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Sport

Dier case prompts Premier League to ask for handball law change

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The Premier League wants to change the handball law and is in talks with rule-making body IFAB in a bid to end decisions such as the controversial ruling against Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - UEFA Nations League - League A - Group 2 - Iceland v England - Laugardalsvollur, Reykjavik, Iceland - September 5, 2020 England's Eric Dier in action REUTERS/John Sibley

Fans can expect to see a shift in approach from referees this weekend after the Premier League’s referees body, PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited), opted to adopt a more lenient approach to the current laws.

Referees are now being told they no longer have to view incidents purely through the prism of whether an arm or hand is in an “unnatural position” or outside the body “silhouette”, as IFAB has urged.

From this weekend, referees can consider whether a player’s body is in the “expected position” for the action being undertaken.

The PGMOL believes that approach would mean cases such as Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof’s handball against Crystal Palace would not be given, as his arm could be viewed as being in the “expected position” for a play in a running motion.

While the introduction of the concept of “expected position” may prompt sighs among fans tiring of the frequently changing criteria for handball, it should go a long way to addressing the harsh nature of recent decisions.

Referees will also be encourage to consider factors such as whether or not the player has a realistic chance to get his arm out of the way of the ball.

Although there is room for such interpretation over the position of the arm in certain movements, the current laws clearly state that a penalty or free kick must be given if a player’s hand or arm are “above shoulder level”.

That is the reason why Dier was punished on Sunday when he rose to challenge in the air with Newcastle’s Andy Carroll who headed the ball, at close range, against the raised arm of the Spurs defender.

The Premier League refereeing officials believe they have no choice but to award such penalties given the wording of the law at the moment and so are seeking solutions from IFAB.

If no help is forthcoming from IFAB, the Premier League will lobby for a change to the law.

Any move would need to be made before Nov. 1 in order to be on the agenda for IFAB’s Annual General Meeting in March, which can set the laws for next season.

The decision-making General Assembly of IFAB is made up of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and four representatives of FIFA.

All decisions require a three-quarters majority, which in practice means FIFA’s representatives would need to agree to any British proposal.

The decision on what items are placed on the agenda is made at a November annual business meeting.

Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond

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