New handball rules set for 2019/2020 EFL League Two season explained

One of the most controversial rules in football has been adjusted ahead of the start of the 2019/2020 season.

Finally, football policy makers refined the laws surrounding handball.

For years people in the game have argued over what is intentional and what counts as handball.

But those days now seem to be over with the IFAB adjusting the rules of the game to make handball laws clearer and easier to understand ahead of the new campaign.

Here’s what you need to know about the new rules.

What are the new rules?

There are a number of significant rule changes to handball.

First, if a player scores with the use of a hand, both accidental and intentional, it will be disallowed.

The biggest change is to intention – handballs no longer need to be intentional to be given.

It all depends on the positioning of the arm or hand – if the arm or hand makes the body “abnormally bigger”, it’s handball.

The rules say that an arm or a hand above the shoulder can “rarely be a natural position”. Having the arm or hand in this position is considered a risk on the part of the player.



Referee Bjorn Kuipers signals the handball during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

Of course, if the arm or hand is moved away from the body, this will be considered to make the body “abnormally larger” and a handball will be given.

The only exception is when a player puts their hand on the ground for support during a sliding challenge or a fall. If the ball touches an arm or a hand in this situation, it will not be given as a handball.

Are the deviations different?

Yes. Players will have ‘extra leeway’ when the ball deflects off an arm or hand.

If the ball deflects off an opponent or teammate and it is deemed impossible for the player to move his arm or hand in time, a handball will not be awarded.

This is also the case if the ball comes quickly from a body part of their own.

For example, if they accidentally head the ball over their own arm, the handball will not be awarded.



Jamie Vardy appeals for handball during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Leicester City.
Jamie Vardy appeals for handball during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Leicester City.

Why have the rules changed?

The rules have been in need of clarification for some time, and it’s no surprise to see the IFAB tweaking them in the latest “improvements” to the Laws of the Game.

For years, we’ve heard pundits make comments like “unnatural positioning” when that language wasn’t even in the rules.

We also saw many disagreements about what was and wasn’t intentional – it was almost impossible for the officials to decipher, often giving handball away whether it was really intentional or not.

So that language was tossed out, with the IFAB clarifying things for officials ahead of the new season.

These rules should make things easier to understand for everyone involved.

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