What Are The Rules Of Handball?

What are the Rules of Handball

Handball is a game that was created during the medieval times, but the official rules as we know them today were announced in 1906. This is a popular game in European countries, but it is played all around the world. Handball is typically played on an indoor court, but is sometimes altered to be played in outdoor settings. The objective of handball is to score more points than your opponent.

Basic Rules of Handball

There are many basic rules in the game of handball. A handball game lasts for 60 minutes during regulation play, and can be played up to 70 minutes with overtime periods. The game is split into two periods of 30 minutes, each being further divided into 15-minute intervals.

Each team consists of seven players on the court. There is one goalie and six outfielders. The outfielders are allowed to touch the ball with any part of their body that is above the knee. This is because actions such as kicking the ball are not allowed in the game.

When a player gets possession, they can hold onto the ball, pass it, or shoot it. When a player decides to hold possession of the ball, they are allowed to dribble the ball or take three steps without dribbling for no more than three seconds. 

The goalie is the only player that is allowed to be in contact with the floor around the goal area. This means that players must shoot the ball from outside of the indicated range around the goal net. Goalies can also move outside of the goalie area, but if they do they can not get possession of the ball.

Handball Players and Equipment

Handball Equipment

There are seven players for each team on the court at all times during play. There can be a maximum of seven substitutions during the game. These substitutions occur on a continuous basis and there is no need to notify the referee or stop play before the substitution is made.

The half-circle around the goal is the six-meter line. This line indicates where players are allowed to shoot from. Players must stay behind this line while shooting for a goal to count. The nine-meter line surrounding this line indicates the free-throw line. If infractions occur inside of the 9-meter line, free-throws will be taken from the closest spot behind the line.

Generally speaking, the game of handball is played on a court featuring two goals and one ball. The ball is usually made out of leather or another synthetic material, and the ball must be the right fit for the players to grasp in their hands. There are three standard sizes for balls: a 50-52 cm circumference ball for people over eight years old, a 54-56cm circumference ball for women and men from the ages of 12-16, and a 58-60cm circumference ball for men above the age of 16.

Handball Scoring

A goal is scored in handball when a player throws the ball into their opponent’s net. To win the overall game, a team must score more goals than the opposing team. Players must shoot the ball from outside of the six-meter goal box.

In tournament handball, there cannot be a tie game, and there must be one sole victor at the end of the game. In the event of a tie, periods of overtime play will be implemented. There can be a maximum of two 10-minute overtime periods (each divided into five-minute halves with a one-minute halftime period) played at the end of the game. If there is still a tie at the end of these periods, a final shootout will determine the overall victor. 

Handball Penalties

There are a few common penalties in the game of handball. Two penalties that can occur with the possession of the ball are walking and double-dribbling. Walking occurs when a player takes more than three steps without dribbling the ball, or when they hold the ball for more than three seconds without dribbling, passing, or shooting the ball. Double-dribbling is when a player dribbles the ball, holds the ball, and then dribbles the ball again. Both of these actions result in loss of ball possession. 

Kicking is not allowed in handball. Only the goalie may kick the ball, and if any other players kick the ball, the other team will receive possession. 

There are two types of throws that can be warranted as a result of a penalty. Free-throws are given when a player commits a slight infraction of the rules. The opposing team will be given a free-throw and the team that committed the action will need to stand three meters away from the throwing player. Penalty throws are granted to the opposing team when a player infringes on a clear scoring opportunity in an illegal way. 

Handball also has sanctions that can be distributed for more serious infractions. Depending on the severity of the action, a referee can give out a warning yellow card, a suspension of two minutes, or a dismissal red card. 

Handball Rules Summary

  • Handball is an indoor game played between two teams of seven players each.
  • Handball games consist of two 30-minute periods and a 15-minute halftime.
  • Goals are scored by throwing the ball into the opponent’s goal net.
  • Players who are not the goalkeepers cannot enter the six-foot crease.
  • Regular-season games can end in ties, but in elimination games, tied matches end in one or two sudden-death overtime periods that are five minutes long.
  • If the overtime periods end in a tie, a shootout of five rounds determines the winner.
  • Teams can make substitutions at any point during the game.
  • The ball is moved by dribbling or passing.
  • Players may take a maximum of three steps with the ball after they stop dribbling or be called for traveling.
  • For minor penalties, players receive yellow cards.
  • Three yellow cards on one player equals a red card and ejection from the game.
  • A throw-off is used to restart play after a goal or at the beginning of a period.
  • Throw-ins are used to restart play after a ball goes out of bounds.
  • A goalkeeper throw occurs when the attacking team throws the ball out of bounds over the goal line.
  • A free-throw occurs after any interruption by the referee.


What is a free-throw in handball?

A free-throw is an action granted to a team when the opposing team commits a minor foul or rule infraction. Free-throws occur in the exact spot of where the infringement took place. If a foul occurs between the six-meter goal line and the nine-meter line, the throw will be taken from the closest spot outside of the nine-meter line. The player that is throwing the ball needs to keep at least one foot on the ground, and they must pass or shoot the ball as they throw.

How can you get a two-minute suspension in handball?

A two-minute suspension occurs for a few different reasons. They can be given for any serious rule violation, an illegal substitution, or any form of unsportsmanlike conduct. Once a player receives this penalty, they must sit out of the game for two minutes before being allowed to return to play. The suspension does not require a warning yellow card to be given first. 

What are the rules for the six-meter goal area?

The six-meter goal line indicates where players can and cannot shoot the ball from. Players must shoot the ball from outside of this line for a goal to count. If players shoot from within the goal area, they will receive a penalty and the other team will gain possession of the ball. The goalie stays within this box, and if they move outside of the line, they cannot retain possession of the ball.

Can players kick the ball in handball?

The six outfielders on the court for each team are not allowed to kick the ball at any time. Kicking is a rule violation that results in the opposing team gaining possession of the ball. The goalie is the only player that is allowed to kick the ball during the game. This action may occur when they are attempting to save the ball from going into the net.