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IFAB clarify handball and VAR protocol

The IFAB has announced changes to the handball rule for the 2020-21 season and warned “where a reviewable incident is subjective, the expectation is that the referee will undertake an on-field review.”

The International Football Association Board released a statement with the main changes to the laws of the game and further clarification for incidents such as handball.

This caused a great deal of confusion and controversy this season, so there is specific explanation of the caveats surrounding ‘accidental’ handball.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalised if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).

“For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit.”

This means that some goals disallowed during the current campaign for an ‘accidental’ handball in the build-up will be valid for next term.

When to use VAR was also a source of some consternation and the IFAB makes clear referees should make use of the technology.

This is also a further warning to the Premier League, who had simply given all the power of decision for reviewable incidents to the VAR official, effectively making the on-field review obsolete.

“Where a reviewable incident is subjective, the expectation is that the referee will undertake an ‘on-field review’ (OFR), i.e. the referee will view the replay footage in the referee review area.

“It was furthermore agreed that more insight into the decision-making process, for example access to the conversation between match officials during a review, would not be appropriate at this point, but that more effort should be made to enhance existing communication approaches to improve understanding of the review process and the referee’s final decision.”

Although there is no firm action on the so-called ‘armpit offside’ and making the margin of error greater, this is being considered.

“The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals.

“It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analysed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

Protocols will also be drawn up for dealing with concussion.

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Sevilla and Everton target Under

Sevilla director Monchi is ready to challenge Everton and Carlo Ancelotti for Roma forward Cengiz Under this summer.

The Turkey international is expected to leave at the end of the season and there is a growing clamour in Europe to secure his next move.

Ancelotti had already wanted Under at Napoli, so is eager to try again now that he is on the Everton bench. in Spain point out that Sevilla are among the favourites to sign the 22-year-old.

Their director of sport is Monchi, who was in charge of Roma when negotiating Under’s €14.25m transfer from Istanbul Basaksehir in 2017.

So far this season, Cengiz Under has scored three goals in 15 Serie A appearances.

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Smalling: ‘Coronavirus dawned’ on England late

Roma defender Chris Smalling said friends back in England are asking for advice on “how to cope” during the coronavirus lockdown. “It definitely dawned on people a bit later there. We are eager to go, but know some things are more important than football.”

The former Manchester United centre-back spoke to the official Roma Twitter account about his experiences in Italy this season, which included the first wave of the pandemic outside China.

“It definitely dawned on people a bit later there, I think,” he wrote. “Mates were asking me about the lockdown and stuff, but I don’t think they thought they would have it to. But, as we’ve seen, it’s a global thing. Now they have questions about how to cope!”

The Serie A clubs have gone to varying lengths to ensure their players remain in shape, from Inter delivering personalised food every day to practically all of them providing gym equipment and a schedule of fitness exercises.

“Still training every day, keeping things ticking over. The club has been great, really involved and helping to make sure we have what we need. When it started, they rang us all and asked us a bit about our situations – if we have a garden, what gym equipment we already have etc.

“I am lucky enough to have a garden, so they gave me a programme that incorporates bodyweight exercises and then stuff I can do in the garden. They also sent over some stuff – resistance bands and things like that. I do some days more cardio, some with circuit training.

“We’ve got an app for conference calls and stuff with the coaches. They send us a (diet) plan, but they did that before too. The only difference is now we eat every meal at home – before we ate a lot at Trigoria (training ground).”

With the number of new cases dropping every day, Italy is moving towards phase 2 of the pandemic response and a date of May 20-28 is being floated for the resumption of Serie A football.

“We wait on them and the authorities to decide what is best,” continued Smalling. “But we know there will be a lot of games to play in a short time, so we need to be ready for that. We’ll need two or three weeks of training to get back up to full speed – and then it could be a busy run of games!

“We are eager to go, but we know this is a global pandemic – some things are bigger and more important than football.”

At least the England defender is keeping busy with a 10-month old baby at home, but did manage to watch Tiger King on Netflix when he had the chance and played Uno over Facetime.

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Nicchi: ‘Serie A can resume without VAR’

President of the Referees’ Association Marcello Nicchi is looking forward to the day when Serie A can resume, even without VAR. “I hope after all this, people can realise the beauty of sport.”

The latest statistics from the Government suggest Italy has passed the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and is beginning the downward trajectory of the curve.

This means that the country can begin to prepare for the next phase, including the gradual reintroduction of Serie A football, albeit most likely behind closed doors.

“I never thought that I’d be in a situation like this, but the officials are studying, keeping up to date and taking quizzes we provided as training exercises,” AIA President Nicchi told TMW Radio.

“Our association has not emerged unscathed from this pandemic, as we have lost 10 people. None of them were current referees, but we must all remain cautious and not get swept up in easy enthusiasm until there is more certainty.

“When football does resume, we have to remember referees are most at risk, as they have to travel all over Italy and meet complete strangers. We just ask to be protected, as we don’t want whingers, but nor should we have to be heroes. There are conditions to ensure safety and we must take them into account.

“While there are still 600 people dying per day, we cannot talk about sport. I hope that after all this, people can realise the beauty of sport, how much we missed it and why we need to be kind to each other. If we return and there’s still violence or racism in the stands, that’d chill me to the bone.”

Nicchi assured that playing in the summer months would not be a problem for referees, while it is possible VAR will be suspended for the remaining matches.

“If we don’t have VAR, it’s because we cannot guarantee safety in a packed environment. This is why we wanted to centralise all VAR decisions to the Coverciano camp in Rome, as it’d be more practical than many people crammed into a tiny booth.

“We must all make sacrifices, so if football resumes without VAR, we’ll deal with it. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t care less.”

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Italy announce ‘reliable’ COVID immunity test

Italy is finally “on the downward trajectory” of the coronavirus pandemic curve, while it’s announced a “reliable” test for COVID-19 antibodies has been developed, allowing for a ‘passport’ to work and travel.

The number of new cases, deaths and intensive care admissions have been gradually dropping over the last few days and there was a note of optimism in today’s press conference.

“It finally looks as if the curve has flattened and, after a plateau phase, has begun to move on the downward trajectory,” said Giovanni Rezza, director of research at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità and leading epidemiologist.

“We should wait until tomorrow or the day after before we can really begin to breathe a sigh of relief.”

There is more good news from Lombardy, the epicentre of the outbreak in the Peninsula, as a test has been developed to effectively determine immunity from COVID-19.

“We have excellent news, as a test has been confirmed reliable by the Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia, a blood test that shows who has developed antibodies,” explained Governor of the Lombardy Region Attilio Fontana in a press conference, as reported by Adnkronos news agency.

“Within two weeks, we will have the European Union certification and can then begin testing large swathes of the population.”

This test has also been mentioned for use by sports medics to split players and staff into different groups when they return to training.

The groups are: positive, not positive but immune and not positive-not immune.

It is hoped that once the test becomes more widespread, it can allow for people who have developed immunity to return to work and travel earlier than others.

Some treatment has also seen blood donations from immune patients given to those suffering from the virus, in the hope the antibodies can help them fight off the illness.

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