Handball Rules Comparison: Understanding the Differences Between Handball Rules in Football and Soccer

Written By Robert O

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

Navigating the maze of handball rules in football and soccer can feel like decoding a complex puzzle, especially with the flurry of updates from heavyweights like FIFA and UEFA. In this piece, we’re peeling back the layers on these regulations, shining a spotlight on pivotal differences and fresh changes—like IFAB rolling out the “sleeve rule” for the 2022/23 season.

You’re not just going to grasp the mechanics behind each regulation; you’ll get a peek into their purpose too. Hang tight—it’s about to get intriguing!

Key Takeaways

  • FIFA and UEFA updated handball rules for football. They introduced the “sleeve rule” which says if the ball touches a player’s arm above the sleeve, it’s not a handball.
  • In soccer, updates by IFAB also include the “sleeve rule” to reduce confusion about what counts as a handball. Changes aim to make games fairer and cut down on harsh penalties.
  • For attacking players in football, any goal scored right after a handball isn’t allowed. But defenders have some exceptions when they use their arm for support while sliding.
  • Olympic Handball has its own set of rules for playing, scoring, and fouling that differ from football and soccer. It requires quick movements and strict adherence to how players handle the ball.
  • Referees play a crucial role in ensuring fair play across these sports. They rely on both observation and technologies like VAR (video assistant referee) to make accurate calls during matches.

Understanding Handball Rules in Football

A soccer ball hitting a player's arm in a crowded penalty box.

Football keeps changing, and so do its handball rules. FIFA and UEFA keep updating them to make the game fair. They now look at player intent and where the ball hits their body. This is tricky for players because what counts as a handball can change based on whether you’re attacking or defending.

It’s all about making sure each match is as just as possible, without letting unfair advantages slip through.

Latest changes by FIFA, UEFA

FIFA and UEFA made big updates to the handball rules for this season. They introduced the “sleeve rule.” Now, if the ball touches the upper part of a player’s arm, it’s not a handball.

This change aims to make games fairer and reduce confusion.

UEFA also wants referees to be less strict about some handballs. If a ball hits a player’s body and then their arm, it might not be an offense. They even said that not all handballs should get yellow or red cards right away.

This new approach could lead to fewer players being sent off during key matches. It shows they’re trying to keep football enjoyable but fair.

The role of intent in handball rules

Moving from the recent changes by FIFA and UEFA, let’s talk about how intent plays a part in handball offenses. The rules now say that whether you meant to handle the ball or not doesn’t always matter.

Sounds strict, right? Especially when your body is in an unusual position and the ball hits your hand or arm. Even if it happens by accident, referees may still call it a foul.

This shift touched on something big – players no longer need to intend for the ball to hit their hand or arm for it to be an offense. If they’re making their body unnaturally bigger, then it’s a problem.

This might sound tough but think about it; this helps clear up confusion during games. Now, everyone – players, coaches, fans – knows what counts as handling the ball.

Ball-to-hand rule explanation

The ball-to-hand rule is pretty straightforward. It kicks in when a player doesn’t mean to touch the ball with their arm or hand. Instead, the ball hits their arm or hand when they can’t move it away in time.

This means, even if the ball touches an arm, referees won’t blow the whistle if it seems like an accident. They look at whether players make their body unnaturally bigger with their arms out from their sides or above their heads.

Referees have a tough job deciding what’s accidental and what’s not. Thanks to VAR (video assistant referee), they get some help making these calls during games. The idea is simple – if your hands are close to your body and you don’t try to use them to block the soccer orb, then most times, you’re clear of breaking any laws of the game regarding unfair advantage with arms or hands contact.

This keeps plays fair and ensures no one gets penalized for something they didn’t try to do on purpose.

Differences in handball rules for attackers vs. defenders

Moving from the ball-to-hand rule explanation brings us directly to how the rules apply differently to attackers and defenders. It’s fascinating how the game’s dynamics change based on these roles. Let me break it down for you.

Handball OffensePenalized if the ball hits their arm during a goal-scoring action.Not penalized for handball if sliding to block and using their arm for support.
IntentIntent is less considered unless it’s clear the arm movement was natural.More leeway given regarding intent, especially in split-second defensive actions.
Scoring SituationsAny goal scored directly following a handball, intentional or not, is disallowed.A defensive handball leading to a penalty kick depends on the nature and impact of the handball.
Arm PositionArm position scrutinized closely; an unnatural position leading to a handball call is often decisive.Given the nature of defensive moves, there’s a bit more flexibility in how arm position is judged.

