Welcome to 'Black & White'

The PFRA's weekly discussion on a Hot Topic from the past week in football.

Episode 2, 2021.


This week we look at a handball decision from the match between Brisbane Roar v Western United


R19 BR v WU 82’

In the 82nd minute of the match, Brisbane Roar’s Dylan Wenzel-Halls had a goal disallowed after a handball offence was identified by the VAR. The incident features on the video from 4:00 onwards.

First, we look at what the IFAB Laws of the Game state regarding handball:




Handling the ball

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.


It is an offence if a player:


  • deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, including moving the hand/arm towards the ball

  • scores in the opponents’ goal directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper

  • after the ball has touched their or a team-mate’s hand/arm, even if accidental, immediately:

    • scores in the opponents’ goal

    • creates a goal-scoring opportunity

  • touches the ball with their hand/arm when:

    • the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger

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


The above offences apply even if the ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from the head or body (including the foot) of another player who is close.


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


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

  • directly from the head or body (including the foot) of another player who is close

  • if the hand/arm is close to the body and does not make the body unnaturally bigger

  • when a player falls and the hand/arm is between the body and the ground to support the body, but not extended laterally or vertically away from the body


The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. If the goalkeeper handles the ball inside their penalty area when not permitted to do so, an indirect free kick is awarded but there is no disciplinary sanction. However, if the offence is playing the ball a second time (with or without the hand/arm) after a restart before it touches another player, the goalkeeper must be sanctioned if the offence stops a promising attack or denies an opponent or the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.




The footage from the camera located behind the goal shows that the ball clearly hits the arm of Wenzel-Halls after being played by the Western United defender. When determining whether a handball offence has occurred in this instance, the referee will consider the following:


  • Has the player deliberated touched the ball with their hand/arm? No – in this instance, there does not appear to be a movement of the arm to the ball.

  • Has the player touched the ball with their hand/arm when the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger? No – Wenzel-Halls’ arm is in a natural position for a player running and his arm has not made his body unnaturally bigger.

  • Has a goal been scored, or a goal-scoring opportunity been created, immediately after the ball touches the hand/arm, even if accidental? Yes – after the ball strikes Wenzel-Halls’ arm, his next touch is the shot which enters the goal.


In 2020, IFAB amended the Laws of the Game in relation to the third question above to clarify that the goal or goal-scoring opportunity must occur immediately after the ball touches the hand/arm. It would not be considered immediate if, after an accidental handball, the ball travels some distance (pass or dribble) or there were several passes before the goal was scored or the goal-scoring opportunity was created.


As with any goal scored, the VAR checked the phase of play immediately prior to the goal and identified the handball, also confirming that the handball immediately led to a goal being scored. The VAR recommended an On Field Review and the referee correctly disallowed the goal.


Yours in football and fair play,


Picture 1.png

Handball immediately before a goal is scored

Episode 1, 2021.


This week we look at an offside decision from the match between Central Coast Mariners and Sydney FC.


R18 CCM v SFC 33’

In the 33rd minute of the match (1.10 min in the video above), an offside offence was recognised and penalised by the on-field Referee Team. This decision has created some discussion.


The PFRA breaks down this decision as follows:


Firstly, we can see in the clip that Sydney player, Bobo, is clearly in an offside position when the ball in played by a team-mate.


Next, we take a look at what the IFAB Laws of the Game state regarding Offside:




A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched* by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or

  • interfering with an opponent by:

    • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or

    • challenging an opponent for the ball or

    • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or

    • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball


gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:

  • rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or an opponent

  • been deliberately saved by any opponent


A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.


In this clip, we are looking at the “Gaining an advantage” section of Offside.


In the image below, it is clear that there is contact by the defender on the ball, however, this must be a 'deliberate play' by the defender.


The PFRA understands there is some confusion around the difference between what is “deliberately played” and what is “rebounded/deflected”. Referees always use 'considerations' when determining if an offence has been committed. These are universal considerations to ensure as much consistency as possible. 


For clarity and transparency, the considerations that Referees use when making this particular determination are:


  • Does the defender have time and options to play the ball?

  • Is the defender in control of his actions?

  • The distance and space between the pass and the defender playing the ball? Short/Long?

  • Is there an action or a reaction by the defender?


In the incident over the weekend, the on-field Referee Team correctly determined that:


  • The defender had almost no time to deliberately play the ball;

  • The distance and time between the pass and contact was incredibly short; and

  • The defender reacted to what was in front of him as opposed to making a deliberate action


Based on the above considerations, the on-field Referee Team correctly determined that the ball rebounded/deflected off the defender and that it was not a deliberate play by the defender.


The on-field Referee Team followed the correct VAR protocol by delaying the flag and whistle until after the attacking play finalised (resulting in a goal).


The VAR Team subsequently checked the decision (as a goal was scored) and correctly determined that an offside offence had occurred using the same considerations above.


Yours in football and fair play,


Screen Shot 2021-04-27 at 9.25.43 am.png

Offside Position

Screen Shot 2021-04-27 at 9.25.59 am.png

Offside Offence


Ball rebounds / deflects off a defender (not a 'deliberate play' according to the universal Offside Considerations)