The Whistle - Rounds 15 and 16

Each week www.a-league.com.au will be speaking with FFA Director of Referees Ben Wilson to review some of the contentious refereeing and VAR incidents from the weekend’s matches.

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Ben, there were a number of incidents involving the interpretation of handball in Rounds 15 and 16, could you talk us though these?

Firstly, we must understand the considerations in the Laws of the Game around handball. Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm. The following must be considered:

  • The movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)

  • The distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)

  • The position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence.

In Brisbane, Melbourne Victory are awarded a penalty after Luke De Vere’s arm makes contact with the ball in his own penalty area. De Vere goes to ground with his arm away from his body. He takes a risk by making himself bigger and blocks the pass with his arm. This is deemed to be a deliberate act and is deliberate handball. The VAR checked the incident. The referee’s coaching panel supports the referee’s decision to award a penalty kick.


In Wellington the ball bounces off Louis Fenton’s chest. Fenton then moves his hand towards the ball and makes contact with the ball. The referee awards a corner kick believing it has only come off the player’s chest. The VAR checked the incident and recommended a review for a penalty kick for deliberate handball. The referee requested an on-field review. After watching the incident himself, the referee did not believe that the initial decision was a clear and obvious error and he did not change his original decision.

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The referee’s coaching panel has determined the referee should have accepted the recommendation of the VAR and awarded a penalty kick for deliberate handball because Fenton makes a deliberate action to move his hand towards the ball.


In Adelaide there is a penalty claim after the ball strikes the arm of Aiden O’Neill in his own penalty area. The referee allows play to continue. O’Neill’s arm is in a natural position down by his side and the ball unexpectedly hits his arm from a short distance having deflected off the goalkeeper. The VAR checked the incident and upheld the referee’s decision. The referee’s coaching panel supports the referee’s decision not to award a penalty kick.


Finally, in Perth the ball strikes the arm of Matthew Spiranovic in his own penalty area and the referee allows play to continue. The player’s arms are tucked into his body and he tries to avoid the ball hitting his hands as he turns away from the shot. The VAR checked the incident and determined that the on-field decision was not clearly and obviously wrong. The referee’s coaching panel supports the VAR’s action not to intervene on this subjective decision.