Ref Watch: What is the new handball law?

Should Leicester and Manchester City have been awarded penalties for handball? Why was Patrick Bamford's 'goal' disallowed? Was John McGinn's first-minute strike wrongly ruled out?

Ruben Neves voices his disapproval at referee Anthony Taylor on Sunday
Image: Ruben Neves voices his disapproval at referee Anthony Taylor on Sunday

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher is back to assess the controversial decisions from around the Premier League...

Dermot joined Rob Wotton on Sky Sports News to review the big decisions...

Leicester 1-0 Wolves

preview image 2:53
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leicester's win over Wolves

INCIDENT: Leicester are awarded a penalty for handball against Max Kilman. Wolves feel hard done by after Dennis Praet's cross hit Kilman's forearm from point-blank range.

Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel thinks nobody really knows what the handball rule is after a controversial penalty helped them to a 1-0 win over Wolves.

VERDICT: Incorrect decision - no penalty.

DERMOT SAYS: "I looked at it and thought, 'is his arm in an unnatural position?' He's running, and does he have the chance to react and get his arm out of the way? I would suggest no, because it comes from such a short distance. There was that one given, and there was also the Gomez one given and I think both were very harsh.

"What I would say is that it was the stance taken over the weekend for whatever reason."

Neville's handball verdict

Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast:

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"If you're a full-back, my job is to block the cross. My number one job in my day was to stop the cross.

"You had to stop that cross with your life, and that meant you'd throw everything at it, your body, which means your arm comes away from your side.

Wolves' players fumed at Anthony Taylor after his decision to award a penalty against Max Kilman in their 1-0 defeat at Leicester 1:01
Former Manchester Utd and Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich says the current handball law is 'leading to utter confusion' after the decisions against Liverpool's Joe Gomez and Wolves' Max Kilman.

"Defenders like Colin Hendry, John Terry, Steve Bruce were the same, quite often it would bounce off their knee into their arm… every single time now they'd be giving penalties away. But this is great defending! Because you are in desperate mode to stop that ball going into the back of your net.

"There has to be an element of compromise with natural position, your natural position changes. If a ball is hit at you from three yards, it cannot be deliberate. You don't have time for it to be deliberate."

Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City's draw with Liverpool

INCIDENT: Manchester City are awarded a penalty on the same afternoon as a similar incident to Leicester's first penalty involving Kilman as Kevin De Bruyne's cross is deemed to have hit the outstretched arm of Liverpool defender Joe Gomez.

VERDICT: Incorrect decision - no penalty.

DERMOT SAYS: "On both accounts, I don't think either Kilman nor Gomez have enough time to react and avoid being hit by the ball. The ball has come so fast and from such a close distance, so I was very surprised both were given. What I would say is that it's easier to move on when both referees are making the same decision."

What is the new handball law?

DERMOT SAYS: "The Joel Ward incident [Everton were awarded a penalty against Crystal Palace for handball] triggered a slight amendment to the 'silhouette definition' we saw before then that anything outside the line of the body was punished.

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Liverpool's Joe Gomez insists he made no attempt to try and handball Kevin De Bruyne's cross and calls for common sense to be used in future decisions.

"It was a hard and fast rule with no exceptions. Following that weekend, it seemed to be that there was this notion of if the arm was in a natural position at that point of play - thinking of the Victor Lindelof handball awarded against Palace - I feel both the two at the weekend fall within that category.

"Both have taken the stance that the arms are out, and it's a chance to look at it over the international break. The referees can discuss whether they need to raise their tolerance a little bit more to identify how far and fast the ball has travelled and whether it's a natural running motion. I feel that's where we are at this point."

Current handball law

It was agreed on October 1 that Premier League match officials would slightly amend their interpretation of handball, after it was discussed at a Shareholders meeting between all 20 clubs.

More emphasis will now be put on what a player's "expected" arm position is when the ball strikes him, and the time they have to react. The "softened approach" has applied since matchweek 4.

In determining whether or not a handball should be penalised the following factors will be considered:

Position of the arm
• Where the arm is in an expected position given player's action
• This includes where the arms are clearly used for balance and/or protection it is less likely to be penalised
• The arms may be outside the player's bodyline and may not be penalised

Ability to react
• Where it is clear that the player does not have the ability to react

Direct shot at goal
• Whether the contact with the arm clearly blocks a direct shot towards the goal

Carragher's handball verdict

Jamie Carragher says it's almost impossible for defenders to move their arms out of the way when they're running and has questioned the penalties awarded for Man City and Leicester on Super Sunday.

Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports:

"Everything looks more obvious in slow motion, of course it does. IFAB seem to be making a mess of the handball rule now, and it's not taken into account situations in a game with any context. There's definitely a big problem, not just with handball but with VAR in general.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson of Liverpool complain to the referee Craig Pawson fafter he awards a penalty for handball during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on November 8, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Visionhaus) *** Local Caption *** Joe Gomez; Jordan Henderson; Craig Pawson 5:00
Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher gives his verdict on the handball controversies involving Liverpool defender Joe Gomez at Manchester City and Wolves defender Max Kilman at Leicester.

"We all feel a lot happier this season because the referees are going to the monitor, but it's made absolutely no difference. Only one referee has stuck with his decision having been sent to a monitor, and that referee made an absolute mess of it.

"As soon as they get sent there, they always change the decision, so it's no different to whether the referee goes and has a look or VAR tells him he's made a mistake.

"One decision in how many? We must be close to 40 or 50 times now where a referee has gone to a monitor and only one time they've stuck with the decision. That doesn't feel right because the referees aren't then going and given their own opinions, they can't be."

