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Senior Handball Rules - Page 1

Basic rules simplified

The complete laws of handball are published by the International Handball Federation. What follows is a simplified version explaining the basic rules and regulations and is sufficient for teachers and coaches at beginner and elementary level.


Playing area

The playing area is 40 metres long and 20 metres wide. Line markings are as indicated in fig 1, namely :

The goal line is 8cm wide. All other lines are 5cm wide and form part of the area they enclose.



The ball consists of a rubber bladder encased in single-coloured leather, the men’s model being 15 to 17 ounces in weight and 23 to 24 inches in circumference. Corresponding figures for ladies and youths are 11.5 to 14 ounces and 21 to 22 inches.



The goals are 2 metres high and 3 metres wide (internal dimensions), of wood or synthetic material, painted on all sides in two colours (usually red and white stripes) with a securely attached net. Goal posts and cross bars measure 8cm X 8cm in cross section.



A team has twelve players of which seven may be on court at the one time. One of these seven players must be nominated as goalkeeper.



Players may enter as substitutes at any time and as often as required. A substitution may not be made until the player leaving play has left the court. Players must enter and leave the playing area in their own half of the court and within 3m of the half way line.



All players dress similarly, but the goalkeeper must be distinguishable. Players numbers may range from 1 to 20. Jerseys must be numbered both front and back. Watches, rings, bracelets etc. are not permitted.


Duration of the game

The game consists of two halves each of 30 minutes, with a 10 minute interval. Each team is entitled to call one one-minute time-out per half. The referees may also call time-outs at their own discretion for interruptions in play, injury to players etc. Teams change at half-time. In the case of a draw, where it has been agreed there must be a winner, an period of extra time, consisting of two periods of 5 minutes with no interval, is played.


Starting the game

At the start of a game the captain winning the toss has the choice of ends or throw-off. The throw-off must be taken at the centre line. All players must be in their half of the court. The nearest opponent must be at least 3 metres from the ball.


A goal is scored when the referees decide that the whole of the ball has crossed the goal line under the bar and between the two posts, provided the attacking team has not committed an offence. The game is restarted by a throw-off from the centre line, taken by the team who has just conceded the goal. Throw-offs following a goal being scored differ from a throw-off at the start of the game in that the opposition players are not required to be in their own half of the court.


Goal area

The goal area is that part of the court bounded by and inside the 6 metre goal area line (fig 1). Only the goalkeeper may play on the floor area in this zone. Any ball that enters and leaves the goal area without being touched by the goalkeeper remains in play. If a player deliberately plays the ball into his own area the referees will award the following :


Players entering the goal area are penalised as follows :

Senior Handball Rules - Page 1

This page created and maintained by
Stephen Healy
Last updated 11-08-1999