Referees to show more flexibility over handball

Referees to show more flexibility over handball

LONDON • The Premier League wants to change the handball law and is in talks with rule-making body International Football Association Board (Ifab) in a bid to end decisions such as the controversial ruling against Tottenham’s Eric Dier.

Fans can expect to see a shift in approach from referees this weekend after the Premier League’s referees body, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), opted to adopt a more lenient approach to the current laws.

Referees are now being told they no longer have to view incidents through the prism of whether an arm or hand is in an “unnatural position” or outside the body “silhouette”, as Ifab has urged.

From this weekend, referees can consider whether a player’s body is in the “expected position” for the action being undertaken.

The PGMOL believes that approach would mean cases like the handball by Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof that led to Crystal Palace’s penalty would not be given, as his arm could be viewed as being in the “expected position” for a play in a running motion.

While the introduction of the concept of “expected position” may prompt sighs among fans tiring of the frequently changing criteria for handball, it should somewhat address the harsh nature of recent decisions.

Referees will also be encouraged to consider factors such as whether or not the player has a realistic chance to get his arm out of the way of the ball.

Current laws clearly state that a penalty or free kick must be given if a player’s hand or arm are “above shoulder level”.

Premier League refereeing officials believe they have no choice but to award such penalties given the wording of the law at the moment and so are seeking solutions from Ifab. Any move to change the law would need to be put forth to Ifab before Nov 1 to set in motion a revision for next season.