Crystal Palace 4-1 Leeds

Patrick Bamford was denied an equaliser when his arm was deemed offside
Image: Patrick Bamford was denied an equaliser when his arm was deemed offside

INCIDENT: Patrick Bamford is denied an equaliser for Leeds after collecting Mateusz Klich's pass and lifting his shot over Vicente Guaita. His feet are in an onside position but his arm - pointing where he wants the ball to be played - is beyond the last Palace defender.

Leeds have contacted the Premier League and PGMOL to ask them to clarify the offside rule following Bamford's disallowed goal.

VERDICT: Unclear.

DERMOT SAYS: "You can argue with me all day about it and I'm not going to defend it. I'm not going to back it but all I can say is, on the day, with what the VAR had at his disposal, that's where he drew the lines, that's the image he had, that's the decision he took.

"That's all I can tell you. I can't justify it; I can't say it's wrong or it's right. Others will judge. I don't know where Sakho was standing precisely but that's what was available and that's what he made his decision on.

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher gives his verdict on Patrick Bamford's offside goal by VAR at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

"I'm not a technician in the VAR room. I've been quite open and transparent and said I think it's a really tough call. There's no doubt about that. What I would say is whichever way he called it, you are going to unravel it. There's no doubt about that.

"I've only got to look back at the media from the last 24 hours. Not many people are happy about it but that's what the VAR had to make the decision. I never once said it was clear and obvious. The images given to the VAR were the best he had available at that time, and that's what he had to make his decision from. It's the image he had, that's where the line was drawn. He made the decision that it was offside.

"I'm not backing it, I'm not decrying it but I have to live with it. I may not like it but that's what he had and that's what he did." To the VAR, that picture told him it was offside, that's why it was given.

Neville's offside verdict

Bamford was denied a first-half equaliser by a marginal offside call
Image: Bamford was denied a first-half equaliser by a marginal offside call

Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast:

"It is a nonsense. And it's not VAR. Offside is more consistent than it has ever been before, and you would argue that decision-making is more consistent than ever before.

"And VAR is getting blamed for what I believe is a couple of rule applications. The handball rule is the nonsense, not VAR. The way in which offsides are measured is a nonsense, not the VAR.

They are experts in their field, there’s no doubt about that. When you are talking about technology like this it’s no good having multi-million pound technology and having people straight out of university. I’m not decrying people just out of university because there are some very intelligent people, but these guys are very skilled and experienced people.
Dermot Gallagher on the VAR technicians

"I think we've actually got something pretty good. We're actually getting consistency, but it's a couple of rule changes, with respects to handball, and the offside drawing the line down the arm.

"We don't want to see it. Fans don't want to see it. Coaches don't want to see it. Players don't. Commentators don't. So let's get rid of it, because the game doesn't want to see it.

"Nobody wants to see a player have the ball hit against him from three yards away give a pen away because he can't react in time.

Image: Bamford saw his strike chalked off when last season it would have stood

"There's a demand from fans, overwhelmingly, that we don't like this part of the game. And they have to react to this. FIFA, UEFA, the FA - other organisations - they have to come together and say let's change it, let's move it back.

"This is universally disliked. The referees don't like it! I actually think VAR has improved this season, I like referees going to the monitor to have the power, but it's the rules that need changing."

Arsenal 0-3 Aston Villa

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Aston Villa’s win over Arsenal

INCIDENT: Aston Villa think they have taken the lead inside the opening minute when John McGinn finishes beyond Bernd Leno. But upon review, the goal is disallowed by referee Martin Atkinson after being told by VAR David Coote to consult his pitchside monitor. Replays showed Ross Barkley may have been standing in Leno's line of vision.

Image: John McGinn fires into the net but Ross Barkley is deemed offside

VERDICT: Correct decision - offside.

DERMOT SAYS: This is 100 per cent right. Not only is Barkley in line with Leno, but he actually jumps as well. Leno would have seen him in his eyeline. Some people have said he wouldn't have saved it anyway, but without doubt he has interfered with his vision.

West Ham 1-0 Fulham

West Ham vs Fulham Highlights 2:59
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win over Fulham

INCIDENT: Tomas Soucek's 91st-minute winner is allowed to stand despite Sebastien Haller standing in an offside position during the first phase of play with the ball played into the Fulham box towards the Frenchman. Haller is still standing in an offside position when Soucek's shot beats Alphonse Areola.

Tomas Soucek steers West Ham to victory late on against Fulham
Image: Tomas Soucek steers West Ham to victory late on against Fulham

VERDICT: Correct decision - goal.

DERMOT SAYS: VAR checked it as they check every goal, and there's a small anomaly in the law there as when the ball is played towards Haller, even though he jumps for the ball, it's so far above his head that he's deemed not to be interfering with play as he can't play that ball.

"It's impossible for him to play it because of the height of the cross. It's perhaps one of the few times that the law works in the forward's favour. Once the defender heads it out, the ball is still in play. As it gets returned back, Haller was in an onside position."

Everton 1-1 Manchester United

Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire have words after the Everton goalkeeper kicked the Manchester United captain but avoided VAR action
Image: Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire have words after the incident at Goodison

INCIDENT: Jordan Pickford spills Juan Mata's free-kick under pressure from Harry Maguire before the Manchester United defender goes to ground after colliding with the Everton goalkeeper and Michael Keane. Maguire knees the ball over and a goal-kick is awarded.

VERDICT: Correct decision - no penalty.

DERMOT SAYS: "I didn't think it was a penalty because even if the referee had initially given a spot-kick, I'm 100 per cent convinced that the VAR would have overturned it for a push by Maguire on Pickford. The push definitely makes him lose the ball in the air."

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