August 23, 2016

Video Training: Handballs blocking shots on goal (solved)

Creating uniformity while maintaining an adequate and situation-based judgment is a task every referee instructor knows when training his or her match officials. This particularly counts for handballs that are undoubtfully one of the blindest spots in terms of consistent Laws of the Game application and that are often judged diametrically different from one referee to the other.

Although identifying deliberate handballs is a task which is surely difficult enough in itself, handballs blocking shots on goal are an even more special case as they mostly occur inside the penalty area, result in a decision in favour of or against a penalty kick which then also decides about goal or no goal, win or loss or even promotion, qualification or relegation of teams.

In last week's Champions League play-offs, three of these incidents occurred. Have a look at them and vote! The 3rd Team's assessment will be placed here by tomorrow.


Handballs mostly are grey areas so that a clear black-and-white-judgment is rarely possible in this area of refereeing. However, it is essential to be aware of the concrete "shades of grey" that apply for each individual incident.

If we, for example, say that a handball was deliberate by 60:40%, this does not really help the referee as he has to take a black-or-white decision (deliberate / undeliberate). Generalizing video clips and match situations into black and white reduces the complexity of those situations, though. Therefore, we decided to consult kind of "swarm intelligence" - you. Below please find the results of the votes given by 281 voters.

The red bar shows the part of the voters who deem the respective situation as a deliberate handball requiring a penalty kick. The green bar shows the opposite: Those percentages represent the opinion "no deliberate handball".

The blue bar shows our approximate recommendation.

Situation 1: Even though the header is made from a short distance resulting in a low reaction time for the defender, the handball must be deemed as deliberate: The hand is raised quite carelessly and rather moves towards the ball than vice versa. It makes the body bigger and thus blocks the header on goal. The hand position is neither natural nor player-typical. If we keep the only real argument against a penalty kick aside, we deem this situation as a relatively clear deliberate handball. Correct decision by the Additional Assistant Referee who saw what his teammate, the referee, could not see himself due to probably obstructed visual corridors. 74% of you agree with that.

Situation 2: This situation is much more complex. The defender throws himself into the shot on goal and clearly carts his right arm out, which is stiff. He thus makes his body bigger to block the shot. The distance is neither very short nor large.
You can argue that the defender did not see the ball at the moment of the handball, which is basically correct and could be a reason for many associations to deem this as an undeliberate handball. However, at the exact moment of the shot itself, the defender had visual contact to the player. He knew the ball would come, he was able to expect it.
Taking everything into account, the penalty kick is rather correctly awarded in our view. However, this is mainly the result of integrating UEFA's handball policy into our judgment (compare it with situation B15 in their RAP 2016.1). Merely following the Laws of the Game and the term "deliberate", you can come to a different conclusion. It has to be questioned whether deeming this as a deliberate handball is really compatible with the spirit of the game.
These doubts is well mirrored by the voting result: 52:48% in favour of "deliberate".

Situation 3: While the first two clips showed handballs that resulted from a clear and significant enlargement of the defending players' body surface, the defender here does not make himself bigger with his hand. Although the hand is not in the most natural position and rather stiff, the defender turns it away from the ball with an extremely low reaction time due to the high pace of the shot. His hand does not move towards the ball either.
For our taste, this is rather no deliberate handball and maybe even one which should be pointed out as a (comprehensible) mistake. 57% of you agree with that.

Additional Question:

Should a yellow card been given for blocking a shot on goal? Although the new Law 12 does not explicitly say it, UEFA's guidelines and the ones of some major associations still demand yellow cards for deliberate handballs that block a shot on goal. In all three cases - as long as you deem it as deliberate - a yellow card was therefore correctly given (and in 3 one can even discuss about a red card for denying an obvious scoring opportunity / goal).


  1. 1) Deliberate handball, correct penalty and YC.
    2) Never deliberate in the real meaning of the term. The player tries to block the shot on goal in a fair manner. For me, it was better to play on. I would have accepted more a call if the touch had been made with the other arm. But in this case, defender has not any perception of the ball. But still, I wouldn't assess as mistake a penalty call. For me more PLAY ON than penalty.
    3) Even less punishable than the previous situation, for me PLAY ON.

    1. For my opinion its the same:
      1. Deliberate and penalty+YC.
      2. Not deliberate, no card and play on.
      3. Not deliberate and play on.

    2. @Chefren
      What's your view on the penalty appeal for handball turned down during 1st leg of Porto-Roma just before the 1st half? For me it was no penalty because the hand wasn't unnaturally placed and there was enough doubt to term it as deliberate I think! To be honest it also seemed that the defender tried his best to take his hand away from the path of the ball and thus I have a feeling that no PK is a decent call by the referee!! The hand position looked natural and I would probably say that it's not a deliberate handball and hence no penalty kick... We did discuss about it in short in an earlier section.. Can you please share a detailed analysis of that one as well? Would be very helpful! Thanks! 😃

    3. It is a very difficult case, as said I would back the referee without assessing the decision as black or white. Reasons for Play-On can be absolutely accepted. I would like to see this situation included in the next RAP.

    4. I'm with you on this! UEFA is known to back referees is these cases and allow them to act as per their discretion... As we cannot classify the decision as black or white with help of replays that itself implies that there is a considerable amount of doubt... So Play-On rather a fair call most probably... Thanks a lot for the analysis! And I also agree with you that this will be very interesting if added in the next UEFA RAP!

  2. Eriksson could have benefited from this prior to yesterday's match. Unfortunately for Jonas, he got them backwards.

    1. Jonas Eriksson is one of the favourites for the 2017 Champions League Final to be played in Cardiff! 😁

    2. Soham, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? How you or others view him does not take away from the simple fact that he got two handling situations wrong yesterday. He may very well be in Cardiff or he could very easily not. There is so much football to be played that it's truly up in the air.

    3. @Nando
      It was a sarcastic comment directed towards his disastrous performance in Monaco, particularly the second handball penalty given by him where the ball came off the defender's back!!
      And yes of course it depends how he performs overall in group stage and knockout matches leading to the final... If he does well he will stand a chance and if he doesn't then obviously he will head back home instead of Cardiff... If he puts up a Monaco-like show then he is more than likely to fly back to Sweden at the end of the season rather than Wales!!


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