The International Football Association Board (IFAB), football’s rule-making body, has clarified its new handball rules following a series of controversial decisions since its introduction last year, confirming on Monday that the final judgment remains with the referee.
IFAB’s Football and Technical Advisory Panels said in a statement that there was a need for clarification as the interpretation of handball incidents “has not always been consistent” despite the revised 2019-20 wording.
“It was re-emphasised that the final judgment remains with the referee and not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence,” IFAB said following a virtual meeting with the Football and Technical Advisory panels.
“In terms of a definition of the term ‘unnaturally bigger,’ referees should judge the position of the hand/arm in relation to the player’s movement in that phase of play.”
Following changes to the law in 2019, a handball can be awarded in cases where the player’s arm has made the body “unnaturally bigger” or if it is raised above the shoulder, whether it was intentional or not.
The idea was to make the law clearer but many in the game, including UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, have said it has had the opposite effect.
The previous, established handball law relied primarily on referees making a judgment as to whether a handball was intentional or not.