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BBC Sport pundit tackles handball penalty shambles – Newcastle United at the heart of argument

3 months ago

This BBC Sport pundit has attempted to tackle the current shambles surrounding these handball penalty incidents.

Garth Crooks namechecking Newcastle United at the heart of this argument.

The BBC Sport pundit referring to the shocking handball penalty decision given against Tino Livramento in the PSG match.

The handball penalty situation is even worse in European competitions is even more extreme than the Premier League, as the threshold to give a spot-kick in these situations is even lower. Hence why there are far more penalties given for handball in the Champions League and other European competitions, compared to the Premier League, where the situation is bad enough.

The BBC Sport man doesn’t get it quite right, as even with the way things are done in European competitions now, PSG still shouldn’t have been given that lifeline. As evidenced by the fact the VAR responsible for setting in motion the decision, was then punished and removed from his role at another Champions League match played the night after PSG v Newcastle.

However, Garth Crooks is spot on overall, in terms of how ridiculous things have become, when it comes to so many penalties that are given now for ‘handball’, or what passes for it now.

If somebody looks to have intentionally handled the ball in the penalty area, then as was the case in the ‘olden’ days (ten or twenty years ago?) it should be a penalty.

The problem now though are all these other ones, where players are punished for not on purpose handballs. Where the ball strikes their hand / arm when they weren’t trying to do this.

I think fair enough if say a defender is standing on the goal line with his arms stretched out wide and then somebody has a shot and the outstretched arm prevents a goal.

That though is very different to so many decisions that may be given these days, where often it is in a pretty much non-threatening part of the penalty area and the ball bounces in a direction that wasn’t expected and hits and arm, or deflects off somebody else or indeed the same player who then ‘handles’ it.

I reckon even in the Premier League, maybe at least half or even more of these penalties given for handball currently, most fans would say should never be given, if they take away any personal bias when it comes to who is getting the decisions and who is suffering, in any particular instance.

Garth Crooks talking to BBC Sport – 3 December 2023:

The new handball rule has to be amended. It is causing almost as much controversy as VAR – and the lawmakers are now considering bringing in sin bins. Where will it end?

The rules have survived quite happily for over a century, but the sports administrators have insisted on changes that have clearly damaged the game. The handball rule, according to the laws of the game when deciding a handball decision, must have three key considerations:

Whether it is a “deliberate action” by the player – ie have they moved their arm towards the ball?

The proximity of the player from the ball and the speed it hits them on the arm/hand

If the hand or arm is in “an unnatural position” – ie away from the body

In the case of the handball by Newcastle’s Tino Livramento in midweek against Paris St-Germain, the referee deemed that, even if it was not deliberate and the defender was unable to react quickly enough, his arm was in an unnatural position. It is this element of the rule that is causing so much confusion. What is an unnatural position? Put 10 referees in a room and they will all give you a different version of what, in their opinion, is an unnatural position. The law is far too subjective to be effective.

We are then told that the decision made at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday could not have happened in the Premier League because allowances are made by officials when the ball strikes another part of the body first, prior to it hitting the player’s arm.

Of course, this doesn’t stop players, desperate for a verdict, appealing for anything and everything that looks remotely suspicious – alerting the fans to their bias, knowing television commentators and pundits everywhere are left with no option but to embroil themselves in the entire circus, leaving the referee with a massive problem.

The whole purpose of these decisions was to help referees, not make their lives more difficult. I’m afraid these interventions by the lawmakers have actually made their jobs almost unmanageable. Please, leave the game alone.


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