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Handball Rule Changed Again!

“‘Interpretation of handball incidents’ not being applied consistently,” - International Football Association Board (IFAB)

FIFA held today’s meeting by video-conference

How did football ever survive without technology?

It really did happen. The game remained blissfully intact since the first FA Cup in 1872 until very recently when the introduction of some intricate and smart technology sent law-makers for a loop.

They evidently don’t know whether they are coming or going. Guidelines, revised guidelines, new laws which don’t make sense, then even newer ones to fix those that don’t work... the catalogue of change seems frequent and endless.

The beautiful, simple game that we all grew up with is becoming complex beyond belief!
New technology is fine, but the human element is found wanting. If the two cannot exist to complement each other, then one must go, and it won’t be the law-makers.

But there are plans to increase and improve the presence of technology.

Today the IFAB met by conference call and confirmed yet another change to the handball rule.

“Accidental handball that leads to a goal-scoring chance or a goal for a team-mate will no longer be penalised,” say football’s law makers.

The Board say the reason behind the latest change is because the “interpretation of handball incidents” is not being applied consistently.

It was agreed that, to give players, coaches and match officials more time to become familiar with the change, the date on which it and other changes become effective will move from 1 June to 1 July, although competitions will retain the flexibility to introduce changes prior to that date.

It will remain a handball offence if a player scores accidentally with their hand or arm, or uses their hand or arm directly before scoring.

The International Football Association Board had tightened handball laws, reducing referee discretion, for the start of the 2020-21 season.

However, a spate of dubious high-profile handball decisions led to fierce criticism across the game and saw English top-flight referees in particular, ordered to be less strict about their interpretations of the law.

Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Fulham’s Aleksander Mitrovic remonstrates with referee, David Coote after his side had a goal ruled out due to handball in the recent game with Tottenham. The goal would in all likelihood have stood given the new laws, which are not yet in effect.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Fifa will also continue to test semi-automated technology to detect offside, whereby a signal is sent to the assistant referee almost instantly.

And former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has proposed that a player should be considered onside if any part of their body that can legally score a goal is level with the second-last defender.

The proposed change is set to be trialled in lower-league Chinese football and, if successful, could then be trialled in England, according to Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham.

“There are people who think it may lead to a more defensive game and others who think it would mean a more exciting game,” Bullingham told BBC Sport. “Let’s do the trial and find out.”

As for new technology it could, in theory, eliminate those moments when VAR is used to check whether a goal should be disallowed for offside, or not.

Fifa will also continue to test semi-automated technology to detect offside, with a signal sent to the assistant referee almost instantly.

That would leave referees and their assistants just needing to decide whether the offside player was interfering with play.

“Everyone recognises that when a goal is scored and fans have to wait to find out if it’s a goal or not, isn’t a brilliant experience for the fans, particularly those in the stadium,” added Bullingham.

“We are looking at technology where a linesman will immediately know if a player is offside or not and have that communicated to them and that allows them to make an instant decision, so in theory for offside decisions there would be no need to go back to the video assistant referee.”

Everyone, absolutely everyone, will be glad to hear that!