Hanging Judge: New handball law is a load of nonsense

2020-03-20 09:40

The International Football Association Board recently held its annual general meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and came up with some interesting possible changes to the laws of the game.

One of the suggested changes was to tweak the handball issue, and it makes for interesting reading.

Heretofore, if a player deliberately used his/her hand or arm to influence the direction of the ball, he/she would be penalised and, depending on where he/she was on the pitch at the time of the offence, an appropriate sanction will be meted out.

For example, if the offence is committed outside the penalty area, a direct free kick would be awarded and a caution, such as a yellow card, would be given.

If the offence is committed inside the penalty area, a penalty kick would be awarded and either a yellow or red card, depending on the circumstances, would be given.

Law 12, which deals with fouls and misconduct, currently says the following: “Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with their hand or arm.

“The following must be considered:
  • The movement of the hand towards the ball, not the ball towards the hand;
  • The distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball); and
  • The position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence.
  • The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area.
  • Inside their penalty area, the goalkeeper cannot be guilty of a handling offence incurring a direct free kick or any related sanction, but can be guilty of handling offences that incur an indirect free kick.”

At the moment, the interpretation of handball is that, if a player uses any part of his/her hand or arm up to the shoulder to deliberately influence the direction of the ball, he/she is guilty of handling the ball and should be sanctioned.

The board wants to bring in a new interpretation that says the shoulder should not be considered as part of the arm.

In other words, when you consider the part of the arm from the elbow to the shoulder, it would only count as an offence if a player used the bottom two-thirds of the arm to influence the direction of the ball.

The illustration on the right shows the handball areas as suggested by the board.

I’m not sure how that’s going to work. Referees could use the video assistant referee (VAR) system to determine and confirm whether a player touched the ball above or bellow the shoulder, or not at all.

But, given the way that referees in the English Premier League have been abusing the VAR in recent times, I foresee many problems ahead.

It’s either a handball or it’s not. Are they now going to change the definition of handball to say hand- and/or arm-ball?

It’s all nonsense, in my opinion.

Please feel free to make any comments or ask questions on this or other issues. Happy whistling!

  • Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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March 29 2020