The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has announced changes to the handball law following a season of confusion and VAR controversy.

The main change to the law, which will come into effect on July 1, sees accidental handball that leads to a teammate scoring a goal or having a goalscoring opportunity will no longer be considered an offence.

It means Josh Maja’s disallowed goal in Fulham’s defeat to Tottenham would have stood


It means Josh Maja’s disallowed goal in Fulham’s defeat to Tottenham would have stood

The updated handball law could be implemented at Euro 2020 if UEFA chooses to do so.

It means Fulham forward Josh Maja’s disallowed goal against Tottenham on Thursday night, which saw the ball hit the hand of teammate Mario Lemina from a Davinson Sanchez clearance, would have stood.

This change has done nothing to placate Fulham boss Scott Parker, who insists his stance on VAR hasn’t changed.

“I have just heard now that IFAB have decided to change that rule, which is disappointing,” he told the media on Friday.

This handball denied Fulham a point

BT Sport

This handball denied Fulham a point

“My stance on VAR is not going to change. We are looking for perfection, and I am not just talking about football but about the world we live in.

“You take a selfie and you put 14 filters on to get the perfect complexion or the perfect coloured eyes and the reality is that there is something more to that and something deeper which is what we all want.

“We are trying to create a sterile, perfect-scenario game which I think ultimately in the end is going to destroy it. The game is about raw emotion.

“When the fans come back into the stadium and they experience first-hand the disappointment that can happen, and how it works. It is going to leave everyone disappointed at times.

The changes have done nothing to placate Parker


The changes have done nothing to placate Parker

“That has always been my main worry and my main issue. From what has gone from just trying to get the real big decisions right has slowly turned into practically every decision in the game, trying to iron out any imperfection we have.

“When you are trying to do that you are going to lose something more important. I am afraid to say for me personally, I feel like we are losing it.”

The AGM of football lawmakers also ruled that not every touch of a player’s hand or arm with the ball is an offence.

The hand or 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 or arm’s position in relation to the player’s movement in that specific situation.

The English and Scottish football associations have confirmed their competitions will adopt the changes from next season. Below you can see the new handball rule in full.

The new handball rule in full

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; or
  • Scores in the opponents’ goal:
    – Directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper; or
    – Immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental

FIFA president Gianni Infantino also confirmed that IFAB will be looking to do trials over a new interpretation of the offside rule proposed by Arsene Wenger.

The former Arsenal manager is now FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development and wants to introduce fresh criteria whereby if any part of an attacker’s body is onside, he will be deemed as being onside.

Meanwhile, the ongoing trials of concussion substitutes were also discussed at the virtual meeting. It was confirmed the decision to launch the concussion substitute trials was based on the strong recommendation of the Concussion Expert Group which consists of leading medical and football experts who closely examined the applicability of best practice in other sports to football.

Members also received updates from FIFA on the latest developments regarding innovations related to video assistant referees (VARs) that could allow competitions with more limited budgets to use VAR technology.


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