Explaining the Latest Handball Rule Changes And Updates in Football

Written By Robert O

Handball isn’t just a sport; it’s a showcase of human ability and the power of teamwork. 

Having trouble staying on top of the newest handball rule changes in football? Trust me, you’re in good company. I’ve spent a fair amount of time diving into the latest updates for the 2022/23 season to demystify them once and for all.

In this post, I’m eager to walk you through these tweaks and explain their implications on the field—let’s make heads or tails of it together. Shall we get started?

Key Takeaways

  • Players will not be penalized for handballs if the ball bounces off their own body first, thanks to new guidelines from FIFA and UEFA for the 2022/23 season.
  • The “sleeve rule” allows players to use parts of their arm near the shoulder without getting a handball offense, making the game fairer.
  • Referees now have more freedom in deciding what counts as a handball, especially when it comes to accidental versus intentional touches. This means fewer yellow and red cards for these situations.
  • Technology like VAR plays a big role in identifying handballs on the field. It helps make games more just by catching incidents that referees might miss.

Understanding the Handball Rule in Football

A soccer player's hand gets hit by the ball during a game.

The handball rule in football can be tricky. It’s all about whether a player uses their arm or hand to touch the ball on purpose during a game.

Explanation of the Handball Rule

The handball rule seems simple at first, but it’s full of details. It says players cannot use their arms or hands to touch the ball on purpose. But, there are times when it’s okay, like if the ball hits your arm when it’s close to your body.

That’s not considered a handball because of the “sleeve rule.” This rule lets players use parts near their shoulder without getting into trouble.

What really matters is what you meant to do. Did you mean to touch the ball with your hand? If yes and it stops a goal, that might get you sent off with a red card for unsporting behavior.

But sometimes, refs have tough calls to make—like when a player scores right after touching the ball with their arm. Even if they didn’t mean it, that goal doesn’t count.

Historical Overview of the Handball Rule

After breaking down the handball rule, let’s jump back in time to see how it all started. The International Football Association Board (IFAB), the group that sets the rules for soccer, has been tweaking these laws since 1886.

Changing times have led to many updates.

Originally, soccer didn’t even have a rule for handling the ball. Players were free to catch or hit it as they pleased, which seems wild now! Over years, IFAB made rules stricter to keep the game fair and fun.

For example, they decided only goalkeepers could handle the ball in their penalty area while outfield players faced penalties for using their hands elsewhere on the pitch. These steps helped shape modern soccer into what we love today—fast-paced and thrilling with moments of skill shining through.

Recent Changes to the Handball Rule

A soccer player reacts to a handball call during a game.

Football rules keep changing, and so does the handball rule. These updates aim to make games fairer and clearer for everyone involved.

FIFA and UEFA Guidelines on Handball

FIFA and UEFA made some big changes to the handball rule for the 2022/23 season. They said players should not get a handball offense if the ball hits their arm or hand after bouncing off their own body.

This new guideline aims to lower penalties for unintended handballs, making games fairer. UEFA also suggests that refs relax a bit on calling handball offenses. This means they will give fewer yellow and red cards for these situations.

They hope these updates help everyone—players, coaches, and fans—enjoy soccer more. With fewer interruptions from strict handball calls, matches can flow better. Plus, this approach helps refs make clearer decisions during tense moments in a game.

It’s all about keeping the sport enjoyable while maintaining justice on the field.

Differences in Handball Rules for Attackers vs Defenders

Getting into the thick of it, understanding the differences between handball rules for attackers and defenders is like peeling an onion – there are layers to it, and sometimes, it might bring tears to your eyes. Let’s lay it out in a way that’s easy to digest.

Use of the Arm/HandIf the ball touches an attacker’s hand/arm when it leads to a goal or a goal-scoring opportunity, it’s deemed a handball.Defenders get a bit more leeway. Accidental handballs that don’t result in a direct goal-scoring opportunity often go unpunished.
Position of the Arm/HandAny hand/arm movement that makes the body unnaturally bigger or is above/beyond the shoulder level can be considered a handball.Exceptions exist, like when a defender is sliding to block a shot and their arm is in line with their movement. This is often not considered a handball.
DeflectionsUEFA suggests that if the ball hits another part of the player’s body before touching their hand/arm, it shouldn’t count as a handball. But, this leads to debates, especially if it results in a goal.The same guideline applies, but defenders often see this rule work in their favor, especially in crowded penalty areas where deflections are common.
IntentThe concept of intent doesn’t play much of a role. Even accidental handballs by attackers in critical moments can be penalized.For defenders, the intent, or lack thereof, can influence the referee’s decision. Accidental handballs are more likely to be overlooked.

This table lays bare the nuances between how attackers and defenders are judged on handballs. The rules aim for fairness but often find themselves at the center of heated debates. Football, a game of moments and movements, continues to evolve, and with it, so do the rules. And let’s be honest, that keeps things interesting, doesn’t it?

Handball Rules in Specific Situations

Handball rules in soccer can get pretty detailed. Let’s dig into how these rules apply in specific situations.

