Handball – History, Rules & Informations

Handball – a court of 40 x 20 meters, a ball consisting of leather or synthetic material, measuring 58-60 cm and weighing 425 – 475 gram, 14 players and two referees – is considered to be one of the fastest, toughest and most exciting team sports of the world. 

A handball team consists of a goalkeeper and six outfield players, who form the basic formation, plus up to seven substitutes, who can be changed as many times as desired during a game, however, only within the designated substitution area. The field players are, logically, allowed to touch the handball with their hands and all other body parts that are located above the knee. Here it is differentiated between dribble and catching. Field players are allowed to take up to three steps for up to three seconds at a time without dribbling. If a player transgresses this percept, the game will be interrupted by the referee and continued by a free throw of the opposing team.

The goalkeeper differs from the field players in terms of clothing and is allowed to fend any ball thrown towards the goal using all body parts. The goal area is the area in front of the goal, which only the goalkeeper is allowed to enter (as well as the defending team, if they do not gain any significant advantage). If a player of the attacking team enters the goal area, the game will be interrupted by the referee and continued with a throw-out of the defending team. The goal area is delineated by two quarter circles with a radius of six metres around the far corners of each goal post and a connecting line parallel to the goal line with a distance of 6 meters. The goalkeeper is allowed to leave this area, however, not with a controlled ball. As almost every player of a handball team can be used as a goalkeeper, a goalkeeper might be used as an outfield player while an outfield player, who is specifically marked, does the part of the goalkeeper, especially at the occasion of tight scores just before the end of the game.

The overall goal is to place the ball in the goal of the opposing team and to have scored more goals than the opponent at the end.

Each goal has a circle clearance area of three meters in width and two meters in height and must be securely bolted either to the floor or the wall behind. Moreover, the goal posts and the crossbar have to be made out of the same material and the three sides visible from the playing field must be painted in two contrasting colours. The goals also have to feature a net, which should be fastened in a way that the ball thrown into the goal does not leave the goal under normal circumstances again, in order to avoid confusing goal situations.

The playing time at handball amounts to two periods of 30 minutes, whereas the clock is not being stopped whenever the game is interrupted, except the referee imposes to do so. Moreover, there is a break of 10 minutes between the two half times and the half time as well as the end of the game is signalled acoustically. Every team is allowed to take one 10 minutes time-out per half time, in some leagues and competitions up to three Time-outs are allowed per game. Such a time-out can only be called if the team is in possession of the ball and the representative of the team signals the desired time-out to the timekeeper, who will interrupt the game by using an acoustic signal.

In general, draws are possible. Nevertheless, at games, where a decision has to be made, like at tournaments, no draws are possible. If a game ends in a draw after regular time, there are at maximum two overtimes of five minutes with a one-minute break each. Should the additional time not decide the game as well, the winner is determined in a penalty shootout. Here, five players of each team are appointed and have to execute Seven-meter throws interchangeably. If the game is still tied, the penalty shootouts continue until a decision is reached.

In general, a seven-meter throw is the equivalent to a penalty kick in football or ice hockey, however, it is far more often awarded in handball than in football or ice hockey. A seven-meter throw is awarded whenever an opposing team player has illegally prevented a chance of scoring. Due to the dynamics and characteristics of the game, both teams usually get multiple seven-meter throws awarded during a game. Any player can execute these penalty throws as a team usually has an expert in seven-meter throws, which applies to the shooter as well as the goalkeeper, who is often substituted at seven-meter throws. A mitigated version of the seven-meter throw is the free throw. These are awarded for any infringements of the opposing teams that happened at least nine meters away from the goal. The player or the team against which the infringement is whistled, must drop the ball in an instant and the opposing team continues the game at the spot where the infringement took place.

Two equal referees, who have a rather wide discretion when managing a game, make seven-meter throw, free throws and all other decisions. Their general duties include the securing of fairness as well as the adherence to rules on the playing field and beyond. In practice, one of the referees functions as the field referee while the other one is responsible for the goal. This should guarantee that all situations can be considered from both sides and consequently, assessed correctly. Although handball is categorized as physical sport and body contact is not forbidden, moves against the body of an opposing player are only allowed to a limited extend. Consequently, it is only allowed to block the body of the opponent, as the referee will immediately blow the whistle in case of reaching around, holding, pushing, hitting, tripping, jumping into opponent and alike. These fouls are usually punished with a free throws or a seven-meter throw. In addition, referees can rely on a progressive scale system of sanctions in the case of particularly strong rule violations, especially in the case of hard or brutal actions (against the bodies of other players), or at least perceived as such by the referees.

This progressive penal system punishes the first infraction with a yellow card, whereas only three warnings or yellow cards per team should be shown. Once the three warnings /yellow cards have been used against a team the referee can make use of 2 minutes penalties against individual players. In the case of serious rule violations, such a 2-minute time penalty can already be pronounced before a team has used up their warnings / yellow cards. If a player vehemently protests against the 2-minutes time penalty, he can be given a double two-minute suspension. Should the player further insult the referee(s), the player is likely to be disqualified. The qualification, which is signalled by a red card, is the harshest punishment in handball and is only applied with regards to specially defined rule violations, such as verbal abuse of the referee, hazardous to health foul play or in case of the third 2-minute penalty against the same player. Once a player is disqualified, the affected team has to play with one player less for two minutes and the affected player is not allowed to return back on the field for the remaining game. In particularly serious disqualifications, the referee can also prepare a report that may result in a suspension of the player for more games. Due to the physical style of playing, the just mentioned penalties are usually the rule rather than the exception and the teams are therefore often numerically decimated at the end of a handball game.

So much about one of the toughest and most exciting team sports in the world in highly compressed form. In a further text about handball, we will take a closer look at the history of this fascinating sport, its spreading, the strongest leagues as well as the corresponding betting offer at Rivalo, which offers the usual attractive odds.