The Handball Rule: Time for Change

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“It’s a mess.”

Jamie Carragher didn’t hold back in the Sky Sports studio on Monday night as the panel discussed the new alterations to the handball rule in the Premier League. Roy Keane was in agreeance, labelling the rule as ‘confusing’. Keane and Carragher aren’t alone in their outrage this season as many players and managers have followed suit.

VAR

Last season marked the beginning of a new era in the Premier League with the introduction of VAR (Video Assistant Referee). The main aim of VAR is to be used for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents”. Many will argue that the tedious lines drawn up for several offside decisions last season were far from “clear and obvious”. Yet teams got on with it and to an extent, VAR has provided a degree of credibility as well as a level of entertainment for spectators. At the end of the day, it is an entertainment business.

However, some may disagree with this. Roy Hodgson for example. The veteran manager was the first to voice his opinion over the weekend. In his post-match interview, Hodgson could not hide his frustration with the handball rule. “It’s certainly destroying my enjoyment of the game of football”.

Penalty Statistics

It is hard not to agree with Roy Hodgson when you take a glance at the statistics so far this season. In the 2017/18 season, six penalties were awarded for handball. Six penalties have been awarded this season for handball after three weeks. A frightening statistic.

Based on these statistics, a mind-boggling figure of 88 handball-related penalties is forecasted for this campaign. Clearly something has to change and Jamie Carragher believes it will. But who has the power to change the controversial rule?

IFAB

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) felt the need to alter the handball rule after a review of last season’s campaign. Similar to the aforementioned tediousness of the love/hate relationship between VAR and offside, IFAB went about redefining the handball rule. Anything below the armpit is handball. Accidental or not, a foul will be given.

From first impressions of the new season, it appears that any contact with the arm will result in a penalty. Especially if the arm is in an ‘unnatural position’. Players like Eric Dier, Victor Lindelof and Joel Ward will believe they were harshly adjudged and many will agree. To keep your arms glued to your side is not a ‘natural’ way of conducting yourself on the pitch.

The rule needs to change. And by change, Jamie Carragher explains simply that “we just need to get to where we were last season”.

There is a fine line between perfectionism and monotony.

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