  1. Arm position matters a lot. If a player’s arm makes their body unnaturally bigger, it’s often called handball. Think of someone blocking a ball with their arms wide open—yeah, that’s usually a no-go.
  2. But there’s a “sleeve rule” for some leeway. Players can use their shoulder without getting penalized because the top part of the arm doesn’t count in handball offenses.
  3. Shots that bounce off another part of the player’s own body to their hand or arm don’t count as handballs now, thanks to UEFA’s recommendation. This change gave players a bit more freedom on the field.
  4. Defenders have it tougher than attackers. If defenders commit a handball offense in their penalty area, it can lead straight to a penalty kick for the other team.
  5. However, for attackers, any handball offense leading directly to a goal or goal – scoring opportunity gets strictly judged and usually results in losing possession or disallowing the goal.
  6. Distance matters too! If the ball travels from close range and hits a player’s hand or arm, referees might not call it as a handball since they consider reaction time.
  7. Lastly, intentional versus accidental plays are crucial distinctions refs make during games. They look at whether players deliberately use their hands or arms to gain an advantage.

Next up, we’ll tackle why these rules have stirred debates among fans and players alike.

Controversies and Debates Around the Handball Rule

The handball rule stirs up a lot of talk. Fans and players often clash over calls made by referees, especially when it comes to the intent behind a handball or how a ball deflecting off a player’s arm can change the game.

The Role of Intent in Handball Decisions

Deciding if a player meant to use their hand can be tricky. For the 2022/23 season, rules say that what a player intended doesn’t usually matter for most handball calls. But, there’s one big exception.

If a player uses their hand on purpose to stop a goal, refs have to decide if they should send them off the field. UEFA wants this rule tweaked so that intent plays a bigger role in these situations.

This change could mean less automatic red cards for players who block goals with their hands without meaning to. It makes figuring out what players are thinking very important for referees and video assistant referees during matches.

Next up – how deflections impact handball rulings brings another layer of excitement and debate to the game.

The Impact of Deflections in Handball Rulings

Deflections play a big part in handball rulings. If the ball hits another player before touching someone’s hand, it can change the way refs make decisions. The Premier League has rules that look closely at deflections.

They only call it handball if the deflection clearly affects how the ball meets the hand or arm. UEFA goes a step further by saying if the ball bounces off your own body to your hand, it shouldn’t count as an offense.

This makes sense because you can’t control where the ball goes after such bounces.

This approach tries to make football fairer and less confusing for everyone on and off the field of play – players, coaches, and fans alike often get upset over unclear or harsh calls.

By focusing on clear differences made by deflections, officials aim to keep games flowing more smoothly without unfair penalties disrupting them.

Let’s move on now and talk about future prospects and potential changes to this rule.

Future Prospects and Potential Changes to the Handball Rule

Looking ahead, the handball rule may see more tweaks and adjustments. UEFA’s recent guidance for relaxing penalties has sparked conversations. They suggest not calling a handball offense if the ball first bounces off a player’s own body.

This change aims to reduce confusion and frustration during matches. But it has also led to debates among fans and players alike.

Technology like VAR (Video Assistant Referee) plays a big role in how rules evolve. With its help, referees catch more incidents on the field. As technology improves, we might see even better ways to decide what counts as a handball.

This could make games fairer and reduce disputes over referee decisions. The goal is always to keep football enjoyable and just for everyone involved.


Football rules can be tricky, but we’ve tackled the handball rule changes head-on. With IFAB and UEFA tweaking things recently, players and fans get clarity—at last. No more guessing games on what counts as a handball! The “sleeve rule” lets players use their shoulder without fear, making the game fairer.

And with UEFA easing up on penalties for handballs, expect fewer yellow cards flying around. It’s all about making football better for everyone watching and playing. So there you have it—handball rules made simple and straightforward.

Let’s keep our eyes on the ball as football keeps evolving!

For a deeper dive into how these rules apply in various scenarios on the field, visit our detailed guide on handball rules in specific situations.


1. What’s the new rule about handballs in football?

The latest update says that a handball must be deliberate for it to result in a free kick or penalty. This means, if a player accidentally plays the ball with their hand or arm, it won’t automatically be called as a foul.

2. Can you get a yellow card for accidental handball now?

Nope! Players will only receive yellow cards for unsportsmanlike conduct related to deliberate handballs. Accidental ones don’t count towards misconduct—so, breathe easy!

3. How do referees decide what’s an accidental versus deliberate handball?

Referees look at whether the player’s hand was in an unnatural position at the time of contact or if they moved their hand towards the ball on purpose. It’s all about intention and positioning.

4. Has anything changed about how penalties are given for handballs?

Yes indeed! Now, even if a ball touches a player’s arm when it is close to their body and not making their body unnaturally bigger, it could still lead to a penalty if deemed deliberate—that’s why players need to be extra careful inside the goal area.

5. What role does VAR play in deciding on handball incidents?

Video Assistant Referees (VAR) can review potential handball situations that were missed or misjudged by the main referee during live play—they help ensure no wrong calls are made regarding these tricky decisions.

6. Are there any changes related to indoor football and its handling rules?

Indoor football follows similar principles but remember—the space is smaller and reactions quicker, so both players and referees have less time to think through those split-second decisions on whether something was an intentional act or just part of playing fast-paced action.

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