Premier League revises handball interpretation after outcry over increase in penalties

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The Premier League has opted to revise its interpretation of the handball rule after a major increase in penalties early in the season.

Following a Premier League shareholders meeting on Tuesday, the league has bowed to pressure after six penalties were awarded for handball in the first three rounds of matches. 

The league heard feedback from managers, players and referees, all of whom were unhappy with the way the handball rule has been interpreted in the season's early going.

Though the Premier League cannot change the rule itself (that must be done by the International Football Association Board or IFAB), Goal understands that it has instructed its referees to be more lenient with their interpretation of the handball law.

Under the new guidelines, referees have been instructed to consider the proximity of the player to the ball, his arm position, and the amount of time he has to react.

That means that controversial penalties like the ones given against Manchester United's Victor Lindelof versus Crystal Palace, in which the defender was very close to the shot when it was taken and had little time to react, would not be awarded.

In addition, if a player is using their arm for balance or protection then a penalty is less likely to be given, whereas if a player's arm blocks a direct shot on goal it is more likely to be given.

Among the most contentious incidents was Eric Dier's handball against Newcastle on Sunday, which helped the Magpies to a late 1-1 draw against Tottenham. 

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After the match even Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, whose side had benefited from the decision, called the rule “ludicrous" and added, “If you’re going to tell me that that is handball then we all may as well pack it in."

Interestingly though, under the Premier League's new interpretation, Dier's penalty would still be given because the England international's arm was above his shoulder – a rule that originates with IFAB.

Bruce wasn't the only Premier League manager to hit out at the handball rule's interpretation this weekend, with Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson saying: "It is ruining the game of football, no question of that."