Football

EPL’s VAR to be more lenient on hand balls: Refs chief Mike Riley

Referees' chief Riley says hand ball awarded against Spurs' Sissoko in the Champions League final against Liverpool would not be given in the EPL

The video assistant referee (VAR) will not be used to police a hard line on hand balls when the technology is used in the English Premier League for the first time next season, said referees' chief Mike Riley.

The VAR made a controversy-filled debut in the women's game at the World Cup, baffling players and coaches as well as frustrating fans, reported Reuters.

The Lionesses manager Phil Neville called it a "nightmare" and admitted he does not understand the hand-ball rule.

He said: "Hand ball is the big problem, it's a nightmare.

"With VAR, it's a minefield; even I don't understand it...

"Hand ball is the big problem.

"It wouldn't surprise me if Fifa have a look at it after this World Cup and tweak the wording.

"They've obviously seen what's happening."

Riley said several penalties awarded for hand ball at the tournament, as well as in last season's Champions League, would not be given in the EPL.

One example he gave was the 90th-minute hand ball awarded to Holland in their round-of-16 win over Japan. Lieke Martens converted the resultant spot-kick to send the Dutch through.

"There are still areas of interpretation around the way the new hand-ball (rule) has been written - effectively what you consider to be an unnatural position of hands and arms," he told The Times yesterday.

"In this country, we have always said - and this is the players and managers saying it to us - that arms are part of the game and, as long as you are not trying to extend your body to block a shot, then there is more scope so that we don't penalise.

"What we don't want to create is a culture when defenders have to defend with their hands behind their back or where it is acceptable for attackers to try to drill the ball at their hand to win a penalty."

NEW HAND-BALL LAW

The new law states that players "taking a risk" by having hands or arms above shoulder height or in an "unnatural position" and making the body "unnaturally bigger" should be penalised, even if the hand ball is not deliberate.

However, Riley said that EPL officials would need to be convinced that the defender was deliberately attempting to create a bigger barrier for an opponent, rather than extending their arms to balance.

He said that EPL fans could expect a delay to the game only once in five matches.

The referee would not consult the pitchside monitor unless the VAR's view was radically different from what the on-field official expected to hear.

Said Riley: "There have been examples at the Women's World Cup, really subjective decisions, where it has taken three or four minutes.

"You can avoid all that, as long as the advice the VAR has given you is something that the referee expects.

"Where you have to be careful is to not use VAR to re-referee the game. You have to trust the people out there on the field of play as the players do."

The former Fifa referee said that the hand-ball decision against Tottenham Hotspur's Moussa Sissoko in the opening moments of the Champions League final against Liverpool would not be given in the EPL.

He explained: "Sissoko's a really interesting one. In real time, it looks a clear penalty.

"With VAR, you can actually see what he's doing, and he's not interested in trying to block the cross, he's saying to the covering defender: 'Get over there and fill the space.' That's not a deliberate act of extending the arm away from the body.

"You also see the ball deflects off the chest on to the arm, and if you put everything together and apply the philosophy we do here, we wouldn't say that was hand ball."

Football