This table gives you a clear view of how attackers and defenders must navigate the handball rules. While attackers face stricter scrutiny to ensure fair play during scoring chances, defenders get a bit more room to maneuver, given the nature of their role. Yet, the essence remains the same – fairness and maintaining the spirit of the game.

Comparing Handball Rules in Soccer

A soccer field with a handball and soccer ball, showcasing the difference in size and texture.

In soccer, the handball rules have changed a lot over time. We’ll look at how these rules are different and why they matter. Keep reading to find out more!

How handball laws have evolved over the years

Handball rules in soccer have seen a lot of changes. Back in the day, players could get away with a lot more. But as time went on, things got stricter. IFAB, the group that makes the rules for soccer games, brought in updates for the 2022/23 season.

They said it’s okay if the ball hits the upper part of a player’s arm near their shoulder—people call this the “sleeve rule.” And there’s been talk about making handball calls less strict to cut down on yellow and red cards.

UEFA also stepped up with new guidelines for referees to follow starting from the 2023/24 season. These changes focus on easing off when calling fouls for handballs that happen because of a deflection or are not deliberate.

The idea is to keep games flowing better and reduce punishments that feel too harsh.

Now let’s talk about how these laws compare with those in Olympic Handball.

The ‘Hand of God’: A historic handball incident in soccer

Moving from how handball laws have changed, let’s talk about a moment that left everyone talking. In 1986, during the World Cup quarter-finals, Diego Maradona used his hand to score a goal against England.

This move went down in history as the “Hand of God.” The referees didn’t catch it. Everyone debated this for a long time because it was such a big deal.

This incident shows how crucial clear rules and good officiating are in soccer. Even with lots of eyes on the game, mistakes can happen. That goal helped Argentina move forward in the tournament and eventually win it all.

It reminds us all why we need things like video assistant referees (VAR) today – to help catch what humans might miss in the heat of the moment.

Handball Rules in Olympic Handball: A Brief Overview

In Olympic handball, each team tries to score by throwing the ball into the other team’s goal. They start with a throw-off and play on a marked court. The players must follow rules for how they hold, pass, and shoot the ball to avoid penalties.

Fouls lead to free throws or even more serious penalties if they are bad enough. This game is full of fast moves and strict rules that make it exciting to watch and play. If you’re curious about all the ways this sport keeps players moving and fans cheering, keep reading!

Start of the game

Hey, handball fans! I’ve always found the start of an Olympic handball match pretty exciting. It sets the tone for the whole game. Did you know that each game kicks off with a unique process? Let me walk you through how it all goes down, step by step.

First, teams line up on their own side of the court. They’re buzzing with energy, ready to dive into action. The referee holds onto the ball at the center line, preparing for what comes next.

The referee blows the whistle. This is it—the signal everyone’s been waiting for. The game springs to life as one team takes their shot at making history.

A player from one team throws off from the court’s center after that whistle. They’ve practiced this moment, knowing it could set them off on the right foot.

Passing begins immediately. Teammates dart around, finding open spaces and calling for the ball. Their movements are sharp and quick, a dance they’ve rehearsed countless times.

Defenders tighten up, reading every move. They’re like hawks eyeing their prey, ready to swoop in and turn things around with a well-timed steal or block.

And just like that, we’re fully immersed in another thrilling match of Olympic handball—a game where every second counts and heroes are made one play at a time.

The excitement doesn’t stop until the final buzzer sounds. With players giving their all on both ends of the court, it’s a spectacle that never fails to entertain.

Scoring rules

After learning how the game starts, it’s time to dive into how teams score points. Scoring is simple in theory but understanding the nuances helps appreciate the skill involved. Here’s a clear breakdown of the rules around scoring:

  1. Each goal equals one point. Players aim to throw the ball into the other team’s net, which adds a single point to their team’s total.
  2. The ball must fully cross the goal line inside the net for a point to count. If it bounces out or stays on the line, no point is awarded.
  3. Only the goalie can touch the ball with their feet inside their own goal area. If an outfield player does this, referees award a penalty throw to the other team.
  4. Goals can be scored from any action – throws, headers, or even accidental deflections by defenders.
  5. Penalty throws are granted for fouls within a defender’s six-meter area that prevent an obvious scoring chance. These are face-offs between a single attacker and the goalkeeper from seven meters out.
  6. Free-throws for minor infringements outside of six-meter zones still offer chances to score if players act quick and smart.
  7. Players cannot step into the crease (goalkeeper’s area) when taking shots. Violating this rule leads to disqualification of the goal and resumes play with a goalie-throw.

