Kai, a U13 – U19 Referee, asks:
I’ve got a general question about girls and hand ball offenses when players cross their arms to cover their chests. Is there a rule of thumb? I’ve had more experienced referees give me directly conflicting guidance on whether they’d whistle it or not. (Speaking specifically here about a U14 game, but general question applies.) Thanks.
We try to avoid directly distinguishing between genders when it comes to the Laws of the Game. There is no “rule of thumb” – the rule applies to all five fingers and the arm up to the shoulder joint (insert smiling emoji here). Both by general interpretation and, since the 2016-2017 Laws of the Game, by more explicit guidance, a handling offense should not be called if the contact was:
- not deliberate
- not a “hand-to-ball” situation
- not and could not be expected due to the speed of and/or short distance from the launching of the ball
- entirely defensive (i.e., an involuntary response to perceived danger to any part of the body that could be painfully harmed by contact with the ball)
and the player does not, after contact judged to be not illegal by these guidelines, subsequently clearly attempt to direct the ball.
Note that the 4th bullet point expressly makes no mention of differences between genders. It is the Referee’s responsibility (particularly given the emphasis on safety underlying the Laws of the Game) to determine if protecting any specific body part is reasonable. We, ourselves and personally, have at least a half dozen important body parts that we would unhesitatingly seek to protect. Your mileage may differ.
By the way, we are sure most Referees have heard the expression “feel the foul” — they should also try to “feel the pain.”