Premier League confirm handball law change with Liverpool decisions cited

Referees’ chief Mike Riley has confirmed how the changes will look in the Premier League after they were implemented by the International Football Association Board

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Handball will be interpreted slightly differently in the upcoming Premier League season after the division confirmed they will be taking on the revisions decided by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

Two laws of the game have been modified by IFAB in a bid for a smoother, fairer experience for players and in line with the scrutiny put on the game by VAR.

The first change concerns the interpretation of deliberate handball, with referees now told to look for “a deliberate action on behalf of the player” when it comes to determining whether or not they have handled.

The start of last season saw a rash of penalties given for what seemed to be fairly harsh handball calls against defenders, some of whom had seen the ball strike their hand when it was in a seemingly natural position.

Robin Koch was penalised for handball at Anfield last season



After some criticism the Premier League quickly established a higher threshold for handball decisions, and this law is now in writing.

Mike Riley, Managing Director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the referees’ body, said “an arm extended away from the body makes that body bigger, in an unnatural position.

“If the ball strikes that arm, particularly if it is blocking a shot on goal, there is a greater likelihood we will penalise that.”

In a video released on the Premier League website, referee Chris Kavanagh cited a handball given against Leeds defender Robin Koch at Liverpool on the opening day of last season as an example of a penalty that would still be given with the new interpretation of the law, while a penalty given against Wolves defender Max Kilman at Leicester would not be given.

The second change to the handball law concerns handball in the immediate build-up to a goal.

Callum Wilson saw a goal disallowed at Anfield last season


Pool via REUTERS)

Goals will now be awarded if an accidental handball immediately precedes a goal scored, but only if the player who committed the handball is not the player who scored it.

Again, Kavanagh used an example from a Liverpool match to show the new changes, pointing out that the goal Newcastle’s Callum Wilson saw chalked off at Anfield last season would still be disallowed.

After he raced through on goal, Wilson saw the ball deflect off Liverpool’s Alisson and onto his arm before he knocked it over the line.

Wilson would still see that goal disallowed in the new season, but if he passed the ball to a Newcastle teammate and they put it into the next then the goal would be allowed.

Riley believes the changes will have a positive impact on the game.

“The experience of players, fans, referees and managers is that handball is a difficult law to grapple with,” he said.

“So it’s changed in a positive way for the game.”

The changes come amid more revisions to how VAR will work in the upcoming season.


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