Football

EPL referees to be more lenient over handball calls: Reports

EPL gives refs leeway for more subjectivity after recent furore: Reports

Widespread reports have suggested that referees in the English Premier League are set to take a more lenient view on handball incidents after an outcry in the opening weeks of the season.

This change comes after an EPL meeting on Tuesday where it was agreed that referees will be permitted to use greater subjectivity, within the boundaries of the current rules, reported The Athletic and ESPN.

The greater leniency that is expected to come into effect from this weekend's fixtures means that: "Anything that hits a hand above the head in the box, for example, would still be a penalty.

"But a deflection off a hand by a player's side would be viewed differently. Proximity and arm position are the key factors in the change."

This means the penalties against Joel Ward or Victor Lindelof last weekend may not have stood but Eric Dier or Neal Maupay's would still stand, reported The Athletic.

The changes came after a conversation with the International Football Association Board, which made tweaks to the handball law in June. But the frustration with the law predates that, to when it was first amended ahead of last season.

Then the complaints came from the likes of La Liga and Serie A. There was little outcry from the EPL as it had decided to delay the adoption of the rules last season for one campaign as it introduced the video assistant referee.

The difference was stark. Last season, there were 48 handball penalties in La Liga and 57 in Serie A ,while the EPL had just 19.

With the EPL falling in line with its European contemporaries this season, it has seen six handball penalties awarded in 26 matches, as compared to none during the first 30 matches of last season.

Much of the controversies this season are centred around handballs by players where the referee rules their arm or hand is an "unnatural position" or is making the body bigger.

The previous, established handball law relied primarily on referees making a judgment as to whether a handball was intentional or not.

As former EPL and Fifa referee Mark Clattenburg explained in his Daily Mail column: "It is an offence if a player touches the ball with his hand or arm below the sleeve when he has made his body 'unnaturally bigger'. This applies even if the ball ricochets off an opponent and on to their arm."

Ex-Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Ryan Mason argued that the new handball law could leave players more vulnerable to injury.

FRACTURED SKULL

Mason, who suffered a fractured skull after a clash of heads with Chelsea's Gary Cahill, told Sky Sports: "You're almost asking defenders to not move in a natural way. I'm probably quite passionate about it because I lost my career, almost my life, due to the fact that someone challenged me in a way that wasn't correct.

"They didn't use their arms as leverage. You're taught as a kid to jump with your arms and to protect yourself and there have been penalties given where arms were in natural positions but the ball has hit them from a yard away.

"My fear is the safety of the players. You're going to get guys challenging not using their arms and almost leading with their head. That's not good for the game."

Clattenburg, meanwhile, highlighted that some referees are also against the changes to the handball rule. He wrote: "There are PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Board) officials who feel this new interpretation of handball is harsh on defenders and is making referees seem unforgiving.

"Referees are marked for every match and receive feedback from supervisors. If they don't apply the law the way they're told, they risk being demoted or dropped."

Football