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The Rules Regarding Football’s Handball Rule are Changed….Again

Football Whistle Side ViewWhile we can debate the merits – and otherwise – of VAR until we are blue in the face, the handball rule should, in theory, be black and white.

Did the ball strike the player’s hand/arm? Was it deliberate or accidental? That’s all pretty straightforward.

But football’s governing bodies like to complicate matters where possible, and the previous update to the handball law – the so-called ‘t-shirt ruling’ – has not gone down well.

Fulham were disallowed a perfectly good goal against Tottenham on Thursday evening when the ball struck Mario Lemina’s arm, which was in a natural position by his side, and so the goal arguably should have stood.

Sporting oracles will tell you that ‘these things even themselves out’, which is a pile of steaming manure of course. If Fulham are relegated by one point, it will cost them around £60 million in lost revenue next year – even that one out.

Afterwards, Scott Parker was calm but no doubt furious with the decision.

“I understand why the goal was not given and that’s the rule. I don’t agree with the rule,” he said.

“I am not complaining with that, the referee is acting to the rule. We have VAR so you can look back and see if there is a clear advantage. I don’t think we did.

“We are trying to make the game so pure and sterile and trying to control every single phase or moment to an absolute T and that is where the problem lies.”

Now the International Football Association Board (IFAB), who are in charge of the beautiful game’s rule changes, have announced that they are tweaking the handball law once again.

What is the New Handball Rule?

Man Wearing Suit Standing on Football

IFAB had their 135th Annual General Meeting on Thursday, which sounds like a laugh, and over a video stream the new handball rule was laid bare.

In a written statement posted on the FIFA website, they spoke of ‘inconsistent’ interpretation of their previous rule, and so they have decreed that any contact of ball to hand/arm will now be considered an offence.

“As the interpretation of handball incidents has not always been consistent due to incorrect applications of the Law, the members confirmed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence,” the statement reads.

The full clarification confirms it will be handball when:

  • A player deliberately touches the ball with hand or arm
  • A player makes their body ‘unnaturally bigger’ by moving their arm/hand
  • A player handles the ball when the position of their arm/hand is not ‘justified’ by their body position
  • A player scores with their hand/arm, whether accidental or not

As far as the definition of making your person ‘unnaturally bigger’, IFAB clarified that referees would be given full discretion to decide what that means, however they will be asked to take into account a player’s position, movement and if they have been impeded in any way by an opponent prior to handling the ball.

There has been a key clarification about what constitutes accidental handball too. If the ball strikes a player’s hand/arm and their teammate goes on to score, the goal will NOT be ruled out if the contact is judged to be accidental – as was seen in Fulham’s case against Spurs.

The new rulings will come into force on July 1 worldwide, although though competitions are allowed to introduce the new law beforehand if they vote it in.