Handball’s Last Minute: Time for a Rulebook Overhaul

Some close and controversial matches have made it clear to me that the IHF should seriously consider a major overhaul of the official rulebook to address play in the final minute of matches. Here are some of the problems that often arise and how the IHF could fix them.

[b]1) Determining whether the ball crossed the line before or after time expires is extremely dificult.[/b] Television replays of Norway’s last second goal against South Korea clearly show that it did not cross the line before the clock struck 30:00, but in defense of the on court officials it took a frame by frame analysis after the match to make that determination. It was unbelievably close and no one can honestly say that they were 100% sure one way or the other in real time.

[b]SOLUTION: [/b] Change the rule concerning last second shots, so that the criteria is that the player must release the ball prior to time expiring. If the player releases the ball in time then the shot counts if it goes in the goal. Some might argue that this simply changes the decision point and that the referee could still mess up that call. This is true, but the referee has a much greater chance of being in proper position to make the ball release judgment than he does it making an extrapolated 3-d assessment of whether the ball has crossed the imaginary goal line at 30:00.

[b]2) Intentional fouling to stall out the game.[/b] Egypt was chastised on newsgroup forums for not taking out the Russians with an intentional foul at half court prior in the closing seconds of their match. This common tactic has gotten downright ugly in some recent club matches. The EHF has suspended players for unsportsmanlike conduct, but to no avail, this tactic continues. Why, because the incentive of guaranteeing a win is too strong in relation to punishment after the fact.

[b]SOLUTION: [/b]Reward flagrant, intentional fouls in the last minute of a match with a 7 meter penalty throw. Some might say, that this penalty is too stiff, but I say if you want to solve this problem once and for all, this will do it.

[b]3) Official stoppage of the clock in the last minute of a game is inconsistent and at the discretion of the referees. [/b] For instance, a stoppage of play is warranted if a player is fouled and deposits sweat on the court (mop up time), but not if he’s fouled and stays on his feet. Is the stalling team moving out to 9 meters on a free throw fast enough? That’s up to the referee.

[b]SOLUTION:[/b] For the last minute of a match, automatically stop the clock for all stoppages of play. This “basketball” timekeeping solution is so obvious and so simple, why it hasn’t been done already is beyond me. This would eliminate all the bogus stalling and would take the officials judgment on stopping the clock out of the game. Sure, this will change the game in that clever teams won’t be able to manipulate the clock and officials, but what is the problem with that?

[b]4) Penalty shootouts are an unsatisfactory way of deciding a winner. [/b] Well, some might argue with that statement, but other than a few goalies that might enjoy the spotlight there’s generally no one happy in ending a hard fought match with a crap shoot.

[b]SOLUTION: [/b]Play 5 minute overtime periods until one side wins. Yes, yet again another “basketball” solution. But, can you give me any logical reason why a soccer solution is preferred? Soccer has shootouts because it is “scoring challenged” and matches could go on all day. Handball has more scoring and sooner or later (much more likely sooner) one side is going to come out ahead. Additionally, the two halves in extra periods, are excessive and unnecessary; one 5 minute period is sufficient. If it’s still tied, then play another 5 minutes.