Keith Hackett column: New accidental handball laws don’t go far enough… I’d like to see it scrapped as an offence altogether

Posted by

I have had major concerns about the handball law throughout this season. It has caused inconsistent decision making due to the IFAB law makers ruling to penalise accidental handball.

This caused a great deal of confusion when stakeholders in the game realised that defenders and attackers would be treated differently.

MORE: What next for this Arsenal star?

So at the 135th meeting of the IFAB, they decided to come up with a change which, in my opinion, does not go far enough.

Frankly, I would like to see accidental handball as an offence to be dropped altogether.

So, what have the lawmakers decided with regard to the handball law, which will come into force on July 1st, 2021?

Main Law change: Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct: handball

As the interpretation of handball incidents has not always been consistent due to incorrect applications of the Law, IFAB confirmed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence.

In terms of the criterion of the hand/arm making a player’s body ‘unnaturally bigger,’ it was confirmed that referees should continue to use their judgment in determining the validity of the hand/arm’s position in relation to the player’s movement in that specific situation.

Following this clarification, it is a handball offence if a player:

• deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball;

• touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger.

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.

By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalised.

Accidental handball that leads to a team-mate scoring a goal or creating a goal-scoring opportunity will no longer be considered an offence.

Those last two lines clarify for me the fact that if an accidental handball occurs and then a player passes the ball to a team-mate who scores a goal, it will no longer be ruled out.

Keith Hackett
Former Premier League and FIFA referee Keith Hackett is a columnist for
More Stories keith hackett