Rules of Handball | How it is Played?

Handball, also known as tea handball or European handball, is a team sport in which two teams consisting of seven players compete against each other. This modern set of rules of this game was published on 20 October, 1917 in Berlin which is also believed to be the date of birth of the sport. The first ever game of Handball was played in 1917 in Germany, while the first ever international game was played in 1925.

Rules of Handball

The exciting sport of Handball has been part of the Olympics since 1972, both men and women play in separate contests. It is one of the simplest sports in the world in terms of rules and point scoring, all you have to do is throw the ball in the opponent’s goal post, which is why this game is popular among both genders.

Object of the Handball

As said earlier, the Handball is easier than you think. All you have to do is score more points than your opponent in the given time and to do so, you have to throw the ball in your opponent’s goal post.

How to Play?

Handball involves an equal number of players from both sides trying to get possession of the ball and force it into the opponent’s goal post. Both teams have their own halves and goalposts to protect. As the name says, only the use of the hand is allowed to play with the ball.

However, there are a few complications which you must understand before playing Handball. These include common fouls and their punishments, legal scoring and what happens if teams deliberately slow down the pace of the game. Learn all the rules of the game in the later part of the article.

General Rules of Handball

  • Both teams can name 14 players for a match but only 7 of them can stay on the court at once. The rest of them serve as substitutes.
  • The team that wins the toss starts the game with a throw-off.
  • 6 of them run around the field while one of them serves as the goalkeeper.
  • Once the team has the possession of the ball, none of their players can hold the ball for more than 3 seconds. Failing to do so results in a freekick awarded to your opposition.
  • You can pass the ball between your teammates, or dribble the ball like in basketball.
  • Payers must keep trying to take the ball forward.
  • If a referee thinks a team is not really trying to take the game forward, it is called passive play and the ball is awarded to the opposite team.
  • A referee can suspend any player who continuously violates the rules of the game, abuse or fight with the referee or any of his opponents.
  • A defender when stopping the attacker in the goalpost area cannot push him or pull the ball out of his hand.
  • They have to wait until he throws the ball and they get the chance to intercept it or block it. Any of these infringements result in a free throw awarded to the opposite team.
  • Goal is scored by throwing the ball in the opposite team’s goal post.
  • If an attacker enters into the D-zone while throwing the ball, the goal won’t be considered legal, thus no point will be scored.
  • The team with the highest number of points at the end of the game is declared winner.


With the help of a coin toss, it is determined which team will take the throw-off.

Time Duration of Handball

The game consists of a total of 60 minutes, and this time period is divided into two halves, each half of 30 minutes. After the end of the first half, players get a 15-minute break to take some rest.

Handball Court

The dimensions of a standard size Handball court is 40 by 20 metres (131 ft × 66 ft), with a goal in the centre of each end. The goals are 2 meter high and 3 meters wide. The goalposts and crossbar are always made of the same material, it could be wood or aluminum. Each of them features a quadratic cross section with sides of 8 cm .

And, there are some markings on the field which have a great influence in the rules of the game.Like:

D-Zone: D-zone is delineated by two quarter circles with a radius of 6 meters. Only the goalkeeper is allowed to keep the ball in this area. If a certain player enters it while jumping, without having possession of the ball, he should leave it immediately.

Substitution Area: To both sides of the middle line, there is a substitution area where team officials, substitutes and suspended players await to join their team.

Playing Equipment

The only equipment required to play Handball is the ball itself, for professional tournaments, the handball used is 425-475g in weight, and has a circumference between 58-60 cm.


Two referees supervise the toss, reprimand players in case of violation and give unbiased verdicts in case of ambiguous goals. They can also suspend any player intentionally violating the rules of the game.


For more severe fouls that can’t be compensated by a free throw, a player is either shown a yellow card or can also be dismissed from the game for a couple of minutes. The level of punishment depends upon the severity of infringement, usually, when a player is injured as a result of violation, players are disqualified from the match.

Throw Off

Throw off is a common punishment for small violations in Handball, it takes place from the center of the court. The thrower keeps his one foot on the middle line and all his opponents remain in their half until the referee blows the whistle, and when the whistle is blown, the thrower can pass the ball to any of his team mates.

Throw-off occurs in the start of the play and after every goal from the opposing team, the non-scoring team get the throw-off.

Seven Meter Throw

Seven meter throw is a consequence defending team illegally stopping the attacking team from scoring a goal, by deliberately doing an infringement near the goalpost. One of the attackers stands outside the goal, with only the goalkeeper protecting the area and aims at the goalpost. The seven meter throw is quite similar to a penalty in Hockey and Football.

Draw in Handball

If the scores are tied at the end of 60-minute total time, a 5-minute extra time is givenand if the game still remains tied, penalty shootouts are given in which a certain number of players from both sides have a go at the opposition’s goal post with only the goalkeeper protecting it.

Famous Handball Events

Handball is popular in Asian and European countries where both males and females equally enjoy the simplicity of this game. Here are some famous Handball events that you might fancy watching:

  • World Handball championship
  • European Men’s Handball championship
  • Asia’s Men Handball championship
  • European’s Women Handball Championship
  • Pan American’s Handball Championship

Governing Body

The International Handball Federation (IHF) is the governing body of the game which sanctions all international Handball events and governs the rules and laws of the game.The federation was founded in 1964 to oversee international competitions. The current headquarters are located in Basel, with its membership steadily growing and up till now more than 200 national federations are members of the sole governing body.