Today's VAR thread is mainly a handball special.

- Explaining why the Liverpool penalty was correct (including quotes from UEFA refs' chief)
- How law change brought a goal for Gabriel
- Possible Newcastle handball

Plus a bit on pitchside monitor use.
Let's start with the penalty given to Liverpool for the handball by Leeds' Robin Koch.

This passage from the official Prem website, and the Laws of the Game, has been doing the rounds. It suggests that all deflections onto the hand cannot be an offence. It's not the case.
As is the case with many laws as written in the basic LOTG, they only touch the surface of interpretation and application.

Remember, until this summer the LOTG never said in black and white which part of the arm was handball. It was learned/trained knowledge.
The handball law, as it is now, came into forced in the summer of 2019.

So to give proper context for handball following a deflection, let's take the quotes from UEFA's head of referees, Roberto Rossetti. These were given in January 2019 ahead of the law coming in.
Roberto Rossetti said of deflections leading to handball: "The big challenge is the position of the arm ... If the defender is making the body bigger in order to block the ball it is not fair.

"It is different if the defender is challenging or playing the ball and it rebounds."
Roberto Rossetti continues: "If he is looking to block a cross or a shot on goal and the player is trying to spread his body then it is a handball."

So there are two key points:
1) Position of the arm
2) Is it is deliberate play of the ball or a block?
A few months later, just before the law changed, Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko conceded a penalty in the UCL final where the ball hit his outstretched arm off the chest.

Many assumed the new wording on deflections meant the Sissoko handball would not be penalised anymore.
Rossetti made it clear before 2019-20 began that the Sissoko handball remains a penalty even after the change.

"This is a correct decision now and next season. It's a penalty. It doesn't matter if ball touched before the chest and then the arm of the player, it's a penalty."
So, coming back round to the Koch penalty, Michael Oliver's decision clearly falls into Rosetti's description.

Koch's arm was way out from his body, making it much bigger, and it was a block rather than attempt to play the ball. Therefore, the deflection is irrelevant.
It's unlikely this would have been a penalty last season, when the PL operated its own defensive handball interpretation.

But FIFA has told the PL to fall in line and apply defensive handball much more strictly, as in Europe. As I wrote last week, we will see a lot more pens.
Jairo Riedewald's handball penalty was cancelled by the VAR last season after the ball deflected onto his hand from the foot.

Key difference: is Riedewald attempting to play the ball (vs. just blocking it)? That's subjective of course and refs would have differing opinions.
We can see the difference in the claim for a penalty against Jeff Hendrick for Newcastle at West Ham.

The player's arm is down by his side, and not making his body bigger, as per the laws.

NB: It probably is handball by point of contact alone, but it's borderline.
So on point of contact, the very first game brought the first goal allowed that would have been chalked off last season.

Gabriel for Arsenal on Saturday, and Mamadou Sakho for Palace (last season). Will be far fewer disallowed.
Pitchside monitors. Compare the Kyle Walker-Peters red-card review to the Eddie Nketiah red card vs. Leicester last season.

With Nketiah the referee went to the screen and nodded. On Saturday, Jon Moss had obvious dialogue with the VAR. This is how it's changed.
Last season, the VAR could only recommend a change if the referee's description did not fit with the TV replay.

Now, the VAR can simply tell the referee he needs to look again. It *should* make overturns easier, but it does still rely on the VAR identifying the error.
And finally.... The latest exhibit for "Offside is only bad in the Premier League", as Marseille have a goal disallowed at PSG.

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More from @DaleJohnsonESPN

28 Sep
Ok, for the VAR thread this week I am going to fully explain the interpretation of defensive handball, as imposed this season.

DISCLAIMER: It doesn't mean I don't think some of these decisions are crackers, but this IS how referees AT ALL LEVELS have been told to apply the law.
I fully understand the frustration of highly experienced and respected former refs.

But the fact here is the application FIFA/the IFAB demands is not as it may seem in the written Laws of the Game.