Each of these elements highlights not just how points get on the board but also how strategy and skill are crucial in handball—a sport where every move counts towards victory or defeat on that scoreboard flashing above_.

Foul recognition

I’ve been watching handball for a while now, and understanding how referees decide on fouls is crucial. Here’s what I’ve learned about foul recognition in the game.

  1. The rule of thumb – If a player hits another player instead of the ball, it’s usually a foul. This keeps the game fair and safe for everyone.
  2. Watching the feet – Players can’t step inside the goal area when they throw the ball. If they do, referees will call it a foul. This rule helps keep goalkeepers from facing impossible shots.
  3. Looking at the hands – It’s okay to catch, throw, or hit the ball with your hand unless you’re holding onto it too long. Referees watch closely to make sure no one delays the game by keeping the ball in their hands too much.
  4. Body contact – The game allows a bit of physical play, but there are limits. You can’t hit, push, trip, or grab someone on purpose. If you do, you’ll hear the whistle blow.
  5. Jumping into someone – You can jump to shoot or block a shot, but if you jump into an opponent purposely to gain an advantage, that’s a foul.
  6. Dribbling rules – Once you stop dribbling and hold the ball with both hands, you must pass or shoot. Starting to dribble again is illegal and counts as “double dribbling.”
  7. Free-throw line respect – During free throws, defenders must stay 9 feet away from the person taking the throw. Breaking this space results in re-taking the throw and possibly getting a warning.
  8. Goalkeeper privileges – Goalies have special rights in their area but also restrictions; picking up a back-pass is not allowed.

Each of these rules plays its part in making handball exciting yet orderly., ensuring that both skill and strategy win games not fouls or unfair play

Handball Officiating Guidelines

Referees play a big role in any handball match. They make sure the game runs smooth and fair. Their eyes are always on the ball, players, and the clock. They use whistle signals, show yellow and red cards for unsportsmanlike conduct, and call free kicks or penalties.

Refs must know all the rules by heart. This includes updates from IFAB about “sleeve rule” changes or how deflections affect handball calls. It’s also their job to decide when to use video review technology to check their calls.


Handball rules might sound confusing at first. Football and soccer treat handballs differently. This can make fans scratch their heads! But, we’ve seen how each sport has its own set of guidelines.

From the sleeve rule in football to the dramatic changes in soccer’s laws over years, it gets interesting. Knowing these rules helps us understand decisions on the field better. So next time you watch a game, you’ll get why players argue with referees or celebrate a surprise decision.

Isn’t it cool to know more about your favorite sports?

For more detailed insights into how games are controlled and fairness maintained, check out our comprehensive guide on handball officiating guidelines.


1. What’s a handball in soccer, and how is it different from football?

In soccer, a handball occurs when a player deliberately uses their arm or hand to touch the ball. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) makes this clear. If it happens, the other team gets a direct free kick or even a penalty if it’s in the box! Football has its own rules but doesn’t worry about handballs since players often catch and throw the ball.

2. Can you get a yellow card for handball in both sports?

Yes, and no! In soccer, yes — if you stop a goal-scoring opportunity with your hands on purpose, expect a yellow card or even red to flash before your eyes. Football? Well, there’s no such thing as getting booked for using your hands unless it’s something like holding that breaks other rules.

3. What are indirect free kicks related to handballs?

Oh,, an indirect free kick in soccer is pretty interesting! It happens when the handball wasn’t deliberate — think more accidental., like bumping into someone at the mall kind of accident. The game pauses,, and then one team gets to kick without directly scoring from that kick.

4. Are there any famous incidents involving deliberate handballs?

Absolutely — who could forget Maradona’s “Hand of God” or Thierry Henry helping France qualify with his handy work against Ireland? These moments go down in history,, sparking debates everywhere from pubs to professional panels about fairness and sportsmanship.

5. How do umpires decide what counts as deliberate?

It’s all about intention., which can be super tricky., right? Umpires look at how the player positioned their body,, whether they made themselves bigger on purpose,, or tried playing the ball with their arm extended away from their body – these clues help them make that call.

6. Does technology play any role in identifying handballs today?

You bet – VARs (Video Assistant Referees) have entered the chat! They help by replaying footage so referees can take another look at controversial plays., including potential handballs,. making sure nothing shady slips through during those crucial moments near goal posts or during corner kicks.

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