The Rules of Handball

Rules of Handball

Handball is characterized by spectacular moves and high speed. So that you as a handball newbie or as a spectator can keep track of your next game, we present the most important handball rules.

Playing field

 In a handball game, two teams compete against each other, the goal of which is to get the BALL to bring into the opposing goal. The whole thing happens on a playing field that is 40 x 20 m. The handball field is limited by the goal line and the sideline. In the middle, it is divided by the center lines. An important area of ​​the handball field is the goal area: this is marked with a solid semicircle and is located in a radius of 6 m in front of the goal. Only goalkeepers are allowed in this area. The rest of the players – whether attackers or defenders – are prohibited from entering. The free-throw line is also very important: this dashed line is 9 m in front of the goal. The 7 m line is between the goal circle and the free-throw line. 

 The course of the game

According to the rules, a handball team may consist of a maximum of 14 players, with 6 field players and one goalkeeper per team being allowed to be on the field at the same time. Two halves are played, each lasting 30 minutes. In between, there is a half-time break of 10 minutes. If there is a tie after this season, there will be extra time. Here, five minutes each time are played twice, with a one-minute break in between. If no decision has been made after the extension, there is a 7-meter throw. When throwing 7 meters, the so-called best-of-5 rule is used. Each team is allowed to designate 5 players, who then take turns to throw a goal. If no decision can be made after the 10 throws, 5 players are selected again by each team, who take turns taking goal throws until a goal is scored. Good to know: Only players who have not been disqualified during the game can be selected for this.

Unlike in soccer, all players can be replaced several times during the entire match. This happens with a flying change. The on-the-fly change may only take place via the exchange line described above. If a handball player illegally crosses the line, he makes a mistake. For this, he is punished with a suspension. In addition, there is a free throw for the opposing team.

General rules of the game

In HANDBALL, the ball may be played with the hands, arms, head, or trunk. Playing with the thigh or knee is also allowed. The handball may be thrown, but fist movements and punches are also allowed. Playing the ball with your lower leg or foot is against the rules. A player must be allowed to hold the handball in his hands for a maximum of 3 seconds. He is also only allowed to take 3 steps with the ball in hand, after which he has to play it or bounce it. Forward movement is possible while bouncing. If the player then holds the ball again, the 3-step or 3-second rule above applies.

We would also like to introduce you to further handball rules that are intended to ensure that the game runs smoothly: A goal must be only counted when the ball has completely crossed the goal line. If the ball goes over the sideline or the goal line, there is a throw-in for the team that was last on the ball. If a goalkeeper or an opponent touches the handball and it then passes the goal line, the goalkeeper throws the ball back into play from his goal area.

Throwing off

After the referee has kicked off the game, the throw-off is carried out in the middle of the playing field. The executing player must stand with one foot in his playing field and touch the centerline with the other. All opposing field players must meanwhile keep a distance of at least 3 m from the throwing player. The teammates are allowed to run into the opposing half of the field immediately after the whistle.

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Free throw

If there is a foul during a handball game, there is a free throw. This is carried out at the point of the foul. In the event of rule violations occurring closer than 9 m in front of the goal, the free throw is taken at the free-throw line. Again, the opponents must be at least 3 m away from the executing player.


A throw-in occurs when the handball goes out. The player throwing in must stand with one foot on the outside line.

Goal clearance

The goal clearance is used when the HANDBALL leaves the field via the goal line and was last touched by the attacking team or the goalkeeper of the defending team. The goal clearance is also used when the ball remains in the goal area. The throw is carried out by the goalkeeper.

7-meter throw

If a clear chance of scoring is prevented, either by a foul or by entering the goal area, a 7-meter throw will result. This is intended to restore equal opportunities. For this, the thrower positions himself in front of the 7-meter marker and tries to score a goal after the whistle. As long as the player is holding the ball, he is not allowed to touch or cross the line. During this time, all other players stand on the free-throw line and must keep a distance of 3 m from the thrower. The goalkeeper may stand up to 4 m in front of the goal.

Violations and penalties

A handball player may use his arms and hands to take the ball from an opposing player. It is not allowed to hold on to it, to grip it, to hold it, or to push it. These offenses are punished with a free throw, which is carried out at the place of the foul. If a foul occurs between the goal area and the free-throw line, the free-throw is taken at the point outside the line. Alternatively, a 7-meter throw can also be pronounced.

If a player receives a yellow card, it is considered a warning and does not directly affect the game. If he commits a second offense worthy of yellow, he receives a 2-minute penalty. Meanwhile, his team has to play with one less player. A third yellow card automatically draws a red card with it. The affected player will be disqualified and will no longer be allowed to participate in the remainder of the game. If a player behaves in a particularly aggressive or grossly unsportsmanlike manner, he can get a red card for his first offense.

The direction of the game

A handball game is led by two referees who monitor compliance with the rules. One of the two is used as a goal referee and one as a field referee. Often only one referee is present at games in the lower age groups or lower divisions. It is the job of a referee to count the goals and the penalties. They are also the last resort if there is any uncertainty about the playing time. If a rule violation has occurred, a referee has the right to interrupt the game at any time.