What is the new rule?
IFAB clarified in March that handball will be penalised when a player “deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball.”
That means not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence.
Instead, the referee will look at the expected position of the player’s arm/hand considering his movement.
If the ball hits a player’s arm/hand and it is deemed to be in a natural position, handball will not be given.
If the ball hits a player’s arm/hand and the player has made their body unnaturally bigger, however, then the referee will penalise this action.
IFAB states: “A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation.”
It is also worthy to note that a goal will be disallowed for handball only if the scorer deliberately touches the ball with his arm/hand and he scores immediately.
What happened on the opening night of the tournament?
Some fans were up in arms last night when Italy’s penalty shouts were waved away.
One handball incident in Italy’s 3-0 win over Turkey last night went to VAR but was not awarded as when Leonardo Spinazzola’s cross from the left hit Zeki Celik’s arm, the defender’s arm was in an expected position.
IFAB’s changes came into effect on July 1. When the rules were announced in March, however, IFAB added that “competitions will retain the flexibility to introduce changes prior to that date”.
Domestic football leagues across Europe could have applied the law change about accidental handball immediately but many, including Serie A, did not.
What changed in the Premier League?
In September 2020, it was agreed that referees in the Premier League would be allowed to apply greater subjectivity to the handball rule within IFAB’s existing rules. Remember, this was before the rule change in March.
The Premier League’s interpretation of the handball law which was applied from September onwards was more aligned with IFAB’s new rules, introduced in March, than anywhere else in Europe.
The change of interpretation at the beginning of the season was brought about after numerous controversial handball decisions, including when Eric Dier conceded a penalty against Newcastle United on Saturday because the ball was headed against his arm from behind.
(Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)