Do all penalties within the 18 yard box automatically result in a penalty kick? If I recall during my “ref” days (now retired), penalty kicks occur only if the ref determines the offensive player who was fouled had a clear ability to score a goal. That is, if an incidental hand ball (hand hits ball, not ball hits hand) occurs within the 18 yard box and the ref determines there was no scoring opportunity a free kick at the point of contact (even within the 18 yard box) is award the offensive team. Defensive line must be 10 yards away or as far as possible (even if they must stand on the goal line).

Just want to make sure; I’ve haven’t ref’d for many years and wonder if the laws have changed.

Now a spectator.

USSF answer (July 19, 2011):
What you describe has NEVER been part of the Laws of the Game. We hear of this concept every now and then in various parts of the country and welcome the opportunity to address the matter. Thank you for asking.

All — let us stress it: ALL — direct free kick fouls committed by the defending team in its own penalty area must be punished with a penalty kick, whether or not the player who was fouled had a clear chance to score a goal. Other punishment may also be meted out, but that is outside the parameters of your question.

Accidental (or “incidental”) handling of the ball such as you describe is not a foul of any sort, so should never be punished in any way — although we are aware that some referees do it.

If an indirect free kick offense (foul or misconduct) were to be committed within its penalty area by the defending team, the restart would be an indirect free kick and the defending team would have to remain at least ten yards from the spot of the kick , unless it was within the goal area. Again, other punishment might also be levied, depending on the particular offense and its consequences.