Each week we will give insight into certain fouls which will assist referees in determining what to look for. Last week we discussed charging and today we will look into handling offenses.

Although the actual wording in the Law is “handling” or “handles the ball”, most people and referees refer to it as “hands”. Remember, for an offense to be called, it must be deliberate.

First let’s determine where the infraction can occur on the body. It is from the shoulder to the fingers, not the top of the shoulder. There are certain guidelines in determining if the referee should consider an offense.

  • Is the arm in an unnatural position? What this basically means is, is the arm away from the body? If so, then in most situations a handling offense occurs.
  • Reaction. Does the player committing a handling offense have time to react? Is the play so close that the player cannot move the hand? Consider a deflection from another player within a very short distance.
  • Distance and speed. Is the ball coming so fast that the player committing the offense cannot move out of the way?
  • And the old saying/judging—ball to hand or hand to ball? Did the part of the arm move towards the ball or did the ball just merely hit the arm?

Umpire Safe SignThe problem is that most of the people watching the game do not know nor understand the guidelines listed above. It is up to us as referees to educate when possible but that may be difficult during the game. One technique to use is when you see a possible handling offense and you deem NOT to be an offense, use the baseball umpires safe sign.

This will indicate to everyone that you feel that the handling is not deliberate. This signal may not stop the spectators and coaches from protesting but it shows them that at that moment there is no offense.

Remember, goalkeepers within their own penalty area may use their hands.