POTW10 Handling the Ball (when it deflects off another part of the body)

 

I apologise for covering handball again but POTW reflects the main talking points in the game and at the moment handball is without doubt the most contentious, controversial and confusing!

There have been a lot of questions asked about Liverpool’s first penalty award in the opening game against Leeds on Saturday and whether the fact that the ball was deflected by Leeds defender Robin Koch’s knee onto his arm meant that it negated any deliberate act by Koch and therefore a penalty-kick should not have been awarded.

The laws states:

“It is usually an offence if a player:

  • touches the ball with their hand/arm when:
  • the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level (unless the player deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm”

Except for the above offences, it is not usually an offence if the ball touches a player’s hand/arm:

  • directly from the player’s own head or body (including the foot)

When the above was introduced into Law 12 last year, the International FA Board, our law makers, gave the reason behind its introduction on page 163 of the Laws of the Game:

  • if the ball comes off the player’s body, or off another player (of either team) who is close by, onto the hand/arm it is often impossible to avoid contact with the ball

It was impossible for Robin Koch to avoid contact with the ball.

When defending in such a position, it was only natural for Koch to have his arms a reasonable amount away from his body.  Koch, or any defender, is not expected to have his arms tucked into his side at all times.  Defenders would be unbalanced and would not be able to move swiftly in any direction.  Koch’s arms were in a natural position.

The ball hit Koch’s knee and in a split second his arm.  It was “impossible to avoid contact with the ball”.  In such circumstances the IFAB say that the hand ball should not be penalised.

If Koch had leaned over to his right and allowed the ball to hit his hand, then he would have deliberately made his body bigger.  The IFAB in such circumstance would want his deliberate action to be penalised.  But that was not the case.

Ironically a similar offence happened in the MLS last week with a different outcome. In the game between Los Angeles FC and Portland Timbers, as LAFC’s Brian Rodrigues attempts to play the ball past Timber’s defender Dario Zuparic, the ball is deflected from Zuparic’s shin onto his outstretched arm. It is a similar situation to the Liverpool PK, only in that game referee Michael Oliver had a clear view of the handball but may not have seen the ball come off the defender’s knee as there was another player in line with the referee, the ball being shot, and Koch’s knee. The SKY camera behind the goal showed this.  However, in the MLS game referee Jair Marrufo had no view whatsoever due to it being on his blind side through no fault of his own.

Therefore, Marrufo had to rely on the VAR, Alejandro Mariscal, who correctly advises him that the ball was played off the defender’s leg onto his arm so therefore it was not a penalty. Marrufo didn’t need to check with VAR as it was a factual decision. It seems that the VAR at Liverpool, Paul Tierney, did not convey to Oliver that same information if he was afforded the view that SKY had from behind the goal.It would have resulted in the decision being overturned.

REMINDER

“It is usually an offence if a player:

  • touches the ball with their hand/arm when:
  • the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level (unless the player deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm”

Except for the above offences, it is not usually an offence if the ball touches a player’s hand/arm:

  • directly from the player’s own head or body (including the foot)

The explanation on page 163 of the Laws of the Game states:

  • if the ball comes off the player’s body, or off another player (of either team) who is close by, onto the hand/arm it is often impossible to avoid contact with the ball

This was not a subjective decision open to debate: it was factual, and I emphasize that the Liverpool decision was incorrect based on the Laws of the Game.

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