The Premier League is considering lobbying IFAB, football’s international lawmakers, for a change in the handball law after Tottenham’s Eric Dier was penalised against Newcastle.
Top-flight referees this week agreed to take a more lenient approach to interpreting the new handball law following a succession of penalties and widespread condemnation at a number of the decisions.
The biggest outcry came after Dier conceded a stoppage-time penalty in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle, when the ball was headed into his arm at close quarters as he challenged Andy Carroll in the air.
Despite top-flight shareholders agreeing on Tuesday that referees should show more subjectivity going forward, the decision against Dier would still stand because the ball struck his arm when it was above the shoulder, which is automatically considered a penalty under the letter of the law.
Dier and Newcastle boss Steve Bruce are among those to have condemned the law in the wake of the incident, and the Premier League and PGMOL both believe a rule change is now needed.
Any move from the Premier League to change the handball law would need to be submitted to IFAB by the end of October in order to be considered, but alterations would only apply from next season.
Conversations between the Premier League and IFAB are currently ongoing and if necessary the top-flight is prepared to formally lobby for a change in the law.
The upturn in handballs this season has been blamed on a new interpretation of the law which punishes a defender for making their body “unnaturally bigger” and has seen penalties awarded if the ball strikes an arm when it is outside a player’s “body line”.
From this weekend, referees will be invited to consider whether a defender’s arm is in an “expected position”, rather than looking for “unnatural” body shapes.
As well as arm position, proximity to the ball will also be a key factor in the changes, which have been approved by IFAB.
For example, the penalty awarded against Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof against Crystal Palace would no longer apply because his arm was in an “expected position”, albeit outside his body-line.
Similarly, the decision against Palace’s Joel Ward against Everton would not have been awarded going forward.
The decision against Spurs defender Matt Doherty in the 5-2 win at Southampton would also have likely been overturned going forward and the Republic of Ireland international gave his backing to the more lenient approach.
“I welcome the approach,” Doherty said. “I don’t think it’s the referees fault, it’s more the law that has been put in place.
“I am sure when they look at the monitor they are probably sick they have to give some of these penalties when they know they are just not penalties.
“You said Eric’s would still be a penalty, I don’t even know how that can still be a penalty when he wasn’t even looking and his hands are in a natural position because he is jumping and on his way down.
“I welcome it because everyone knows where we were three or four years ago where handball wasn’t really a problem, to now where it seems to be a huge issue. I welcome any change.”