“Referees don’t think its handball,” said a furious Roy Hodgson after his side lost to a last-minute penalty by Richarlison. The new rule on hand ball has caused outrage amongst managers, pundits and fans.
This season in the Premier League has already seen twenty penalties with six being directly caused by handballs. The handball rule which had been recently changed just before the new season had already caused disruption on the opening weekend between Liverpool and Leeds when the Reds were awarded a penalty due to a deemed hand ball by Robin Koch.
However, it was in the two games between Crystal Palace and Everton along with Tottenham and Newcastle than poured petrol on the fire. Everton were able to beat Palace as a Joel Ward hand ball allowed a Richarlison penalty to defeat the Londoners.
After the game Roy Hodgson launched himself into a passionate tirade explaining: “I think the new rule is nonsense.” He further explained how he was in disbelief and that he couldn’t “understand how everyone in the game of football have allowed this rule to come into operation.” He finished his rant saying, “They had lost the plot.”
So, what caused this outburst by the former England manager? The ball was headed by Everton’s Lucas Digne onto Wards inward hand. It is the fact that the defender’s arm was tucked into his body along with him not making and effort of foul play. Last season this wouldn’t have been awarded as a penalty.
In the match between Tottenham and Newcastle and equally provoked a passionate response from Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. He agreed with Hodgson saying, “It’s a disgrace an absolute joke.” He explained how Eric Dier leaped for the ball only for the ball to hit his hand on his way down to the ground, “Eric Dier jumps for the ball, has no control of where his arms are going to be, it was a header half a yard away from him, hits him on the back of his arm, he has no idea what’s going on.”Newcastle manager Steve Bruce also sympathised with Tottenham stating, “I can understand why Tottenham are going to go berserk and the way Roy Hodgson reaction yesterday, it’s a total nonsense.”
Despite the passionate response Graeme Souness defended the hand ball rule. He did feel sorry for Tottenham but explained it simply, “It’s the new rules, its harsh but these are the new rules.” He also argued for the fact it is making the decision making for the referees easier along with increasing the excitement in matches. “They’re trying to make the game simpler for the referees and for all of us to understand. If you were starting with a clean piece of paper and you introduced that and said this is how it’s going to be would it make more excitement in the game? We all think it’s harsh but if you say any ball that touches an arm that’s out of the line of the body, we’ll give a penalty we’d all accept that I think.”
The Premier League decided to change the handball rule at the start of this season. The major change that was included in the new constitution was “For the purposes of determining hand ball offences, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.” This means that if the ball strikes the player on any part of the arm when it is above the armpit it is a penalty regardless of being intentional or not. This point was further back up by the IFAB by saying if the arm above shoulder height is rarely if ever a natural position. However, the law that directly relates to Hodgsons fury is IFAB’s note, “The above offences apply even if the ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from the head or body (including foot) of another player who is close.”
The previous rule has been implemented into the Premier League with more leeway. The FA and the Premier League deemed that extra leeway would be permitted if the ball ricocheted onto the arm or if the ball hit the players hand accidentally. Although putting it simply players had to hit the handball with the ball to guarantee a foul.
The Premier League has announced that they will change the new handball rule after a public scolding. They and PGMOL have asked the IFAB to change the laws surrounded hand ball decisions. The Premier League has asked for a more subjective approach to these decisions. Although we are unlikely to see a change this season with the hand ball law 12 not being allowed to be removed or changed until 1 June 2021.