England women’s team manager Phil Neville has questioned the handball rules, calling them a 'minefield', but ultimately supports attempts to “keep the game moving forward".
The Lionesses proved both the beneficiaries of VAR during the Women’s World Cup and suffered the wrath of review, seeing penalties and goals given against Scotland and Cameroon, but having scores ruled out against the United States and Sweden.
VAR was a consistent talking point during the tournament with much criticism over its implementation and its use to provide strict interpretations of rules, specifically with handball and goalkeepers remaining on the line on spot-kicks.
And when asked his opinion on VAR, Neville admitted: “Handball I think is the big problem.
“I think a prime example is the penalty we got against Scotland and the goal disallowed [against Sweden], the handball.
“There’s a grey area between what is unnatural, silhouette, and even I don’t understand it to be honest with you. I say I don’t understand it, it’s how can we get that consistency.
“I think the referees have been really good in the tournament and they’ve just abided by the rules that have been set. There’s no criticism of the referees.”
Neville added the nature of VAR can be cruel on those involved in the game, noting he has a better understanding of how Pep Guardiola felt following Manchester City’s loss to Tottenham on an overturned goal in the Champions League.
However, Neville believes it is for the good of the game and something everyone will have to adjust to.
“The hurt is if you think about the goal that Ellen [White] scored the other night and the goal she scored today, we’d scored it, we’d celebrated it, we’d done silly dances down the line, we were then thinking about how we were going to win the game and then literally four, three minutes later it’s taken away from you. It’s a horrible feeling.
“I remember the Champions League game when Pep did the same when City were against Tottenham and you think at the time it’s alright, and then when it happens to you, it’s a nightmare.
“It will take some getting used to, I have to say. But to keep the game moving forward, we’ve just got to make sure we keep nailing the big ones.”
Part of the complaint about the use of VAR has been the idea that the strict interpretation of the rules was not something that was properly conveyed to players and coaches before the tournament.
However, Neville believes most of the problem stems from adjusting from going from judgment calls over rules to a strict interpretation.
“They were, they were explained and they’ve been implemented to the law, to the absolute law,” Neville said. “When the goal was disallowed, or when Ellen’s against the USA was disallowed, whether it’s a toe a foot or an arm, it was offside. You can’t argue, you can’t speak to the referee afterwards and say ‘that wasn’t offside’ because it was offside. It takes away all that, all the controversy.
“I just thought today that the handball one, we probably just need to… what is handball? It didn’t look like a handball because ultimately the Swedish defender came and clashed in and the ball was there… could you see where she touched it?
“The handball is an impossible one for someone that probably is watching to actually give. I feel sorry for them.
“That is the rule that I thought ‘this is going to be a minefield’ and it will continue to be so.
“If you abide by the rule of common sense then you’re going to get inconsistencies, week-in, week-out and I think it has to be black and white. What they’ve implemented is black and white rules.
“We were told beforehand that would be the case, it’s happened but we still don’t like it.
“I just feel the handball still needs work because the Scotland goal, Jen Beattie is probably on a beach somewhere on holiday right now thinking ‘that was never a handball’ and Ellen today is thinking ‘that’s never a handball and that’s my golden boot’. And it just seems cruel.”