Premier League referees are up in arms over controversial handball calls as they join players and managers in opposing the new rule – but feel powerless to act due to pressure from their boss Mike Riley
- The Premier League has been filled with controversial handball calls so far
- Eric Dier and Joel Ward were two players who were victims of contentious calls
- Premier League referees are as annoyed as players and managers about the rule
- Managers are trying to work together to try and lobby the PGMOL this season
Premier League officials are just as angry as managers about the new handball law but feel powerless to change it due to instructions from referees chief Mike Riley.
One source said that ‘it’s Riley’s way or no way’ when asked whether leading referees such as Mike Dean and Michael Oliver would be given a say on how to interpret the new law that has been introduced this season.
Sportsmail knows of members of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited who do not like the new law and how it is interpreted.
Premier League referees are just as annoyed as managers about the new handball rule
However, referees feel powerless to change the rules due to instructions from Mike Riley
But they must apply it the way they are told or face repercussions, such as by being dropped from future fixtures and therefore losing a significant part of their salary.
Several former officials have criticised what they regard as over-zealous interpretation of the handball law, including the former head of PGMOL Keith Hackett, who wants the rule clarifying.
Sportsmail has learned that top-flight managers angered about the situation are working together on the issue and plan to lobby PGMOL to make a change through the League Managers Association.
The Premier League are open to discussing the handball law with the clubs, but are unable to make any changes to the interpretation of the law as they must first receive the blessing of the international law-making body IFAB and their head of refereeing, David Elleray.
The Premier League has been filled with controversial handball calls such as Eric Dier’s (above)
The new law, which states that a handball has occurred when the ball strikes a player who has become ‘unnaturally bigger,’ was introduced by IFAB in the summer of 2019, but PGMOL delayed its implementation in the Premier League until this season on the recommendation of Riley.
Referees and assessors have been made aware of six particular moments that constitute handball including: if the ball hits the arm or hand ‘outside of a player’s body line’, if a player clearly leans into the path of the ball and if a player is falling with his arms extended ‘vertically or laterally’.
A list of what should not be ruled handball, including if a player’s arms are extended to brace himself from a fall or if the ball unintentionally hits the arm or hand of the same player following a miskick, have also been distributed.
Disgruntled managers are working together to try and lobby PGMOL to change the rules. Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson has also been left frustrated by the new rules
An internal meeting between the Premier League and PGMOL will take place this week but many managers are resigned to the controversial new law staying in place all season, as altering it in the middle of the campaign, would lead to questions about the integrity of the competition.
There may be leeway, however, to reconvene later in the season and alter the interpretation of the rule.
But any review would be required to happen at a certain juncture in the season, for example when all clubs have played the same number of games, to avoid integrity issues.
Joel Ward (right)’s ‘handball’ was another contentious call from the weekend just gone
The PGMOL could instruct referees to show more common sense when assessing incidents such as the one involving Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward on Saturday.
However, any players who handle the ball above shoulder level, as with Tottenham’s Eric Dier and Brighton’s Neal Maupay, will still be penalised as IFAB say that is an automatic indication of an ‘unnatural’ movement.
FIFA, the world governing body who are now in charge of VAR, did not want to comment on Monday and insisted it was an issue for IFAB to discuss.