Premier League referees have been encouraged to use their discretion when it comes to making a decision on a potential handball, after weeks of mass controversy surrounding the interpretation of the new rule.
Officials were previously made to follow guidelines from FIFA when it came to handballs, with the new law stating any use of the arm in the box must be given as a penalty – accidental or otherwise.
Sports Village Square observes that if this law had been in use at the Russia 2018 World Cup, a penalty would have been awarded to Nigeria when Marcos Rojo headed the ball down to his hand. But the referee, even after VAR check did not award a penalty kick.
It’s a rule which has caused chaos during the opening weeks of the Premier League season, with the decision against Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United the latest of many, and there have been countless calls from players, managers and fans to alter the rule.
It appears those calls have been answered as the Times state the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, who are in charge of instructing referees, will soon ask officials to use their common sense during games, rather than strictly punishing every incident.
In situations like Dier’s, who was punished for inadvertently having his arm raised, referees will be asked to decide whether the situation genuinely warrants a penalty or whether one would only be given because of the new rule.
FIFA, who took control of the VAR protocol this season, have enforced a new interpretation of handball across Europe in an attempt to make officiating more consistent. The Premier League had always tried to be more lenient with decisions, which is why last season’s total of 20 handball penalties awarded was less than half of the totals in Italy (57) and Spain (48).
English football is now on track to match those numbers and there is no way for the rule to be changed this season.
However, if a request to alter the rule is submitted to the International Football Association Board by the end of October 2020, it will be considered and could be implemented for the 2021/22 season if approved.
It seems likely that such a request will be made, given the uproar surrounding the rule already this year, but the final decision will rest with IFAB officials like Pierluigi Collina, David Elleray and Arsène Wenger.