Keith Hackett proposes a simplification to the handball law after major controversy affecting Man United and Spurs this season

We’ve seen some pretty dreadful decisions being given this season in relation to handballs in the box, but a decision to award Palace a penalty against Man United and a late decision to penalise Eric Dier vs Newcastle has resulted in a lot of outrage.

The problem has been that the refs have been given instructions to really clamp down on handballs in a defensive sense, but it looks like they’ve been over zealous in applying the law and it’s snowballed from there.

Former PGMOL boss Keith Hackett has been very vocal on handball decisions and VAR this season due to fears that it’s tarnishing the reputation of the Premier League.

Caught Offside spoke to Hackett on his current views on the state of the handball law, and he’s offered some potential adjustments to the law that would make it so much easier for us all to understand:

“I expressed my concerns about law 12 and handball when it was introduced. The idea of penalising a player when they accidentally handle the ball is a complete nonsense.

“I’m delighted that that UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has used his powers to request that FIFA and IFAB review the law at their upcoming meeting.

“The attempt to strictly define the cases where handling the ball is an offence has resulted in many unfair decisions which have been met with growing frustration and discomfort in the footballing community.

“I was asked some months ago about which simplifications I would make to the law, so here is my suggestion to the governing bodies”

The Keith Hackett version of the handball law – it’s an offence if:

  • A player deliberately handles the ball to gain possession, to score a goal, prevents a goalscoring opportunity or stops a promising attack – this will be penalised with a direct free kick
  • A goalkeeper will be penalised with a direct free kick if they handle the ball outside the area.

He also offered the following advice to referees to help them with their judgement.

  • Watch for the hand/arm moving towards the ball
  • Look for the hand/arm being used to stop the progress of an attack by an opponent
  • Watch for the hand/arm being used to control the ball
  • Look for the hand/arm being used to prevent a goal scoring opportunity

He insists that this adaptation would help assist everyone when it comes to interpreting the rules surrounding handball incidents, and it takes away the controversial moments where players are being punished for accidental handballs.

As a fan it’s so easy to agree with this because all we really want to see is some consistency and to have a basic understanding of why a decision has been given.

Even if you don’t fully agree with a ref’s decision you can accept it if you can see why they’ve come to make that call, but we’ve just seen so many mystifying moments in recent games.

READ MORE: “Send a clear message” – Keith Hackett explains why diving is tarnishing the Premier League and offers the refs some advice

It’s also worth pointing out that there’s a genuine case to be made that the current rules could be a concern when it comes to player safety.

You need your arms for balance – especially when jumping – so we could be endangering the players if they start worrying about challenging for the ball in a natural way.

It’s common to see a player being flipped or put in an awkward position when challenging for the ball in mid air, so if they start worrying about keeping their arms by their sides then eventually someone will land on their head/neck/spine and a bad injury will occur.

An example from Rangers vs Livingston – players NEED their arms for balance, leverage and protection

Making these laws simpler will benefit refs, players and fans, so let’s hope it happens soon.

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