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PL to lobby IFAB over handball rule

4 min read

The Premier League and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) – the body responsible for referees – are prepared to lobby IFAB for a change in the handball law.

Premier League clubs met remotely on Tuesday to discuss the handball ruling and asked the PGMOL to “change their approach” to how they interpret handball decisions.

The stricter rules have generated fierce debate after a weekend of controversy, and the Premier League would like to see a more subjective approach to refereeing handball for the remainder of this season.

Andy Carroll heads the ball against Eric Dier's arm, as Newcastle are awarded a controversial penalty at Tottenham 3:55
Sky Sports News’ Geraint Hughes explains what the Premier League teams want to happen after the recent controversial handball decisions

The Premier League is now understood to be discussing the section of the law about the hand or arm being above shoulder height with the game’s lawmakers – the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

However, the handball law (Law 12) cannot be removed or changed in the middle of a campaign and with IFAB scheduled to hold their next AGM in March, any amendments to the laws of the game would not come into effect until June 1.

Referee Peter Bankes awarded Newcastle a penalty in the 95th minute at Tottenham on Sunday, after consulting with VAR and checking the pitchside monitor following Andy Carroll’s header into the back of Eric Dier’s arm. The decision came despite Dier’s back being turned and the header from Carroll being from close range.

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Former Tottenham and England midfielder Ryan Mason says the new handball rule is a danger to players’ safety

Despite feeling Dier’s handball would remain a penalty under Law 12 this season, the Premier League want to get to a position in the future where that incident would not be penalised.

The Premier League has asked referees to be more subjective in their decision making, rather than rigidly applying the law, while requesting referees consider how close a player is to the ball when it hits them and whether a player’s arm is in an “unnatural” position. They also wanted reassurance that match officials watch incidents on pitchside monitors in “real time”.

They will also be asked to take into account the player’s ability to react, and whether the contact with the arm blocks a direct shot at goal.

Micah Richards and Michael Dawson shared their frustration after a penalty decision went against Tottenham’s Eric Dier, whereas Graeme Souness says he feels the handball rule can add excitement to the game

Newcastle’s controversial spot-kick at Spurs followed an equally highly-criticised decision to award Everton a penalty for handball at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Under the updated interpretation, it is understood the advice to referees is that the penalty against Palace’s Joel Ward would not be given, because his arm was in an expected position considering the action he was undertaking.

Similarly, Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof’s handball against Palace would not now be awarded on the basis of his limited ability to react and the expected position of his hand.

The law states that handball should be awarded if the player has made their body unnaturally bigger, but leaves it open to a referee, league or competition to apply its own interpretation of what constitutes “unnatural”.

FIFA took over all global operational control of VAR in July to bring uniformity to decision making and in doing so, reminded Premier League referees to apply the laws and VAR like every other competition before this season began.

Carra: Handball rule a disgrace

Jamie Carragher criticised the handball rules after Newcastle equalised with a controversial late penalty against a dominant Tottenham on Sunday.

An incensed Jose Mourinho stormed straight down the tunnel after Dier’s handball, while Spurs’ protests continued after the final whistle.

“It’s an absolute disgrace. An absolute joke,” Sky Sports pundit Carragher said of the new handball rule that has been brought in for this season.

“Newcastle fans will be ecstatic, I can understand that but everyone else in this country will say exactly what I’m saying.”

FA warns of ‘huge impact’ of coronavirus restrictions

The Football Association has welcomed the government’s commitment to provide financial support to clubs but warned new coronavirus restrictions will have a “huge” impact on the sport.

The FA said assistance is imperative if many clubs are to survive the current lockdown, amid frustration from the Premier League and English Football League at the prospect of no spectators attending fixtures throughout the winter.

An FA statement read: “We understand the government’s decision, as the health of the nation is the priority. However, it is important to recognise that the impact on football will be huge.

Clubs at the top of the grassroots game are able to have a limited number of fans attend matches, which is providing a much needed lifeline for clubs like Hendon FC

“Clubs up and down the country are really struggling, and many will have been looking forward to crowds coming back in order to provide much-needed income during these difficult times. Many, at all levels of the game, are battling to survive.”

PL managers united: ‘We need to help’

Premier League managers, including Jurgen Klopp and Frank Lampard, have called for football’s elite to unite to help lower-league clubs through the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The English Football League has warned it faces a £200m collective loss if spectators cannot return in the 2020-21 season.

EFL chairman Rick Parry admits the league needs a financial rescue package soon, although the former Liverpool chief insists the onus is not only on the Premier League to bail out the lower tiers.

He told the Daily Mail: “It is going to be a long winter. We do need rescue packages, we have said it pretty consistently. We need them soon. That has to be resolved. But we are confident it will be.”

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