If a player is screening the ball and it is in playable distance, is it legal for the screening player to raise their arms to make it harder for the opposing player to get to the ball?
USSF answer (September 8, 2009):
Under normal circumstances, “screening” means that there was no physical contact. Here is a citation from the 2009/2010 Laws of the Game, Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (IGR), has to say on the matter:
“Shielding the ball is permitted. A player who places himself between an opponent and the ball for tactical reasons has not committed an offense as long as the ball is kept in playing distance and the player does not hold off the opponent with his arms or body. If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent.”
When physical contact occurs, which is what the IGR means when it refers holding off an opponent, the act has been converted into “holding” and is punished with a direct free kick. The shielding player is allowed to use a normal amount of arm and elbow room, but not to extend his/her arms beyond that range.