English football has a month to decide what to do about new handball rule
Manchester — Any move from the English Premier League to change the handball law for next season would need to be submitted to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the game’s global lawmaking body, in October to be considered.
The IFAB holds its annual meeting, the forum where laws are passed and changed, in March. But according to IFAB protocol, football associations need to put in proposals by November 1 to allow time for consultations across the game.
A series of controversial handball decisions in the opening weeks of the Premier League has led to calls from some in the English game for the law to be changed. While the laws of the game are applied on an international scale, British football has a uniquely prominent role in the creation of the laws.
The decision-making general assembly of the IFAB is made up of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and four representatives of Fifa. All decisions require a three-quarters majority, which in practice means Fifa’s representatives would need to agree to any British proposal.
The decision on what items are placed on the agenda is made at a November annual business meeting.
Crystal Palace’s former England manager Roy Hodgson said he was “disillusioned” with the game after his side lost to a penalty awarded for a disputed handball.
“I just don’t understand how we’ve allowed it to happen. The Premier League, the referee, the coaches, the managers, the players, I don’t know how we’ve allowed this type of situation, which we have at virtually every match at the moment, to occur because the rules of football are important,” he said.
Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher, now a pundit with Sky Sports, said: “Whether it’s the Premier League, the FA, Fifa, Pierluigi Collina [chairman of their referees’ committee], whoever’s involved in this — stop it, because you are ruining football for everybody.”
The law was introduced last season but the Premier League chose a different, more lenient interpretation than many top European leagues. However, that changed this season, with the league responding to calls from Fifa for all leagues to play by the same fundamental interpretations of all laws.
The number of handball penalties has increased across Europe and while there were complaints in Italy last season, the changes appear to have caused the strongest reaction in England.
Much of the controversy focuses on handballs by defenders where the referee rules their arm or hand is in an “unnatural position” or is making the body bigger. The previous, established handball law relied primarily on referees making a judgment as to whether a handball was intentional or not.
There has been no indication from the Premier League or the Football Association that they intend to request a change to the law. The Premier League did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the IFAB declined to comment.
One option to deal with the concerns would be for the referees’ body, known as Professional Game Match Officials Limited, to change its interpretation of the law back to last season’s approach, but that could risk conflict with Fifa and their referee bodies.
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