) is an offence”

How many of these bullet points did you write down before watching the video? I hope you like these small exercises that will keep your LOTG knowledge on par. Want to test that on a weekly basis? Check out the LOTG Quizzes.

No deliberate handling according to Danny Makkelie


  • James

    Thanks, this is a perfect lesson on this topic.

    Another criterion I use, which is somewhat encompassed by your bullet points, is whether or not the hand/arm is in a natural position. Thus, a hand/arm hanging down by the player’s side is in a natural position; a hand/arm raised in the air is not.

    A good example of this is Bastien Schweinsteiger’s “famous” handling in the closing minutes of the 2016 Euro semifinals. I agree with the referee’s call and his decision to award a penalty kick (and a booking) because, even though there doesn’t seem to be any deliberateness on Schweinsteiger’s part, the fact that he had his arm raised in the air (unnecessarily), rendered it handling.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      That is the situation where he puts his hands in the air and touches it, right? I think that is an unnatural position indeed. The referee probably have given the yellow because of a promising attack (attacker could head it towards the goal) or unsporting behaviour (although I find it a bit unlucky), but the fact it’s handling does NOT mean it’s a yellow as well.

    • Peter Grove

      I think it’s important to remember that the law has one primary consideration – the handling must be deliberate. The other factors are things to be borne in mind as helpful in making a judgement on that primary requirement. Also remember that the law specifically says that hand/arm position does not necessarily mean there is an offence.

      So natural/unnatural position of the arm should only be used insofar as it helps the referee to make a decision as to the deliberate nature of the handling.

      It sometimes seems to me that arm position is used by some as the sole basis on which to make the decision. For me, both logically and based on what the law says about arm position not being necessarily definitive, this is wrong.

      Just because the arm is in an unnatural position, it does not always mean an offence has been committed, it is just one of the factors to be considered.

  • Michael

    What about the situations where the arm is in front of another part of a player’s body, and would have hit that part if it wasn’t for the arm in front? For example – arm/hand in front of a player’s chest, face or by their side when turned?

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      That really depends on the position of the arm. But having the arm down on the side of your body, makes it a natural position to me. In all other situations I wonder if that’s the case.

  • Tommy Mc Guinness

    With regard to the taking of a corner kick (in your Quiz 18). I thought the law was amended that the ball must now clearly be “kicked” to avoid the situation that was orchastrated by Ryan Giggs for Man. Utd a few years back

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      There is a rewording indeed, Tommy. The Laws of the Game now mention that the ball needs to move clearly. That’s what I put in the question. The exact wording is: “The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves; it does not need to leave the corner area.” Clearly is not defined in centimetres, but if the ball barely moves, that’s not clearly for me. Just putting your feet on top of the ball and kicking it 1 or 2 inches. Not clear to me.

  • David Halter

    So I’m not sure about the last clip there. The ref signals that his arm was near to his body, which is not the case. There is surely no intention there, but a lot of defenders nowadays are very aware of the possibility of a handball and keep their hands behind their backs. He makes himself biger there. Whats your oppionion Jan?

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      The arm is hanging there at the moment the ball touches it. Before the touch it’s in a more unnatural position, not when it touches the hand. For me it’s not a handball.

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