Controversial handball rule: IFAB set for discussion next week


Lawmakers are set to discuss controversial handball rules during the International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting to be held on November 23.

It could be recalled that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin in a letter to his FIFA counterpart Gianni Infantino last month asked that IFAB look again at the law. The law was changed in 2019 in a bid to make it less subjective.

The new rule has led to several controversial decisions, leaving referees with no choice than to point to the penalty spot whenever the ball hit the arm below the elbow.

Therefore, it will form part of football’s lawmakers’ discussion when they gather virtually next week.

The new handball rule cut across both male and female football

Sky Sports News reported that the agenda for the next meeting of the technical and football advisory panels of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) does not explicitly mention handball, but it is understood it will be talked about on November 23.

Speaking on the effect of the rule so far, Ceferin noted that there was “growing frustration and discomfort” within football. This is concerning the law changes and how they were being applied.

While highlighting the difficulty of defining what a ‘natural’ body position was when the ball strikes the hand, or when it strikes a hand or arm above shoulder height, Ceferin also commented on the amendment which meant even unintentional handball by an attacking team directly before a goal is scored should be penalized.

With the new law, defenders are culpable as it’s almost impossible for them to move their arms out of the way when running.

“I propose to reconsider the old text of Law 12 which, in its extreme conciseness, provided almost all factors that the referees must bear in mind in order to assess whether a handball should be held intentional or not.

“I believe that going back to the previous wording, perhaps reviewed and integrated by a provision which does not allow goals to be scored with a hand/arm, is an option to be taken into account,” Ceferin wrote.

The handball new rules controversies continues as IFAB set to meet

It is expected that handball should be discussed as part of the summary of law changes made for the 2020-21 season. Recall that at IFAB’s 2020 annual general meeting in February, there was a clarification on the 2019 changes over which part of the arm represented handball, and which should not be given as handball.

The meeting could offer IFAB’s panels the opportunity to propose further clarification on the handball law for the 2021-22 season.

The panels will also consider the temporary dispensation to increase the number of substitutes allowed to a maximum of five, and whether it would be helpful to further extend this beyond 2021 to assist teams and competitions managing a congested and delayed schedule as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Also to be considered is the offside law after video assistant referee (VAR) technology inevitably led to increasingly marginal decisions.

A new proposal from former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who now heads FIFA global development will be looked at. Wenger had proposed that a player should be onside if any part of their body that can score a goal is behind or level with the relevant defender.

So, this gives the panels another opportunity to make a recommendation for new proposals on the offside to be trialed next season.


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