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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