A defender has fallen on the ground in the “D”, the area just above the penalty area inside the penalty arc. The ball rests nearby in the D, just touching the penalty area line. As an attacker fast approaches, the defender, in a panic, uses his hand to deliberately knock the ball back to his goalkeeper. His hand contacts the ball outside the box and never reaches the penalty area line.

Should a direct kick or a penalty kick be awarded to the opposing team? That is, is the handling considered to be “in the penalty area” because the ball is “in the penalty area”, even if the actual contact occurs outside the penalty area?

USSF answer (July 14, 2008):
If by “just touching” you mean that the ball was overlapping the penalty area (PA) line, that placed the ball WITHIN the PA, so it makes no difference that the hand contacted the portion that was outside the PA. The correct restart would be a penalty kick — after the player was been properly punished.

The correct punishment depends on the position of other players during the event in question. If the deliberate handling did not deny the attacking team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, then the punishment is a caution for unsporting behavior.

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