News   |    July 21st, 2021


The objective of effective rule making is to ensure that rules are clear and easy to understand and not contradictory or left open to interpretation.

Well, with the new season only two weeks old, my view already is that the rule changes made in the summer are further damaging the professional game in this country and eating away at what makes it the envy of the rest of the world – national game that is competitive, fast moving, exciting and when fans are in the stadia, passionate.

Handball should be penalised only when it is deemed to be deliberate. The new system has supposed green and red zones relating to the arm.  At the weekend, Victor Lindelof of Manchester United FC conceded a penalty because it was deemed that the ball hit his hand and although he had no knowledge of it and did not seek to gain an advantage the referee viewed the pitch side monitor and although he saw nothing wrong in real time he reversed his decision. I have been an advocate of referees using the pitch side monitor as they have been doing in Europe but there are two aspects of its use I don’t agree with. You could see that when match referee Martin Atkinson was viewing the monitor, he was listening to the views of the VAR official Jon Moss in his earpiece whereas surely the whole idea is that he reviews his original decision without being influenced.

Secondly, the contact between ball and hand is slowed right down on the monitor almost to a stop. Based on the new rule you could argue Atkinson made the right decision but in my view, it is the wrong decision. Compare the action taken by Atkinson at Old Trafford to referee Michael Oliver’s decision at the Emirates Stadium where Gabriel clearly handled the ball but that was deemed not to be a penalty based on the red and green zone concept.

In terms of the positioning of goalkeepers for penalty kicks the keeper must have one foot on or over the goal line and the TV pictures showed that David De Gea was off his line. In theory the players must not encroach into the penalty area when the kick is taken, but I doubt that particular rule will be enforced to the same degree as the movement of the goalkeeper which is inequitable.

I have to mention also the lack of consistency this season in clubs and players deciding whether or not to take the knee before a match. If it is done routinely each week, I can see the argument that the message it seeks to send loses its impact. On the other hand, if a team decides not to take the knee it is raised by the TV commentators as a negative action on their part. Surely it is for the football authorities to make the call on this. They do so in relation to other matters like when to hold a minute’s silence so why not rule on such an important issue as this.

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Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management

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