Coaches, players, fans … referees … no-one understands the new handball laws, probably because those who drafted the (so-called) laws don’t understand them.

I’ve lost count this season the number of times penalties have been given for handball when they manifestly should not have been given. And making matters even more confusing is the number of times penalty shouts have been waved away when they absolutely should have been given, going by the precedent of similar events.

Markus Babbel and Alen Stajcic have been particularly affected because their teams have lost points on multiple occasions due to this farcical state of affairs, but pretty much all teams have been left scratching their heads and no-one seems to be trying to do anything about it. The head of the referees issuing a clarifying statement going forward might be a decent start. 

Although it didn’t change the result, last night’s decision first to penalise, and then to red card, Harrison Delbridge, was completely wrong. The new rules specifically provide for the fact that an arm between the body and the ground has every right to be there, so should not result in a free kick (unless otherwise obviously deliberate).

I reproduce, once again, the new laws below:


  • Deliberate handball remains an offence
  • The following ‘handball’ situations, even if accidental, will be a free kick:
    • The ball goes into the goal after touching an attacking player’s hand/arm
    • A player gains control/possession of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm and then scores, or creates a goal-scoring opportunity
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which has made their body unnaturally bigger
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm when it is above their shoulder (unless the player has deliberately played the ball which then touches their hand/arm)

The following will not usually be a free-kick unless they are one of the above situations:

  • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from their own head/body/foot or the head/body/foot of another player who is close/near
  • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which is close to their body and has not made their body unnaturally bigger
  • If a player is falling and the ball touches their hand/arm when it is between their body and the ground to support the body (but not extended to make the body bigger)
  • If the goalkeeper attempts to ‘clear’ (release into play) a throw-in or deliberate kick from a team-mate but the ‘clearance’ fails, the goalkeeper can then handle the ball

It is natural for a player to put their arm between their body and the ground for support when falling!

“Thank God!” think both the referee and the VAR referee, finally a clear pronouncement on when a handball situation in the box is not a penalty.

I was literally shaking my head in despair last night – the penalty call was bad enough – and when Adam Kersey signalled VAR and ran over to the monitor, I actually thought he was going to overturn the penalty.

Instead, he issued a disbelieving Delbridge with a red, and I would have smashed my new telly if my wife hadn’t held me back.

I simply cannot believe how ridiculous these new handball laws and so-called explanations are, how poorly they are understood, how ill-trained the referees are.

I can understand how frustrated the players, coaches and fans are.

Can we please just go back to the old law – has to be deliberate – end of.

 Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. He will have a new novel out shortly.