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What Is Handball?

14th Nov 23

Handball is up there with football, cricket, basketball and tennis, as one of the most popular sports played, especially in Europe, and not just at an elite level. International Handball Federation (IHF) figures on global participation show that approximately 30 million people play handball in almost 130,000 teams across the globe. With that in mind, we thought, let’s delve a little deeper into handball and what it is all about.


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  1. The Basics
  2. The Rules
  3. Top Paid Player
  4. Get Involved

The Basics

Handball is a fast-paced, contact sport made up of two teams of 7 players. All are competing to score goals in a football-like goal by passing a ball with their hands and throwing it into the opponent’s goal. A match consists of two 30-minute halves with the ball being moved between players by either dribbling, passing or hitting it with any part of the body above the knee.  Handball takes place on an indoor court measuring 40mx20m. Players are allowed to take up to three steps without bouncing the ball, as well as being allowed to hold onto the ball for up to 3 seconds.

The Rules

CBBC have broken down the rules of play into ten rules that you should know:

  1. Players (apart from goalkeepers) are only allowed to touch the ball above the knee.
  2. After they get the ball a player can pass, keep possession, or shoot.
  3. When they have the ball, players must dribble (just like basketball), or they can take up to three steps for up to three seconds at a time without dribbling.
  4. If a player takes more than three steps without dribbling, it counts as travelling, and they have to give the ball to the other team.
  5. A player can dribble for as long as they want, so long as they only touch the top of the ball when doing so.
  6. After the dribble is picked up, the ball must then be passed or shot. Any more dribbling would be considered a ‘double dribble’ and result in a free throw for the other team.
  7. Outfield players can only enter the 6m D-zone area in order to pass or shoot the ball whilst they’re in mid-air. They must jump from outside the zone and release the ball before they land in the area.
  8. Goalkeepers are allowed outside the goal area but are not allowed to cross the goal zone line with the ball in their hands.
  9. The ball can’t be passed back to the goalkeeper when they are in the goal area.
  10. Each team can have seven substitute players on the bench. Substitutes can be made any number of times during a game without having to inform the referee.

Top Paid Player

The French player Nikola Karabatic, as of 2023, is Handball’s highest-paid player with an estimated 1.8 million euros a year. Karabatic is a three-time Olympic Champion, four-time world champion, three-time European champion and three-time Champions League winner. If you want to see the legend himself in action, be sure to tune in to the Paris 2024 Olympics. Karabatic has announced his retirement after the 2023/24 season.

Get Involved

With its ever-increasing popularity, the England Handball website has resources available on how to get involved, whether that’s finding a club or starting your own. There are even free online resources available for teachers on how to teach the game in schools.


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