Officials told to increase leniency regarding handball rule / No official rule change has been made

The controversy

According to recent reports, a Premier League meeting was held on Tuesday, to discuss how officials should approach interpreting handball decisions from this weekend forward.

The English top-flight has of course been surrounded by continuous controversy of late, amid a spate of debates around the topic.

First, Victor Lindelof was penalised against Crystal Palace, before Arsenal’s Gabriel appeared to commit a similar act against West Ham, with no punishment having been forthcoming.

Amongst others, the most controversial and recent incident came during Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle. Andy Carroll headed a ball onto Eric Dier’s arm, with the England international none the wiser as to any infraction.

VAR subsequently checked the play, deeming Dier to have handled illegally, before Callum Wilson tucked away a 95th-minute equaliser from the penalty spot.

A top-flight source for The Athletic said “Nobody at the Premier League, PGMOL or anyone else is enjoying this rule.”

Change without change

The rule itself, in England, cannot be changed, as the International Football Association Board (IFAB) would need to take action regarding the topic, with the Premier League not possessing the authority to do so.

However, since speaking to the IFAB, officials have been briefed to allow further leniency.

For example, if a ball were to hit an arm raised above head height, it should still lead to a penalty. A ball which deflects off of a player’s hand/arm by their side, however, would not.

Proximity and arm position should also be taken into account. The two examples highlighted from the Premier League season thus far are those of Lindelof (mentioned above) and Joel Ward (vs Everton), which, under the new interpretation, should not be regarded as an offence.

This weekend’s fixtures will allow fans their first chance to see the new interpretations in action.

See also: VAR drama: Arsenal and Manchester United see handball decisions confuse coaches, pundits and fans

Official: Arsenal confirm signing of Gabriel Magalhaes


This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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