Explained: How the handball law will change as IFAB admits referees have not always been consistent

Football lawmakers will discuss further changes to the handball law next week in a bid to ensure it is more consistently applied around the world.

The International Football Association Board [IFAB] has accepted that referees’ interpretation of handball incidents “has not always been consistent” and will consider a further clarification at an annual general meeting on March 5.

IFAB introduced clarifications to the handball law last season and, under Law 12, the wording was tightened to note it is an offence if a player, “scores in the opponents’ goal directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper.”

It is also an offence if a player touches the ball with their hand/arm when, “the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger.”

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But, after talks with football and technical advisory panels in November, IFAB said: “It was agreed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence.


“In terms of ‘unnaturally bigger’, referees should judge the position of the hand/arm in relation to the player’s movement in that situation.”

Premier League referees must apply the laws of the game, as agreed by IFAB, and Sky Sports News has been told they have not made a request to the Football Association for any specific changes to be made to the law but are pleased it will be discussed.

IFAB is made up of the four British associations and FIFA. Any law changes approved at its AGM are effective from June 1.

Tottenham’s Eric Dier says players have been “terrified” of the new handball law, insisting it has made life more difficult for defenders who now second guess themselves before going in for a challenge in the box.

Dier’s handball against Newcastle in September – when he rose to a challenge in the air with Newcastle striker Andy Carroll who headed the ball, at close range, against the raised arm of the Spurs player – has raised questions about what constitutes a handball offence.

“You’re terrified in and around the box with the new rule,” Dier said. “You don’t feel free to act, to try to play in a normal way. Sometimes it’s difficult because it’s something that can come back to bite you and is still an opinion.

“The fact that everyone seems to be of the same opinion, which is a rarity in football, makes it clear that things aren’t right. If the opposition manager is saying that he doesn’t think it’s a penalty, which is also a rarity, it’s very clear.”

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