Here's why. It comes down solely to the definition of "unnaturally bigger".
We all in our own minds, understandably, consider a "natural" arm position to have a direct correlation to how a player may be moving: jumping, running etc.

However, the handball law, as altered by IFAB boss David Elleray, does not take this into account whatsoever.
Read 23 tweets
26 Sep
I'm not sure what the Brighton players are complaining about. It's handball. It's a penalty. And Maupay knew it.

And another VAR first in the Premier League with the penalty given after the final whistle had been blown! #BRIMUN
Here is the section of the VAR protocol that sets out a penalty can be given after the final whistle has been blown. #BRIMUN Image
Excellent to see the tweak to the attacking handball law, which now must lead immediately to a chance, in action for the first time.

As the Kai Havertz handball led to an attempted clearance by a defender, not straight to Mount for the shot, no offence. #WBACHE
Read 5 tweets
24 Sep
CONFIRMED

Additional international treble headers for UEFA in March and September to catch up and to fit in all World Cup qualifiers.

Five subs for all UEFA club and international tournaments for rest of 2020-21.
22-31 March, 2021 - 3 dates
31 May-8 June - Euro 2020 warm-ups
30 Aug-8 Sept - 3 dates
4-12 Oct - 2 dates
8-16 Nov - 2 dates
21-29 March 2022 - 2 dates (World Cup playoffs)

UEFA Nations League finals will be on 6-7 October with the final and third-place on 10 October.
UEFA also confirms COVID rules for the UCL and UEL group stage.

1) If a match cannot be staged by the home team, a suitable alternative venue must be proposed. If the match cannot go ahead/reschedule, the home team will forfeit 3-0
Read 13 tweets
22 Sep
Time for this week's VAR thread.

We need to start by going through defensive handball again, and how it has developed across leagues in the last few years, because quite simply this isn't going anyway.

Also, a key section on use of the pitchside monitor.

Long one today.....
Defensive handball was given a "soft" change at the 2018 World Cup, making the rules far stricter.

It led to 9 penalties for handball in that tournament, including in the final given against Croatia.

This change was then written into the LOTG for 2019-20.
However, many leagues adopted the FIFA interpretation of defensive handball immediately, which led to a spike in handball decisions.

This rise cannot be simply attributed to the introduction of VAR, as the Bundesliga and Serie A used VAR in 2017-18.
Read 28 tweets
19 Sep
As I set out before the start of the season, there are going to be a LOT more penalties for handball in the Premier League.

Forget what you used to know. The Premier League now has to toe the line with FIFA. espn.co.uk/football/engli… #MUNCRY
And the same goes for the retake of the Palace penalty. That would not be retaken last season.

But FIFA has insisted that encroaching by the goalkeeper is enforced, even if the offence is millimeters. It doesn't matter how tight it is if the evidence shows an offence. #MUNCRY
Why there will be many more penalties for handball in the Premier League this season. We're on +2 after 11 games. #MUNCRY Image
Read 5 tweets
17 Sep
CONFIRMED!

Europa League draw (champions path). Seeded teams (5) will draw an unseeded (11). These are drawn first, leaving 3 all-unseeded ties.

So 5 seeded have 11 options. 11 unseeded could draw anyone.

SEEDED
Dinamo Zagreb
Young Boys
Red Star Belgrade
Qarabag
Dynamo Brest
Europa League draw (champions path)

UNSEEDED
Celtic or Riga/Tre Fiori
Ludogorets Razgrad
Legia Warsaw or Drita
Sheriff Tiraspol or Dundalk
Cluj or Djurgardens
Suduva or KuPS
Sarajevo or Buducnost Podgorica
Dinamo Tbilisi or Ki
Celje or Ararat-Armenia
Flora or Floriana
Tirana
What this means for the unseeded teams, such as Celtic, is the chances of drawing a seeded team are pretty much 50/50. And there is a fair spread of strength in the draw.

The non-champions path (Spurs, Rangers, Aberdeen etc) is still awaiting a few ties to complete.
Read 8 tweets

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