Is the new handball rule ruining football?

“It’s an absolute disgrace. An absolute joke. Said Steve Bruce to Sky Sports after Sunday’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur.

He added: “Newcastle fans will be ecstatic; I can understand that. But everyone else in this country will say exactly what I am saying and what I am thinking.”  This was despite the decision going his way and giving Newcastle an important point in the league after it looked as though they were headed for another defeat, Steve Bruce was not a happy man after the final whistle and is calling for managers to come together and put this to an end.  

“We’ve got away with one,” Bruce said. “It fell for us today. Maybe we should query these new rules and who makes them. I thought VAR would come in for the clear and obvious. It’s ludicrous. I am not a big lover of it. We saw Roy Hodgson last night. It’s a nonsense. We saw a ridiculous one yesterday with Everton and their winning goal; we saw an equally ridiculous one today. I should be happy, but I can’t say I agree with it.” 

But what is this new handball rule and why is it causing so much controversy. The new law is in fact not actually new as it was used across Europe last season. It is only now that Premier League fans are starting to take more notice as the International Football Association Board (Ifab) decided to take a stricter approach to this season and tighten up on what will now be given as a handball. A handball will now be given from the armpit down, and whether it is intentional or not, if the ball strikes that are of the arm a handball will be given.

The Premier League season has only just started and there’s clearly already plenty of controversy surrounding this new handball rule that has been put in place. Last season it was the introduction of VAR that was filling up the headlines as both fans and players were accusing the new software as ruining football. However, just as tensions were dying down surrounding VAR and its inconsistencies, the new and supposed improved handball rule has once again left players and managers seething and calling out for change.  

This new rule has already been branded a ‘massive problem’ by England international and Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier after the match on Sunday afternoon, as he conceded an injury time penalty against Newcastle United. This resulted in them dropping two points after they looked certain to win the game. In what could have been a vital three points come the end of the season as Tottenham look to improve on last season’s 6th placed finish and aim for a Champions League spot, Dier and co could rue this decision for a long time. This was after he was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area when his back was turned following a knock down from Newcastle United striker Andy Carroll. 

Dier stated: “Everyone is on the same page, something has to change. In my case, if you look at it as a whole, the foul leading up to the free-kick, the distance between me and Carroll, the fact that I get pushed in my back which people are not really talking about.” It’s clear to see the frustration coming from the Spurs defender as he questions the referee’s decision in what has been a regular theme for some time now and speaking to Sky Sports Steve Bruce backed up Dier saying: “Eric Dier jumps for the ball, has no control of where his arms are going, there is a header half a yard away from him, hits him on the back of the arm, has no idea what is going on.”  

So far after three rounds of fixtures in the Premier League this season there has already been six penalties given for handball compared to zero at this stage last season. At this rate the Premier League could be on course to seeing over 70 penalties given throughout the season just for handball. This is likely to break records and even though this could mean for a lot more goals in the season, even fans and pundits are calling it out for ruining the game. Whilst working for Sky Sports at the weekend as a TV pundit, Jamie Carragher went on to urge the sport’s governing body to make changes to the rules. He added: “This is a joke. Whether it’s the Premier League, the FA, FIFA, [Pierluigi] Collina, whoever’s involved in this – stop it, because you are ruining football for everybody.”  

After the already eventful start to this season it is likely that we are going to see plenty more drama and harsh decisions. However, if managers such as Steve Bruce continue to stand against this new law and if he is successful in gathering up all of the other managers to do this with him, could we see a revert back to the old ways mid-season?  

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