The International Football Association Board (IFAB) have announced a change to the handball law will be implemented from July 1, with referees told not to penalise players for accidental handballs which lead to goalscoring opportunities.
No-one seemed to know the handball rule anyway, but changes to the law ahead of this season have caused plenty of confusion. Premier League referees were instructed to tighten their definition of handball, particularly when an offence leads directly to a goal or goalscoring opportunity.
Under that rule, intent didn’t come into consideration. And while that might seem like a good idea in theory, in practice it leads to VAR disallowing goals for handball, even when the arm is in a perfectly natural position.
Fulham’s equaliser against Spurs was a prime example of that. Lemina’s arm was tucked right into his side, and it could only be more out of the way if he removed it from his body and threw it into the Thames.
But the ball still hit it, and by the rule, it was handball.
In an apparent reaction to the controversy that has ensued, IFAB have adjusted the law so that accidental handballs which lead to goalscoring opportunities will no longer be penalised.
This means that intent will now come into consideration alongside all the other fun grey areas that no-one can seem to agree on. As if body lines, natural silhouettes and reaction time weren’t enough for officials to have to think about.
The change will be enforced from July 1 onwards “although competitions will retain the flexibility to introduce changes prior to that date” – meaning the Premier League can, if they wish to, shake things up now.
Having watched his side robbed of a point by the old rule, Scott Parker may be relieved to hear the rules are to be changed, but he’d probably argue it’s too little, too late.
Speaking after the game, he said: “It is the rule – I think it’s crazy,
“I’m complaining at the rule. We want it to be the most entertaining league in the world, with goals. I don’t know what Lemina can do. We just need some common sense. We are trying to make football so pure and sterile it becomes unrealistic.
“We want to see goals and excitement but I am sorry to say that VAR is killing every part of that. You are losing the raw emotion of the game we absolutely love.”