It’s becoming a bit of a theme for me to talk about new football rules that I’m not a fan of, and I’ll try to move away from that in my following articles. However, I feel like I have to try and let off some steam when it comes to the new handball rule.
This rule was introduced at the beginning of the 2019/20 season and I genuinely think it’s one of the stupidest changes in recent times for a number of reasons. The rule more or less clarifies that any goal scored with a handball involved, no matter the intent, will be disallowed. In essence, it’s a pretty good idea. I’ve always hated when opposition players have shouted “ball-to!” at referees. A handball is a handball in my books.
What makes this rule so ridiculous is the fact that it doesn’t apply to defenders. When defending their own goal, players still get a bit of leeway when it comes to the ball striking their arm. I just don’t understand this. If attackers are to be penalised for the slightest of handballs, defenders should be too. There has to be an element of consistency. Instead, defenders are still getting away with murder in comparison to their attacking counterparts.
For instance, I was watching the Southampton vs Burnley tie just the other day. A cross came in from Southampton, who at the time were chasing an equaliser, and the ball struck the arm of Ben Mee. His arm wasn’t tucked by his side, and I’d say it was in a pretty unnatural position. No matter what your opinion on that was, the simple fact is that his arm stopped a cross being delivered. VAR had a check and no penalty was given, with Southampton going on to lose the game.
A few seasons ago, this might not have bothered me too much. It just infuriates me that if the ball skiffs the smallest finger of an attacker before a goal, having no impact on the game whatsoever, the goal will still be disallowed. I remember a West Ham game in December where Michail Antonio had a goal disallowed; not a single Southampton player claimed for a handball and yet VAR still ruled out the goal. His hand was reasonably close to his body and I would hazard a guess that if a defender did the same thing, they’d get away with it.
VAR is part of the problem, of course. Officials would never be able to make stupid decisions like this if it wasn’t for video referees micro analysing every little detail. I don’t think a single neutral football fan would want to see a goal ruled out for the tiniest of handballs. If a handball is blatant enough to have given a striker an advantage, a referee should (in most cases) be able to see it for themselves.
I realise this has been a bit of a rant, but I’m just frustrated at the lack of consistency with the rule. If strikers are to be punished for the most meaningless of handballs, defenders should be as well. It would make the game fairer overall and would prevent even more unnecessary drama surrounding VAR.